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The Tinkered Mind
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February 15th, 2020
A computer bug – that is – a problem in the program, turns out to be an elegant hunt.
And what is a hunt if not the original problem that we sought to solve? Before we hunted other animals more powerful and massive than ourselves, our problems were probably relegated to evading becoming a meal and perhaps how to get a particularly high-perched berry.
The hunt on the other hand, especially for an animal much larger than us, requires coordination and strategy.
We might even ponder so ridiculously as to wonder if the war we wage against one another as countries and world powers is not simply an exercise in that original problem solving ability, like an artificial intelligence that plays against itself in order to level up it’s abilities. It’s without a doubt that if we had an intelligent companion different from human, we would seek to exercise the limits of our own mind against that being.
We do so on an individual and superficial level everyday when we argue with one another.
The wisest of us perhaps stay quiet most of the time, absorbing the tactics, weapons and powers of others, listening and integrating arguments far superior to their own.
With this context in place, let us wonder for a moment what it means to say:
“something about that bugs me.”
Often this is a pretty innocuous statement, directed out only to express annoyance, at some rule or the behavior of someone not present.
But what about a different usage. What about something like “It’s really bugging me that I can’t figure this out.”
What exactly is going on in this sort of instance? While trying to figure anything out, we are ultimately invoking the act of the hunt. We are searching, seeking and primed to spear that answer.
But when we fail to understand something, there are really two components: we can simply try different things until something works, or we can seek to truly understand a situation on a deep enough level that allows us to manipulate it with intention and accuracy. The issue is that the first strategy has a chance of working far faster than the second. Just throwing darts at the board is far more likely to land you a bull’s eye faster than studying the game.
That first strategy is still just a bit of a crap shoot. We often don’t seek deep understanding because it’s possible to get lucky.
When we fail to be lucky though, we need to switch strategies and down shift into a slower, more powerful gear. At that point we need to observe and allow pieces of the puzzle to slowly associate and connect, and ultimately a framework arises that allows some understanding to take shape.
Regardless, we can still get stuck, even in this gear, and there arises our prickly and frustrating sentiment.
“It’s really bugging me that I can’t figure this out.”
The symmetry of this sentiment with that of a computer program bug is about as elegant as the hunt for a solution.
The bug is ultimately in our thinking. Our framework, our understanding, is flawed, like a program with a bug in it. And our aim is ultimately not to uncover something about reality, but really to uncover something about our own self, the way we think and the assumptions we are operating on as we try to understand.
There comes a point when more research reaches diminishing returns. It’s at this point we need to question our own frame work at perhaps a fundamental level.
While google offers us the lure that someone else has likely had the same issue, the same problem and the same bug in their own thinking, this can’t be relied on for every nook and cranny of life.
At a certain point we must start querying our own assumption with questions that try to knock our own framework apart. Finding that weakest point, the place in the code where the bug fails to let the operation pass on as we hopes and as we imagine – it turns into a game of battleship. Taking random pot shots at our own thinking until we land a hit that seems promising, that provokes our curiosity and draws in our attention.
Hmm. That was unexpected, we think, and suddenly we tip toe closer to the bug hiding beneath a cloud of the unknown.
We take another shot at our own framework and hit something else. Slowly we gain an understanding of an invisible territory. The territory of the bug. With enough questions, turned inward, onto our own thinking, we can eventually hit it, understand.
and move forward.