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  • Jose Arrieta

The Laziness Based View

Deep down within physics there is a somehow mythical theory called the "least action principle". It explains for example why things run downhill, why light changes angle when passing through a glass, and why it is hard to roll out of bed on Monday mornings or meet with an annoying colleague.


The myth builds because it is said Feynman in his rebuilding of electromagnetism brought a path dependent theory of mathematics and added just one single piece of physics. The piece added was the least action principle. The theory built is the most precise theory known to humanity.


Feynman although unforgivably flawed, was a giant. His personal writings made me who I am. And the least action principle were part of it. I internalized its fundament, do nothing except when strictly necessary. Be lazy unless you cannot afford it anymore.


Afford is the key word here. The least action principle is a theory of value exchange. And has been seen as such for a while. A system remains at rest unless it goes through a point in it's field where action is required.


In a way the universe allocates its particles just as Melinda French's ex does: "I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it." Laziness is indeed the foundation of the world as we know it.


Laziness is important because it saves resources. A system that is lazy accumulates it's resources until some action is needed from it. For example, we wear sweat/yoga pants while working from home and we delay the return to the office. We do this because we can afford it. But when the day comes, we take our suits and pretend to be busy.


By being lazy systems manage to maximize their internal energy, that is their accumulation of resources. And contain the influence of forces that aim to mess things up and makes us forget order is possible.


These forces are known as entropy. And free energy is the trophy we earn when we outperform others in the battle to the laziest bottom. Least action is a generalization of the free energy principle. Least action is the ideal. Free energy the utility function and process. Yet, the free energy principle is impressive by itself.


Karl Friston, is the Richard Feynman of our latter days. After building the infrastructure for our understanding the brain. And laster the interconnections in the brain. He decided to explore the free energy principle. In doing so he coined the term Markov Blanket.


Markov Blankets are the boundaries that define a system. A system is a collection of entities working together in the pursuit of laziness, and the accumulation of free energy. But just as societies, Markov blankets work at many different levels. Starting from all the way down in the standard model of physics, Markov blankets are drawn around our mithochondria, are the cell membranes, and the tissues that react to signals, they are the organs, that pump our blood, the skin that wrap our selves. Markov Blankets are the "us" that separate our friends and peers from the awful them.


Markov blankets work just as in econ, if there are infinite systems warring for free energy, the ones who survive achieve zero free energy. Just as in econ, if innovation gives temporal benefits, some systems can gain free energy, grow, and outcompete the others.


Markov blankets are the working theory of self organization and in contrast to our Zeitgeist they build on laziness not busyness. The reason is trivial. In small systems optimization tends to be simple. On particle has a limited number of actions to do. An ensemble of particles will find the optimal policy. The ones who don't will serve as dinner. There is a big benefit of being a busy bee when you think short term.


Yet, physics theories doy not work in human time. When light passes through a prism is does it as an ensemble. Parts of the ensemble go faster than light. Some come from the edge of the known universe. Some from the depths of a black whole. Together they reach your eye in a precise an measurable manner.


All physics students learn how if we take away the ludicrous and you get worse prediction. Economic theory has a much narrower view of time. Booms and bust reinvent it's thoughts. Management lives in an eternal present. From the instantaneous view inherent in competitive strategy the micro-event based framework in the Behavioral Theory of the Firm. Our theories focus on the single act of choice and with it we forget the realities of system design.


Systems that remain are lazy in nature. They are full of resources that give the slacks to be lazy and to adapt when needed. Systems are not busy changing for any whim of their environment. They act as Steve Jobs told the coauthor of "Fundamental Issues in Strategy", they "wait for the next big thing". The essence of a system is to do nothing but and gather forces to act decisively when the time comes.


As we go around our lives we live in and around a multiplicity of Markov blankets. We live our busy lives because in some we are the agents. But for others we are the system. Our brain, our heart, our muscles, our tissues, our cells are all Markov Blankets. All work on the basis of laziness. How wonderous a feeling is it to realize that we are not fill of busyness but a perpetual drive for laziness. For leisure, for being one with our free energy and the pursuit of least action.


Tl;Dr: Be lazy act as a system not as a bee



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