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The Tinkered Mind
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January 29th, 2022
The experience is deceptively brief, subtle and profound. This is something we’ve all experienced, either by duress or curiosity: toiling away at some inscrutable problem, trying this and that, furious with confusion, calmed with determination. And then all of a sudden, the issue vanishes. Something clicks, something connects, something slides into place and instantly the world is different. The anxious guess of trying is now a certainty.
All too often we just move on, simply and quickly. Well, that’s done, what’s next? The magnitude of such moments is very important for two reasons: one is simply the fact that it’s so brief that we don’t internalize how profound the shift is - no matter how mundane the task. The second is that some people - many people are working on problems and technologies that when solved will change everyone’s life in drastic ways.
It requires a lot of free time and a lot of curiosity to have even a small mental cache as to what these problems and technologies are. So the vast majority of too-busy, exhausted, in-need-of-entertainment people are simply oblivious to the determined minds dragging innovation forward. Most assume the future will be pretty much like yesterday or last week, with perhaps a few new emoji’s. It’s the 2020’s now, and where are our flying cars? That’s the eye-rolled criticism so often lobbed at futurists and technologists. But the haste of such a criticism is further evidence of our total obliviousness to the profound change that occurs when we finally figure something out. It’s just too brief, and the wayward journey to get to the point of revelation collapses afterwards into a kind of blurry snapshot that we toss to the side. After something is solved, it’s easy - natural even - to completely forget just how much effort it took to achieve. Inverting this fact upon problems yet to be solved, it then seems natural that not-soon-enough arguments would proliferate.
Opinion is not just fickle, but momentary, and constantly transiting based on the morph of circumstance. Insight can also be momentary. The same realization can come about more than once, and the restitution is often needed to truly integrate it. Our own experience with figuring out things is a perfect case. No matter how many thousands of things we’ve figured out since we first rolled over and set a mind to figuring out how to crawl, we still grope and groan when faced with a puzzle to solve.
Our eyes are some how wide and clamped shut as we swim through the present, oblivious to the lessons of the past that hint at a profoundly different future.