Problem solving

My high school physics teacher once gave us an analogy to describe how physicists figure out properties of things that they nor any instruments can see, such as atomic structures and Earth-similar planets in other galaxies.

SoccerImagine that you’re an alien species who can’t see the “colors” black or white. And the alien species are watching a game of soccer and wondering why the hell we humans are running around on a grassy field for no observable reason. After watching how and when we move, they conclude that there must be some thing that is being passed from one person to another and the point was to get that object past the enemy and into the net. They can even tell certain properties of this object by how the humans “kick” it and how they seem to “bounce” it off their body parts and how it “rolls” on the ground.

All problems that need solving are not problems in the ethical sense. There’s nothing morally wrong. But that’s how we approach ALL the problems in our lives. A “bug” in a computer isn’t a problem, it’s designed that way, maybe my mistake, maybe by lack of foresight. It’s not something that shouldn’t be there, it’s exists and it’s a problem because what we want isn’t what is occurring.

This distinction is key when problem solving because emotions are the first barrier to overcome. Once morality and ethics is out, all that is required is to collect facts and let your natural human instincts connect all the dots.

And before you know it, the soccer ball becomes clear. And the problem also disappears. You haven’t solved it yet, but because you now know why it’s doing what it’s doing, it’s not a “bug” anymore. But instantly you have a new problem.

The new problem is to figure out a solution that doesn’t cause more “problems” in the future, while behaving exactly the way you want it to behave. This problem is a lot bigger and more complex than identifying why the “bug” is occurring. Again you have to dive into the system and collect more facts. Facts that, at first, doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the original “bug.”

After figuring out why humans are running around on fields kicking some invisible ball, the aliens have the bigger problem of why we’re doing that. And to solve this problem, they need to leave the stadium and find out more about human beings and their behavior. They look at how humans are born and raised, what they want, how they cope with loss or gain, etc. Some alien executives might come by and look over the shoulders of their subordinates and wonder why their employees are goofing off watching these humans give birth and die while there is this incredible problem of this game with the invisible ball.

If you try to solve the problem locally, only focusing on the soccer stadium, chances are extremely high that you’re going to create several more problems outside of the stadium due to ignorance. You have to follow the connections out of the “stadium” and make sure that changing things isn’t going to end up causing something else from breaking.


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