Life Improvement: Our Lives, Our World, and Beyond
The Seed Factory Project,
6485 Rivertown Rd, Fairburn, GA 30213
18 June 2018
This article serves as an introduction to the goals and work of the Seed Factory Project, and provides links to more detailed books and papers. Our premise is people can build a better life for themselves and each other by self-improvement methods and processes. They just need a little knowledge on how to get started, and to step up and take action. Our project started out by working on Seed Factories. These are starter sets which improve themselves by making parts and equipment for their own growth, as well as finished products like other factories. But along the way we found that self-improvement is a more general idea, with wider application than just to factories. We want to share our ideas and our work so that other people can benefit from them, and make their lives better.
Examples include the TREK Principle, Leveling Up, and Bootstrapping Systems.
- How do we take what we are and what we have and make them better?
Systems as an Idea
The idea of a System has been developed over the past two centuries, starting in science and engineering, for the purpose of thought, analysis, and design. The idea has proven useful, and is now applied to other fields. A system includes regularly interacting or interacting items that form an integrated whole. Systems have boundaries in time and space that distinguish them from the surrounding environment. The boundaries may be physical, or artificially defined by people, such as a property line on physically continuous land. Inputs and outputs cross the system boundary, and thereby change the contents of the system. Systems may contain any number of component Subsystems, which in turn may have further levels of subsystems within them. Inputs and outputs flow between such subsystems, as well as across the main system boundary. Separating a complex system into smaller and simpler parts makes it easier to work with them, because people have a limited capacity to deal with complexity. They can work on the pieces individually, then work on how they connect as a separate task.
Self-Improvement as a Category
(relationship to the Idea of Progress)
Whether something is better or worse is a human judgement, rather than a measurable property. We can, however, use such properties to determine if it is better. For example, a 20% efficient solar panel is nominally considered better than a 15% efficient one, all other factors being equal. But complex items often involve multiple factors of quality and performance. Determining which are important, and what range of values are better or worse, is where judgement enters the picture. Thus, a house that is too small is generally considered worse than one the right size, but one that is too large has higher costs and maintenance, and is again worse. Once all the relevant factors are identified, and how they relate to measurable properties, we can then determine what is better or best, and what changes are an improvement or the opposite.
When something has changed for the better, we call that an improvement. When that change happens from internal causes, we call it self-improvement. Self-improvement occurs in many forms across many fields. An example is the evolution of the Universe to better support life as we know it. As living beings ourselves, we judge the capacity for or presence of life to be better than their lack. Elements heavier than helium are needed for life, and more of such elements are naturally produced in stars over time. The source of this change is internal to Universe, so it is self-improving in that particular factor.
Other types of self-improvement include growth, evolution, and replication, where more of an item, or higher quality is considered better, and those changes are internally caused. A system can exhibit recursive self-improvement when it makes changes to itself for the better, then makes further changes based each improved state. Diversification (a larger range or variety) and scaling (a larger range of sizes) are other paths to self-improvement, as are general expansion to higher levels of organization and upgrade to higher levels of technology. Levels of organization include individuals, groups, communities, regions, and civilization as a whole. Methods of self-improvement include using current tools, resources, energy, and knowledge to acquire more of each, bootstrapping from simpler and smaller starter sets, using networks of elements to improve each other, and applying the methods of science and engineering to develop improvements. Perfectability is the ability to reach the optimal or best state of a thing. This ability can itself be changed for the better, from unable to change itself to rapidly changing for the better.
- Replication is only one type of self-improvement, by increasing the number of entities. Thus a self-replicating factory is a special case of one that can improve itself by multiple paths.
General Theory of Self-Improvement - If you put work into making things better, they will become better. This applies to work in the labor sense as well as the physics sense. The rate of self-improvement is proportional to the work put in. If that improvement is in the form of growth/expansion/scale, the quantity compounds exponentially.
Self-improvement comes from a biased response to random exposures and events. For people, life throws things at us, some good and some bad. How we respond makes all the difference. Do we learn from mistakes or just repeat them? Random events like storms, stock market declines, and diseases will happen. Do we plan for and take action to prevent them or ride them out, or just suffer? In nature, that which is better adapted survives more often to reproduce. The biased response is faster growth when times are good, to increase the chance of survival when they are not. In technology, people come up with new ideas and methods. We don't know in advance which will prove useful in random circumstances. The biased response is to accumulate knowledge and experience of all kinds. When random things happen, try a variety of solutions, and keep the ones that work. In the financial world, investments go up and down, and those changes are hard to predict. The biased response is to constantly take earnings and dividends and re-invest them for future growth. For all these examples, it is important to understand what is the measurable property for improvement or quality, and how to bias the response to random events. The bias consists of having more positive results in number or size than negative ones, across the event distribution.
- Self-Improving vs Decaying Systems
"Change is a Constant" - This sounds like a paradox, but it describes the history of the Universe since the Big Bang. Unless a system is so finely balanced so that no change occurs, or is isolated and at equilibrium, it will change. That change can be considered and improvement or decay, depending on our judgements.
Self-Improvement at the Personal Level
- Personal Level includes Self, Family, Friends - those you interact with because you care about them on a personal level.
(need to take action and apply what you learn in order to make a change - just learning and talking isn't enough. Learning and thought are inputs. From them, make a list or plan, then follow the steps one by one. If a step seems too big, break it down into smaller ones that are manageable. Work with someone else to encourage you to take the next step.)
Self-Improvement at the Community Level
- Community Level includes Neighborhood, City, - those you interact with on a less frequent basis, or have a communal interest with (workplace, social group, activity or hobby)
Self-Improvement at the Regional Level
- Regional Level includes Metro, State/Small Country, Climatic Region - those whose direction and changes influence your life
Self-Improvement at the Civilization Level
- Civilization Level includes Continents, Oceans, the Earth, the Space beyond - the totality of a particular environment or all of life and civilization.