Memoryless World

October 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

I just learnt this word “memoryless system” from the probability class this morning, and in the afternoon, the professor of my international politics class announced the average score for the first exam, which was awfully high—93—the bottom line of A. The professor then went on saying that one interpretation of this average score was that A-seekers could pretend that they had never taken this exam as this score wouldn’t interfere with their final grade. It is as if balanced strikes against both sides of a bowl, only to be canceled out. Though forces are performed but no changes are entailed.

For individuals, a memoryless system contains a definite cut on the timeline from which point events and interactions become relevant and meaningful for a particular purpose. To illustrate, if today I decide to send a package for my mom and go to the nearby post office. Both clerks at the post office are currently serving customers and I wait until one customer finishes his mailing. I then take the vacancy and sit side-by-side with the other customer who is still filling out envelopes and purchasing stamps. One idea suddenly comes into my mind: Will I finish earlier than she does? After all, I have been watching her copying wrong addresses, misspelling names, and asking for wrong value of stamps during all of my waiting time. I then make myself this bet that I will leave before this careless lady. Given prior observation, I am quite convinced that winning of this bet is at hand.  However, such speculation has to been toppled if we lived in a memoryless world. In a memoryless world, we are blind towards all events occurring before the moment that we discover a purpose and take actions to reach it. It means that I cannot take the lady’s habitual behaviors into consideration when making the bet. My observations that live before the bet all become irrelevant and meaningless factors. Therefore, in the memoryless world, I hold an even chance against the lady as to who will leave first.

A memoryless world is possible if all events occur in a pattern that fulfills certain types of probability distributions. In the normal world, we laboriously probe into the interconnections among different events, trying to dig out their impacts on one another. However, in the memoryless world, things happen to be so independent and unrelated to each other. Prior knowledge and information seem to be of no capability in directing or restricting the path of later events. Some amazing stories can be drawn out of this supposition of memoryless world. For example, some couples constantly have big fights which push them to the edge of marriage. Yet those fights are not accumulative in the memoryless world. The next time divorce comes to the couple’s minds, it is only due to the fight, at that very moment, that they are going through. No history is mentioned and people make decisions due to one-time experience. Though living in a memoryless world might be helpful in keeping down the divorce rate, a peak of randomness in making choices and leading life could occur.

If I were to hold an even chance of leaving earlier than the lady, why bother taking time observing and making bet? I can spare all those efforts previously devoted to studying people and patterns which might someday lead me to be a better decision-maker. I guess virtues and logic of our normal world are still dominant in my mind to give me those thoughts. But I am truly interested in seeing what would turn out to be in the memoryless world.

–Yijing.S.

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