Vehicles: Experiments in Synthetic Psychology

“At this point we are ready to make a fundamental discovery. We have gathered evidence for what I would like to call the “law of uphill analysis and downhill invention.” What I mean is this. It is pleasurable and easy to create little machines that do certain tricks. It is also quite easy to observe the full repertoire of behavior of these machines -even if it goes beyond what we had originally planned, as it often does. But it is much more difficult to start from the outside and to try to guess internal structure just from the observation of behavior. It is actually impossible in theory to determine exactly what the hidden mechanism is without opening the box, since there are always many different mechanisms with identical behavior. Quite apart from this, analysis is more difficult than invention in the sense in which, generally, induction takes more time to perform than deduction: in induction one has to search for the way, whereas in deduction one follows a straightforward path.

A psychological consequence of this is the following: when we analyze a mechanism, we tend to overestimate its complexity. In the uphill process of analysis, a given degree of complexity offers more resistance to the workings of our mind than it would if we encountered it downhill, in the process of invention.”

Valentino Braitenberg