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Cached Thoughts

Planted 02022-02-23

My first thoughtful association with Completing the Pattern was through a segment in Make Happy by Bo Burnham.

Video link of segment.

White people, we like the same foods
Uh, favorite sandwich: peanut butter and (jelly) jelly
Macaroni and (cheese)
Our favorite chips: salt and vi– (negar)
Wow! Who said it? Get the cameras on them
Make Happy

And then I came across Cached Thoughts by Eliezer Yudkowsky.

It can be hard to see with fresh eyes. Try to keep your mind from completing the pattern in the standard, unsurprising, already-known way. It may be that there is no better answer than the standard one, but you can’t think about the answer until you can stop your brain from filling in the answer automatically.

Now that you’ve read this, the next time you hear someone unhesitatingly repeating a meme you think is silly or false, you’ll think, “Cached thoughts.” My belief is now there in your mind, waiting to complete the pattern. But is it true? Don’t let your mind complete the pattern! Think!

The tag “cached thoughts” on Less Wrong explains:

Cached Thoughts are ideas, attitudes, and beliefs that a person has formed on some past occasion, and hasn’t re-evaluated since then. The name references the concept of a cache in computing: a component storing data that has been calculated or retrieved once, so that it is quickly available without needing to be recalculated or re-retrieved.

The model of cached thoughts evokes a few things:

Learning is hard. It requires unlearning. Learning while doing the job we have is even harder. When we don’t know something in our job, we can’t stop. We need to keep running.
At some point, though, you will stop. Maybe a pause during your holiday or day off. Appreciate these pauses and take that opportunity to reflect. More importantly, to learn and improve on the thing that bothers you.
Tying shoelaces while running