Optimization process

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An optimization process is a process that systematically comes up with solutions that are higher rather than lower relative to some ordering over outcomes; it hits small targets in a large search space, comes up with out comes that you would not expect to see by sheer random chance, atoms bumping up against each other with no direction or ordering at all. If an entity pushes reality into some state — across many contexts, not just by accident — then you could say it prefers that state.

Optimization is a very general notion that encompasses all kinds of order-generating processes other than sheer emergence; optimization is about choosing or selecting outcomes defined as better.

Probably the optimization process you're most familiar with is that of human intelligence. Humans don't do things randomly: we have very specific goals and rearrange the world in specific ways to meet our goals. Consider the monitor on which you read these words. That monitor is a rather unlikely object to have come about by chance.

Natural selection is one example of an optimization process, notable for its "first" status if not its power or speed. Evolution works because organisms that do better at surviving and reproducing propagate more of their traits to the next generation; in this way genes with higher fitness are systematically preferred, and complex machinery bearing the strange design signature of evolved things.

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See also