• We Are Actively Looking For Stereotypes

    I saw a headline: “Banker caught smuggling Cocaine”. Another one: “Car salesman (46) kills wife”. And wondered why it mattered what their profession or age was.

    I think the answer is twofold.

    For one it reads more smoothly, because it’s less abstract. We can easily imagine a banker or a car salesman, but if it’s just a person, maybe even without age and gender then imagining takes a little more work. There is an extra step and another abstraction involved, in order to either maintain the abstraction or to replace it with something more real.

    The second reason behind these headlines is that we love stereotypes. We are prejudiced. We use mental drawers and put people in them. Every drawer takes a lot of qualities and assumptions and replaces that clunky complicated mess with a tiny label that names the drawer.

    Of course it obscures truth, falsifies it completely in many cases, and fools us into believing that we know more than we do, just because we have stored a bunch of labels.

    But the truth is we usually prefer the label to the real thing and we actively prefer it when reading news. The newspaper folks know this of course and that is why they write their headlines the way they do.

    They know their audience.

    There are things in life where a label will not do, of course. We need to know the sublabels, and their sublabels precisely. We need to actually know how some things work. But this takes awareness, first of all. The willingness to look and see if we are not deluding ourselves. Then it takes work to learn. Sometimes a lot of work. We want to be convinced it’s worth the effort before we start.

  • From Magicians to Technicians

    For me, this year was great in terms of learning new things. I’ve read a lot, from philosophy to psychology, from how to play theatre to how to communicate better. I’ve read business books about sales and marketing and stuff about mixing music with an equalizer. And so forth.

    And whenever possible, sometimes at night, I tinkered around with these new skills. And a very nice thing happened.

    Let me say it like this: Let’s say we take the song “Still D.R.E.”. It’s possible to learn a little bit about music, say about bars and beats and about a couple piano chords, and actually copy that piano part. Add some equalizer mixing and it’s possible to make it sound almost identical.

    What happens? Dr. DRE is no longer a magician, because now we have peeked into his craft, and we see and suddenly understand what he is, basically, doing. (And this only increases my respect for him. The man mastered a craft after all. And still keeps mastering it.)

    Of course I know that from my own craft. I am a software engineer, after all. I can tell you how an operating system or a CPU works in detail. So it shouldn’t suprise me that there is a technique to what DRE does, as well. But the unknown, at least to me, is always mysterious.

    There’s a sentiment I believe, that goes like this: It’s a pity that humanity advances so fast. We are deleting all the magic in the world with science.

    (Some?) Psychologists also say: Getting rid of delusions about life makes man depressive. Or shizophrenic.

    But no, I believe there is enjoyment and virtue in studying crafts, nature and, perhaps most importantly, ourselves.

    If you don’t believe me, try to play that piano part from “Still D.R.E.” yourself.

  • Thinking and Intuition

    I am primarily an intuitive person, a thinker second. Thinkers confused me for a long time.

    They always want to hear reasons for decisions taken. “Because it feels good” or “I vibe with that” are answers they cannot accept. But once I realized the difference between feel first, think second and think first, feel second (if at all), it became much easier. And communicating with them on their terms improved my own thinking.

    Because here is the catch with being intuitive: It’s usually a very good thing, answer come very quickly and the insights can be quite comprehensive and deep, all within milliseconds. But sometimes, and that’s the problem, the perspective is completely wrong. Important details are not known and holes in reasoning are overlooked. The answers are false and actions off target.

    That’s why I believe that intuitive people must develop their thinking.

    Now I can’t say I am a great thinker, just because I found out about this. But I believe I am improving. I think the combination of “expert at intuition” and “competent thinker” is very powerful.

    But it takes work to develop things that don’t come as naturally.

    For what it’s worth, the most important step for me was to realize that other people think differently on a very fundamental level. That was crucial.

  • The Invisible Walls

    Sometimes I have to do something. There is no way in hell to not do it. It can be a stupid litte thing, but from time to time, usually when I do not want to do that thing, I see the invisible chains that bind me. They are values, priorities, aversions, a feeling of responsibility, the result of a pro-contra evaluation. That sort of thing. They steer me clearly and the action is not optional.

    There’s another kind of thing. It appears to me as invisible walls. They come in two varieties.

    Variety one is a limitation, something I cannot do. There’s data missing, I don’t have the manual. The options then are: Abort and learn, or just abort, because it’s no use.

    Another kind of invisible wall is that there’s a direction that seems like it’s walkable, but it’s not entirely clear if there is something there. Maybe this is about potential. Is there a mountain to climb? If there is, I cannot see it. It’s transparent. I might be at the base of it or further up. Or maybe already on top. Impossible to decide. Perhaps there is no mountain. Instead it’s just a feeling that there might be one.

    It’s a little frustrating.

  • Depth

    Sometimes I feel very shallow. An idea comes and there’s just nothing attached to it. It’s random. Something I’ve heard somewhere. It just happens to fit. I think it and that’s that.

    Sometimes it’s the opposite. Thinking about nothing in particular suddenly the realization occurs that there is depth to everything. Especially to the parts that are invisible. It goes way way back, back in time almost, and way way down, very deep somewhere.

    But perhaps it’s just the result of too little sleep.

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