Daily, snackable writings and podcasts to spur changes in thinking. Why?

If we wish to change the person we find ourselves to be, we must change our thinking.

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THE MEANING OF TINKER

September 17th, 2019

 

This episode is dedicated to @DeeperThrill who inspired the topic on Twitter with this reply:

 

“You might tinker with it for a while when you’re excited about the idea, but when that excitement wanes, you still want a simple thing that works.”

 

 

What does it mean to tinker?

 

There’s something noncommittal about the word, almost whimsical.  Your boss certainly wouldn’t come into your office and toss you a new project and say “here, tinker with this for a while.”

 

It’s more like “Get this done for Monday morning.”

 

“You want me to de-prioritize my current reports until you advise a status upgrade?

 

You need to make these your primary ‘action items’.” *

 

 

Such business lingo encapsulates a perspective that has little room for something as diffuse as tinkering. This is true for one reason:

 

Do we associate the act of tinkering with a deadline?

 

Not really, if at all.  Tinkering is an open-ended endeavor, like a question that cannot be readily answered.  For example, take this question:

 

Will this new business idea make money?

 

No one can answer that question.  The idea needs to be implemented, and tinkered with in order to see if it can gain some kind of footing in the market.  Juxtaposing this undeniable fact with the business lingo from Fight Club presented earlier evokes a paradoxical flaw in the perspective that pervades much of the business world:

 

We cannot know what will work until we try, and yet we constantly attempt to create a deadline for success.

 

 

 

 

So what exactly does it mean to Tinker?

 

The dictionary defines the verb ‘tinker’ as: an attempt to repair or improve something in a casual or desultory way, often to no useful effect.

 

Note for a moment how we would phrase the story of repairing something:

 

Oh, after tinkering with it for a while I figured out what was wrong and I fixed it.

 

The conclusive verb ‘fixed’ subsumes the liminal verb of tinkering.  As with many aspects of life, our constant desire for certainty trumps the importance of a process which is indeterminate and open-ended.

 

 

 

 

At it’s heart, and in it’s simplest form,

 

tinkering is the art of trial and error.

 

 

 

As we delve into a new topic or project, we make little hypotheses about the nature of the subject and we test them.  By testing these hypotheses, we falsify aspects of the emerging mental model that we are forming about the subject. 

Falsifying hypotheses is the only way we update mental models

Any hypothesis-based action that results in a predictable outcome does not update our mental model, it’s simply a use-case of the mental-model that shows some accuracy.  Be sure to note the distinction:

 

Confirming the accuracy of some aspect of a mental-model does not actually improve it because nothing about the mental-model has to change as a result. It stays the same.

 

What changes is our feeling towards the mental model.

 

Tinkering is the process of building a mental-model through trial that results in error.

 

Zooming out to look at the process, we see a whole bunch of attempts, or hypotheticals tested with trials.  Many of those simply fail, but every once in a while, a hypothesis holds it’s salt and becomes a robust aspect of our mental model.  It’s like sculpting something out of marble.  A lot of useless material needs to be moved to get at the actual part of the stone that will make up the sculpture.

 

 

Inevitably, tinkering is a process of whittling away our assumptions about a topic as we gain real-world, hands-on experience.

 

 

What this whittling away yields is a lean and useful understanding of a subject.

 

Tinkering is simply the laborious and time consuming process that yields this rare fruit.

 

 

Our preoccupation with certainty and deadlines is completely counter to this process, and it begs a large question of the world and the way many people currently spend their time:

 

If we were freed, even for some portion of time from the tedium and time-consuming chore of bullshit jobs,

 

How much more fruitful might we be, tinkering away at the whim and will of curiosity?

 

 

 

This episode references Episode 514: Falsify, Episode 390: Question about the Question, and was influenced by David Graeber’s book Bullshit Jobs. You can purchase the book through the link below.

 

 

 

*from Fight Club

 


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Podcast Ep. 520: The Meaning of Tinker

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LIGHTEN UP

September 16th, 2019

When there’s tension in the room, nothing is better than a well-timed joke.  Even if you’re all alone.

 

Perhaps especially when you’re all alone.

 

When a group of people are suffering under such tension, they are all dying to laugh out of a kind of social awkwardness.  It’s almost as though we’re a little nervous about what everyone else might do under such pressure.   In fact, people are so desperate to laugh that the bar is set pretty low for a laugh.  An excited crowd paradoxically has a pretty low bar.  It seems that no matter what, we’re always willing or wanting to laugh.

 

When alone, however, there’s none of that worry, rarely such excitement and we’re generally just driving ourselves nuts over something that probably won’t matter too much in the long run.  Alone, we’re prone to building temporary echo chambers that can turn into torture chambers.

 

 

Then a friend or loved one enters the picture and gets a sense of what’s going on.

 

Lighten up, will ya?

 

Most often, such a prescription merely functions as a fuel to dig ourselves into a deeper pit.  We’re often likely to take it as an insult as opposed to sound advice.

 

Someone could easily and with great justification pull the same card on this platform.  Hundreds of episodes of wanna-sound-smart-babble.

 

If it was all really so smart, why so much?  

 

What? . . . not smart enough to come up with something concise?

 

Apparently not. 

 

Perhaps Tinkered Thinking is simply the scenic route to some culminating conclusion that someone smarter has already phrased in language that’s more elegant.

 

Or perhaps it’s just a babbling scenic route to nowhere.

 

Perhaps we assume humor is good because it literally makes us feel good.

 

Certainly that’s the most obvious benefit.  But there’s another.

 

Taking something too seriously is akin to pouring concrete into our perspective.  Our thinking is rigid, almost forced, with no room to breathe. 

 

Making fun of the situation, even ourselves is an exercise in a different kind of thinking.

 

Lightening up is how we get a different perspective.  It’s how we drift up into the sky to get a bird’s eye view on things, to see the larger situation, and a fuller context.

 

If we can see how ridiculous it is to write and podcast for a faceless void on the internet, or with any work we might undertake, we can then play with it.

 

And here’s the crucial, overlooked point:  play is the most efficient way to learn.

 

This might not seem self-evident to a serious adult with responsibilities, but let’s ask the question:

 

what sort of person has the MOST to learn in life?

 

 

 


Children. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And they play in large measure to learn, and this process of learning is fast and enjoyable.

 

Fairly ironic – funny really - that we systematically grind this superpower out of people with the school system. 

 

 

So take a cue from children and lighten up.  We’re all in a pretty ridiculous situation here on this tiny crumb spinning through the universe.  Have fun.  Not because it feels good, but because you’ll move faster, learn more efficiently.

 

The only requirement is that you can’t take any of it seriously.


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Podcast Ep. 519: Lighten Up

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A LUCILIUS PARABLE: ETERNITY OF ENTERTAINMENT

September 15th, 2019

Once the final stage of human advancement began, the ability to predict the future with accuracy increased at an exponential rate.  This meant that tomorrow began to have a resolution similar to what we might predict the next second to have, and future years began to have a resolution similar to how we see the next minute.  This trend increased at unfathomable speeds until decades could be predicted like succeeding seconds.  The singularity that humanity had waited for did not so much bring about some kind of expanding glory of human values as much as it did plan the future with exceptional and increasing reliability.  The scourge of chaos that had haunted humanity since the beginning was systematically being scrubbed from the universe.  This, however, did not speed up the great timeline of the universe and as things stood, it was still going to be a very long time until the obvious conclusion arrived.  The future no longer held any promise, only certainty, that one nemesis of chaos that humans had been lusting for since the beginning.   

 

In short, things got quite boring.

 

To pass the time artificial intelligences had created vast simulation games for the benefit of humans in order to spice up life with a safe degree of artificial chaos.  These simulations also functioned as a kind of elaborate Monte Carlo simulator which benefited the study and work of the artificial intelligences that were busy organizing the universe.

 

Once it was painfully clear just how boring the present had become, and how certain it was the future would be, Lucilius decided to take the plunge and try one of the awful simulations that everyone gloated over.  It would only take several minutes of real time to sample a few different realities, and since he had a nostalgic penchant for history, Lucilius decided to try one of the ancestor simulations. 

 

He walked into the simulator entrance with a sigh, initiating a telecommune with the present OS and transferred the few credits required to sample half a dozen lifetimes.  An array of dreamlike centuries manifested in his mind, the time collapsing into scents, tastes and flutters of light flashing from thousands of recorded positions through which the sun and earth had once passed.

 

Lucilius, feeling lethargic and not a little bummed about knowing the future so well, haphazardly picked a handful of different lives, barely paying attention to their content.  His mind swam through the selection like the hand of a god whimsically building creatures to populate universes. 

 

As he selected his credit count ticked away until he was out. 

 

A body maintenance pod emerged from the simulator’s vault and Lucilius sauntered over to it and leaned back into the comfortable padding.

 

The OS requested a confirmation for a start sequence and Lucilius sighed one more time, flinging his encrypted pass-thought into the network.

 

Then everything went dark.

 

Fourteen years later, Lucilius was slouched over a thick book open on his desk.  The voice of a jaded teacher droned on at the front of the classroom.  Lucilius glanced at the clock, calculating the time left and realized that it had only been two minutes since he’d last looked at the clock.  He couldn’t believe how bored he was and he couldn’t wait for the school day to end.


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Podcast Ep. 518: A Lucilius Parable: Eternity of Entertainment

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Appreciation can be more than a feeling. Toss something in the jar if you find your thinking delightfully tinkered.




THE GOLDEN GUARANTEE

September 14th, 2019

 

As we understand things right now, everyone dies, and that’s the Golden Guarantee.

 

It’s guaranteed because as far as anyone can tell, as of right now, it’s definitely going to happen.

 

It’s golden because it’s the ultimate ‘out’.

 

All the embarrassment, shame, pain and fear will ‘poof’ be gone.  And given enough time, absolutely no one will remember nor care about it.

 

Perhaps that sounds sad at face value, but consider the flipside:

 

 

It’s freedom

 

 

You can go and try literally anything.  And no matter how bad it turns out, you have the Golden Guarantee to rely on.

 

It’s the positive inversion of the saying “I’ll do it later.”

 

The key is to realize that tomorrow doesn’t really exist.  All we have is the here and now.  Things that we say we’ll do later are things that we will never do.  Today is always the ‘later’ when we said we’d do something.

 

Likewise, the moment death arrives, the present vanishes.

 

It’s a Catch-22, but one that works to our benefit given the right perspective.

 

The Golden Guarantee holds that when we finally have a moment to reflect on our life as a whole, we will be unable to reflect in any capacity whatsoever.

 

well, at the very least, there’s no evidence of the possibility.  And until otherwise, we are wiser to position ourselves in relation to the facts in a way that benefits us, both psychologically and productively.

 

This could be wrong, but the Golden Guarantee ensures that there’s no real reason to worry about it

 

for very long.


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Podcast Ep. 517: The Golden Guarantee

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THE END OF NOWHERE

September 13th, 2019

How long has it been since you saw the Laptop bumper sticker, or the cheesy Instagram post or one pierced hipster say to another:

 

All those who wander are not lost.

 

The line is originally from the Lord of the Rings, but that’s of little matter.

 

Wonder, for a moment, about what the word ‘wander’ means.

 

Someone wandering around is clearly looking for something, otherwise, wouldn’t a person stay put?

 

Do we have any other reason for wandering?  Even when we don’t really know what we’re looking for?

 

The urge is there.

 

But think about the opposite.  About a person who has no urge to wander.  We might label such a person with a euphemistic platitude about being content and knowing what they want, but does such a person have any chance of discovery?

 

To be sure we do not actually have to get up and physically wander around.  We can be at home, reading a book, or researching a topic that’s spawned 73 tabs in our internet browser. 

 

To wander is to pay heed to curiosity. 

 

Unlike the rigid tests of school, curiosity gently allows us to wonder, and suspect that there’s… something.. something out there that we don’t really know about yet. 

 

This sensing of the unknown is also captured by any great question.

 

Questions, which are defined on tinkered Thinking as open-ended concepts that create forward momentum, thrust the mind on a quest.

 

And a quest, like any good adventure cannot be planned.  We take it a step at a time and figure it out as we go.

 

In essence, we wander our way towards a realization.

 

All those who wander are not lost because they have a sense of something to find, but such people simply seem lost because no one yet knows the way.


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Podcast Ep. 516: The End of Nowhere

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If you appreciate the work of Tinkered Thinking, please consider lending support. This platform can only continue and flourish with the support of readers and listeners like you.

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Appreciation can be more than a feeling. Toss something in the jar if you find your thinking delightfully tinkered.