Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Learning in a Creative, Experience-Building Way

The human brain has evolved to be capable of stunning feats of ingenuity and creativity! Most notably, when we interact socially with our peers and even those who are more knowledgeable and experience than us, we are capable of taking advantage of human language and communication so we can talk about and think about complex ideas. And the word 'ideas' doesn't even do justice to the complex models that we are capable of interacting with in the mind. We all use filters to consume information. We may primarily use our 5 senses but these are all filtered through the brain and processed which is what extracts meaningful information and patterns from what we are seeing. (on whatever time scale we are noticing them.) These filters are able to be developed as we apply discipline to our minds and our studies.

All of us are able to stand upon the shoulders of the giants who have come before us. They were the inventors, the great orators and authors, the philosophers, the captains of industry. We are capable of learning by their example, their biographies and autobiographies, their contributions to their fields, and so on.

The vast array of knowledge that society continually churns out is able to help us become more knowledgeable, more adaptive, wise, and capable. We can be more creative with these wholesome inputs being our inspiration. We can learn to really understand ourselves by understanding others and by getting in touch with various models of complex dynamic systems such as those found within Biological systems, planetary systems, and Quantum systems.

Being able to really connect with nature at this depth and being willing to change your own mind as you consume new information is capable of taking you on a journey through not just knowledge, but experience. Once you begin to see your mind as a changing, evolving system of models and information, you become a creator of information and you become capable of using this information to your advantage and to the advantage of your mental models. You actually begin to change your experience!

So many people seem to be caught up in the idea that they have to be *taught* everything in an orderly way. The problem with this is that it only gives you what you put in and nothing new. It also assumes that what you are being explained is fully what was in the minds of the people who really study these complex systems. It even assumes that they are fully correct about the systems in question. We should all be responsible for our own journey of discovery. Wisdom is distinguished from knowledge for good reason. The difference can be summed up in the word 'experience.'

Experience is more than a number. It's not just age. And it's not even the amount of time you've dedicated to studying a field. It's also the way in which you've approached it from an emotional and psychological perspective. Someone could be very dogmatic and skeptical and slow to change their mind about things and be very stubborn and really not evolve their mind much at all. Another person can be very insistent on continually modifying the mental models in their mind so they are consistently asking questions and maintaining some amount of humility and a huge amount of curiosity.

The process itself of learning can be an incredibly enjoyable and rewarding experience! When we maintain an attitude of truly caring about knowing more about our reality, even knowing ourself! (Know Thyself!)...we are setting ourselves up to find and know truth. Truth is one thing you can't really depend on anyone else for. Not just because people are bad communicators or liars or because of government and so on. It's also in large part because of the nature of truth. Truth is based on how a person experiences it and so if we collapse everything down to its core, we find that we almost completely lose meaning because we are not able to feel the need to interact with anything or anyone. But it's through our experiences in life that we discover that we are capable of bringing the light of truth to our daily actions and thus improving the lives of our fellow man and of ourselves.

Fostering within ourselves a state of constant curiosity and a passion for discovering how we can live optimally in harmony with nature is our duty, I believe. It is paramount that we learn to live in harmony with nature and with one another. It truly makes a difference how much pollution we create and how much waste we create from our consumerist lifestyle choices. I also believe that taking care of our bodies and maintaining optimal health is important for our well-being. But nobody can really put these sparks of desire and commitment directly inside you permanently. People can help you plant the seeds and even help you water them and so on but you have to maintain a cooperative spirit with the process of growth.

It takes intelligence and wisdom to be able to make wholesome, optimal decisions for ourselves and our family when we have so many choices and all the media wants us to buy into their product or belief systems. So it's as if we just need to be very selective about our inputs and take a broad variety of inputs into the mind. I believe that's in fact of the utmost importance. If we only get information from one source, we not only get just one perspective from a real model standpoint but we also only get it explained in a single linguistic way of communicating the complex ideas or models. One of the most interesting things we are capable of as human beings with large several pound brains and lots of energy is to actually hold multiple models in the mind simultaneously which interact with one another and to create the best of all worlds out of those multiple perspectives and models! Because we have to assume that the models we are 'given' or set out to use at the beginning or even the middle of our journey are incomplete, even flawed.

One should always be willing to modify the mind to incorporate information which generates more complete solutions or helps build the scaffolding needed to build our knowledge base. Another reason to keep coming back to the knowledge in its finest "gnostic" form is because if we are not "practically" using knowledge then it will decay and we will feel like we have an understanding of our reality but it will become too simplified. We must constantly be simplifying and then working towards a further understanding. If we are not pushing ourselves to constantly grow, we are going to slip into mediocrity and we will no longer be able to provide actionable value to ourselves, our family, and our community.

It's important we think outside the box. A personal motivation for me is to help other people live more optimal lifestyles and be happier, healthier, etc. So for me, I've been adding this tagline to my email footers for quite awhile now: "Think for yourself with others in mind." I think it does a good job of summing up the true motivation we should have when doing any kind of self-development or research. We should be really keen to learn from lots of different sources. (dozens) And we should go through hundreds or thousands to find those really amazing few dozen that we can really count on. Even if you don't go for those numbers, that's the basic ratio you should look for. If you want to make sure that the information you're using is of the utmost value and closest to the truth, you have to go through as many sources as possible and figure out based on all the extreme positions, exaggerations, errors, misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and so on, how you balance out for sort of the ultimate model which is a combination of what you have learned from all the competing voices.

Now, everyone is going to use their own system and that's the beauty of the mind. We all chart our own progress through our existences and we are all able to perceive reality in different ways and thus add our own unique values to the world based on what we each uniquely view from our perspectives. The important thing is that you aren't simply copying what the mainstream is saying or doing or just simply copying what one or two people (even if they are famous or mostly "right") are saying. The reason is because you won't really understand the system fully until you really process through a lot of material and basically judge what you see in an open-minded but intentional way.

Being a Philosopher is how you strengthen the mind. But people sometimes forget the "Philo" part of the word. You're going to need a good heart as well if you don't want to just be a copy of everything you read and see. A mind that is not willing to change or perceive the needs and desires of nature or people is doomed to the ivory towers and probably not going to change society to a large degree. And what good is knowledge that does not have an effect? Both on oneself and one's loved community and world?

Philosophy means, roughly speaking, "love of knowledge." But it actually means "love of wisdom." The wise person knows the value of experience because he has experienced it himself. The loving person knows that love is the emotion felt when you give or receive flowers, not the flowers themselves. The loving person knows that an advanced lover does not even necessarily need to buy flowers in order to create this energy of love. It can simply be conjured from within. So with Philosophy, a person does not always need external information inputs in order to increase in knowledge and wisdom. From what has been "planted" within in our neural networks, we can expand our knowledge, wisdom, and experience. We can begin to see differently through our "mind's eye" or simply through different filters and be able to observe patterns in nature or society or even simply in ourselves and our own behavioral patterns. We will be able to surmise possibly that the origins of some effect we are feeling or noticing personally may have been triggered by one or more "causes" many days or even weeks previous to this day. We may also begin to predict what good changes may come of our concerted and intentional efforts towards some end goal.

One of the wisest things I have personally learned is that there is never any real single cause or single effect. In essence, we create our own luck through preparedness and the taking of opportunities. We are able to prepare ourselves physically and mentally for the goals we wish to accomplish. Incredibly powerful is the will of man when fully engaged and incredibly limiting can be our doubts, negative self-talk, or self-limiting beliefs. If we engage in behaviors and patterns of thought and emotion--where we see only huge potential for growth in our own lives and the impact we're able to have on others' lives--we will be able to channel all our energy towards our success instead of that which possibly could go wrong. The subconscious is very good at bringing to our conscious awareness or even our external experience that which we are thinking about, whether we are imagining something undesired or desired. So we should absolutely be sure to, as much as is possible or practical, concentrate our energies and attention on those things which we desire to manifest in our lives.

So by building these mental models, we are able to more clearly see that there are not necessarily simple solutions for that which we desire but some set of conditions which must all probably be present for the likely manifestation of that which we desire.

I will end this treatise with this last concept of triangulation.

I present to you this quoted bit of text:
The Rotman School of Management defines integrative thinking as:
"...the ability to constructively face the tensions of opposing models, and instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generating a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new model that contains elements of the individual models, but is superior to each."[1]The website continues:
"Integrative thinkers build models rather than choose between them. Their models include consideration of numerous variables — customers, employees, competitors, capabilities, cost structures, industry evolution, and regulatory environment — not just a subset of the above. Their models capture the complicated, multi-faceted and multidirectional causal relationships between the key variables in any problem.Integrative thinkers consider the problem as a whole, rather than breaking it down and farming out the parts. Finally, they creatively resolve tensions without making costly trade-offs, turning challenges into opportunities."
So, a true thinker obviously is doing much more with their mind than injecting information into it through their eyeballs and their ears. A true thinker or philosopher is actually forming arguments (logical reasoning, discussion, communication) within their systems of processing information. This is both for actually consuming and forming responses or output through communication such as speaking or writing.

So triangulation, for me, means a couple things. Triangulation can be used in writing or any form where we are using human languages like English, Mandarin, Spanish, or German to communicated complex ideas and clusters of concepts.
As you can see in the above image, we have a network of nodes which are separated into general clusters, each with a unique color code. Yet these clusters are also interconnected and even within each cluster, there are differences or separations where the nodes are starting to differentiate.

So when you think about some complex system such as in Biology where you can have a disease effecting multiple organs and organ systems simultaneously and dozens of metabolic pathways directly related to the "root causes" you can begin to see how there would never really be a silver bullet because there is no single cause to begin with...

Also with words, we can't really assume which definition someone means when they use a word so it's important that we have some context or that we at least know the person so we have some context from previous conversations with them, etc. This tremendously deepens the ability we have of communicating and indeed for the communication that happens within our own minds which partially gives rise to consciousness itself. Good communication is important so to go beyond "buzzwords" we need to triangulate these nodes so that we can talk about certain custom clusters "on the fly" in the moment and constantly keep these adaptive neural networks moving and reshaping themselves. These networks are not meant to be static and never-changing. The whole point is that they are able to be computed with and interacted with. Being able to mix and match and recombine these different pieces of our knowledge web in different ways allows us to see new perspectives and come up with new ideas for the most effective ways to achieve a desired results or perhaps change a condition. Perhaps we want to take somebody from a state of disease to a state of being on top of their world and full of life. We can only make effective lifestyle changes if we are able to holistically understand psychology, emotions, physical biological systems, and more in a connected, interactive way.

If we want to truly optimize our lives, it's of utmost importance that we have clarity about the many interacting pieces in our lives. The simpler our models, the simpler a change might be but the simpler our understanding of complex issues will be. So we must create simple, effective results while also being able to see the bigger picture so we can work with those hard cases or achieve the "impossible."
I actually started writing this blog post as an introduction to nootropics and then it morphed into an essay about being responsible for our personal experience of educating the mind. If you haven't heard of nootropics, they are basically the next level after caffeine for helping you train the mind to learn new patterns and be more efficient at creating quality output, whether that's writing, designing, drawing, coding, taking tests for school, or working in any kind of office or work environment. Basically nootropics are a whole different beast from caffeine because caffeine simply speeds up your perception of consciousness but doesn't really increase the quality of your output. It also doesn't really give your body and brain what you need to create new connections in the mind (called neuroplasticity) The brain needs a good supply of oxygen, blood flow, neurotransmitters, and other chemicals in order to function at its best. That's what a lot of these herbs and superfoods provide which you wouldn't ordinarily find in average foods from the supermarket...

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As always, Cheers to Optimization!!