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September 23rd, 2019

Humans are pattern recognition machines.  We’re pretty good at it.  As long as the pattern is short.  For example, the reason that a guitar chord sounds good is because the vibrational frequency of each string matches up in a short enough timeline.  For example, a deep bass string might have a frequency that is exactly twice as long as another string being played.  In this case, the two would sound good together.


But let’s say the frequency is 290 times longer than the next string being played.  Meaning that the frequency of each string only intersects when one string has vibrated 290 times.  They match up for an instant and then it’s a bit of a wait till there’s another match up.  There’s a pattern, but it only happens every once in a while.  In this case, the notes wouldn’t sound good together because we can’t readily hear the pattern.  This is why guitar chords sound nice.  Each string has a frequency that matches up in some way – usually as a multiple – to the other string being played.  Their frequencies intersect at regular small intervals.  Think of the beat of a song and how all the other instruments follow the beat in accordance to the same timing.  It’s just like the vibrational frequencies of the strings in a guitar chord, but now it’s across instruments.


Listening to a song and feeling a sense of pleasure is the pattern recognition part.


But understanding these patterns deeply enough to rearrange them in novel ways that create a new pattern?  That is artistry.  And it extends far beyond music or any of the traditionally defined arts.


Patterns exist everywhere, whether we examine growth techniques for a Twitter account or the s-curve adoption cycle of disruption technologies.


All such pattern recognition starts as pleasurable novelty. 


It’s when we understand these patterns well enough to successfully manipulate them, that is use the patterns by implementing them or cutting and rearranging them in a way that still works that we gain expanded agency in the world.


To explore this more fully, we can think of Legos.


Each Lego has a predictable pattern of studs, whether it be two or four or whatever number.  Once we understand how these add up and combine by following the instructions, we can then create novel constructions by fitting together the pattern of Lego bricks in accordance to their pattern of studs.


This ability to manipulate patterns in novel ways is at the heart of what it means to be resourceful.


Being resourceful is not about the resources that one might have.  It’s about the exact opposite.  We need to be resourceful when there are few resources at hand, which calls for a novel way to put things together in order to make up for the lack of resources.  At it’s heart, we are looking to combine elements in a way that no one has ever seen before.  We are looking to create a unique pattern.


Our own pattern.


And like any creation, whether it be jazz or architecture, if we can create a novel pattern that pays an obvious tribute to those patterns we draw from, it’s likely people will take notice, because, like that guitar chord, that new pattern is a new way for others to experience pleasure.


Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

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Podcast Ep. 526: Pattern Manipulation

Tinkered Thinking

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