The Right Tools For The Right Job

I wake up to read an article on Trump this morning.

“It appears to be a recognition that Mr. Trump’s simplistic and angry campaign rhetoric may be much more difficult to accomplish.”

We all want simplistic ideas. But we live in a complex world. With complexity comes difficulty. Difficulty brings doubt. And in a complex world, doubt is not a pleasant condition… but certainty is absurd. When will we learn not to be seduced by overly simplistic, overly confident ideals? When will we learn to become comfortable with a complex system:  when we have to actually research what we’re jumping into before truly jumping?

Maybe the discrepancy lies in the scale of the task. Normal, every-day people don’t usually have to worry about how to overcome hugely networked, complex tasks. Normal every-day people tend to have to work out whether they should plan their dinner with friends for Friday or for Saturday.

We develop different problem solving tools throughout our lives based on the tasks we face. If all we’re doing is planning whether we should have dinner Friday or Saturday night, we’ll only ever develop the tools to overcome that task. On top of that, the implications at stake with this task aren’t that great: say you organise the dinner for Friday. If everyone says they can’t make it, you can change the dinner to Saturday. Even if you screw it up… you can just organise it for another weekend. The idea of creating research groups to study the full extent of whether Friday night or Saturday night is better, or to consult all the ‘stakeholders involved’ about the full implications of each nuance for the choice between Friday and Saturday probably sounds like overkill. And it is.

But when it comes to the direction of a government, we need highly developed tools and processes to overcome highly complex tasks. Millions of people’s lives can be affected, and yet it feels like we treat these problems like choosing what night to organise dinner. It’s like we’re using a sledgehammer and a chisel to change the fillings in someone’s teeth.

So now we have two choices. We can choose to equip everyone with the correct tools so that they are able to assess a problem and maintain the democracy we have. This will take people years to achieve: they’re essentially learning a new skill. You can’t become a piano master overnight. On top of this obstacle is the fact that not all people will want to put in the work to become a ‘piano master’.

The other choice is that we can start picking specific people who are equipped with the skills to actually assess a complex problem properly, and assign them responsibility to decide what to do.

Very extreme conclusion: maybe democracy isn’t the answer. Maybe it’s time to apply a more suitable tool for the job.

First Post!

Hello. Welcome to Solidifying Nebulous Ideas. Come in. Take a look around.

I’ve written quite a few posts up to this point, so I’ll populate this blog with the ones already written in the next few days. Before I do that, though, I figured that a fresh, new, first post would be good to set the scene. But what new content can I talk about to represent what’s in store for this blog?

I thought I’d take the time to explain what this blog’s favicon (the icon that sits in your browser’s tab for this site) is – and why I chose it – as it holds quite a bit of meaning to me. You’ll probably see it popping up around the site in due course.

The favicon is a hypercube:

To me, it’s a symbol for ideas that are beyond our comprehension. This blog can be summed up as a collection of ideas that have developed from chaos into understandable order throughout my life. But, in my opinion, the hypercube will never be comprehensible. It represents the limit to our understanding.

“Okay, okay, the hypercube symbolises something for you,” I hear you say. “But what physically is a hypercube?” A hypercube is a 4D square. But as we can’t see 4D objects, what you’re looking at is a 3D shadow of the 4D shape. It’s the best we can achieve in our meager 3 dimensions. Actually, because you’re looking at it on a 2D screen, it’s a 2D representation of a 3D shadow of a 4D shape. The picture below is the same translation from 2D to 3D as our interpretations for a hypercube from 3D to 4D:

All edges of the hypercube are in a direction perpendicular or parallel to each other. So the edges that look like they’re moving into the centre of the cube are actually moving away from the cube in a direction perpendicular to it, in the 4th dimension. A bit of a mind-fuck, right?

I challenge anyone to be able to conceptualise the hypercube. Personally, I think it’s outside the realms of any human understanding, because it’s beyond our perception to be able to imagine a 4D world. Nothing in everyday life equips us to imagine how something would behave in 4D. However, maybe with new games coming out that allow us to explore the environment of 4 dimensions, we can become more intuitive with the idea. The 2D to 3D equivalent of a game that explores dimensions is a game called Fez (one of my favourite games). In Fez, the 3D layout of the world is mapped out, but you only need to traverse it in 2D. Because of this, you can change the angle you perceive each 3D environment to make platforms closer/further away, from the gamer’s 2D perspective. Then if we go one step further, a game that will allow us to explore a 4D environment while perceiving a 3D space (Fez + 1D) – is Miegakure.

Just like apes, who look at skyscrapers and can only fathom the geometric shape as something that exists within the rest of nature – they can’t imagine the careful material selection, the stress calculations on each of the supporting framework, the aesthetic design process – we can’t grasp the hypercube. And maybe in the future, when we create superintelligent AI (ASI), computers will be able to imagine a hypercube intuitively and we will be the apes. But for now, the hypercube is also a symbol of how far we’ve come throughout our lives. When we are born, we are like the ape. Then as we grow in the world, we move more and more towards the ASI. There will always be things beyond our comprehension, but these posts contain the success stories that create order out of chaos. The concepts that have been solidified from the nebulous.