Saturday, July 04, 2015

Ignoring Everything Else

A lot of problems can be quite easily solved if you ignore everything else. This morning I was handed a Rubik's cube to solve. I don't know how. I know it took the Professor of Architecture who invented it a month to figure it out. Nowadays, you can sneakily look on YouTube to get tutorials. I don't plan on doing the month long version but the short version could be fun. 

Without an algorithm, and just turning and twisting, you can fairly easily solve specific bits. You can get one row. Or one face. Or a diagonal line. This made me think of some comments Daniel Dennett made about ethics. With just one goal, it becomes fairly easy to solve problems. If all you care about is one of poverty, racism, freedom of speech, conserving a way of life, your community, minorities, sexism, meritocracy, or creativity etc. then the big questions in the world have very clear answers. Where it gets tricky is the co-ordination. Sometimes you need to solve things in a specific order and it takes a long time to figure it out. 

The advantage of language and culture is that we are able to learn together. I can benefit from your mental heavy lifting. Erno Rubik spent a month figuring out the cube. I will be able to go away and look at a youtube clip.

Even though we like our individual things that need solving, we know that when we get too protective over them, it means other problems can't be solved. Building the trust to know that letting go for a while is not destroying our goal in the long term is hard. 

The other advantage of language and culture is it creates a shared memory. A memory that can extend beyond short term goals. We can think about the next step. We can also step back and think about how to think about the next step. We can think about how the various steps may connect together. We can think about steps we and others have taken together. Then we can write it down and just think about now. Till just now

When Newton, and others, said 'If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants', it was not false modesty. Quite often progress is made 'independently' around about the same time by different individuals. By making errors in public, we can all chip in to solve them. We are learning not just from our own experiences because our words and deeds connect us all.

Focus is good, but we can't solve our issues by ignoring everything else.

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