Leave Room for Errors

  • extreme "productivity" usually leaves no room for error, no "slack", which makes it extremely hard to:
    • change directions - when something unpredicted (bad or good!) happens
    • backtrack - when realising a different (past) approach could be better
    • make errors - which makes the whole situation much more stressful
    • play - which makes it hard to innovate (play is essential for creativity - Novelty Search, Play Your Own Games)
  • same with personal finances - Financial Independence / Retire Early crowd taken to the extreme makes it hard to enjoy life as it currently happens since the whole point is saving money for future where at some point the "real life" will start
    • of course saving is important, but there should be room for holidays, unexpected expenses, etc.

Specialization, in morphogenesis as in other fields, exacts its price in creativity.


It seems that this overshooting of the mark, this giving more than was asked for, is an inherent characteristic of the mechanism of evolution.

The Act of Creation - Arthur Koestler

An old saw of biology decrees, "The more adapted an organism to present conditions, the less adaptable it can be to unknown future conditions."

— How Buildings Learn, What Happens After They are Built - Stewart Brand

efficiency implies fragility

— Dave Ackley

Degeneracy is a product of evolution, and it certainly enables evolution. Probably degeneracy is itself selected for because only creatures that have significant amounts of degeneracy are sufficiently adaptable to allow survival as the environment changes. For example, suppose we have some creature (or engineered system) that is degenerate in that there are several very different interdependent mechanisms to achieve each essential function. If the environment changes (or the requirements change) so that one of the ways of achieving an essential function becomes untenable, the creature will continue to live and reproduce (the system will continue to satisfy its specifications). But the subsystem that has become inoperative is now open to mutation (or repair), without impinging on the viability (or current operation) of the system as a whole.

— Building Robust Systems - Gerald Sussman

  • other than important point supporting the idea in this note, I love the framing that "mutability" is selected for by evolution, as organisms with more "moldability" can mutate and adapt to the changing environment, where if you had something hyper optimised for the current one, any change in the environment will be probably lethal

This gets back to the first rule of compounding: Never interrupt it unnecessarily. But how do you not interrupt a money plan - careers, investments, spending, budgeting, whatever - when your life plans change?

(...) one thing I've learned that may help is coming back to balance and room for error. Too much devotion to one goal, one path, one outcome, is asking for regret when you're so susceptible to change.

The Psychology of Money

Favor moves that increase options; shy from moves that end well but require cutting off choices; work from strong positions that have many adjoining strong positions.

— Stewart Brand on "rules of thumb" for chess

My wife and I have created a very detailed schedule. I have exactly N hours a week to do whatever I want (and my wife also has N hours). But I've found I'm happiest when I spend those hours on "nonproductive" things: playing with my daughter, cleaning, daydreaming, making a special snack, etc. If I spend too much of my free time on things that feel like work (read: anything intellectual), then I end up living in a daze.

— Ivan Reese

Creative work requires openness, interplay, slack.

Fixation on outcome in creative work is often self-defeating - Andy Matuschak