Thursday, September 29, 2005

Draw me a map.

This is interesting, if somewhat long-winded:

Thinking about Thinking

The authors claim to be talking about software engineering - ignore that; they're talking about how people think.

The authors seem to be dividing people up into two different kinds of thinkers "Mappers" and "Packers" (and though packers tend to be less flexible, resistant to change, and have a very shallow understanding of the world, they are not in fact referring to one of the Australian Princes of Media Darkness - though that is an amusing coincidence.) Ignore that too; its fairly obvious that to some degree everyone is both packer and mapper, and the only question is to what degree a person employs which strategy.

If you get bogged down in the software engineering stuff, just understand that packing is basically memorising a list of situations and how to react to them (or problems and how to solve them), and mapping is building a mental model of how and why something works by examining new facts to see if they fit the model and - and this is the important bit - changing the model until it fits the new facts. We often refer to this as "the scientific method", but I'll go "mapping"; its shorter. Then skip down to "Knowledge Packets, Daydreams, Maps and Understanding" and read from there.

What is interesting is that the two different thinking styles described, and the implicit communication barriers between people using the two, effectively explain almost all of the things we sit around and bitch about over beers:
  • religious nutjobs.
  • "intelligent" designers.
  • screwed up politicians shooting themselves - and us - in the foot while we sit back and say "but can't they see...?"
  • people who vote for same.
  • people who believe in reflexology curing cancer.
  • Miranda Devine.
  • why pointing out the "obvious" failings of any of the above to the perpetrators or the general public has no effect whatsoever.

It actually explains a lot to me about why some of the idiots choose to be idiots; they don't. They're trapped there by a complete lack of understanding of why or how anything is connected to anything else. Yeah ok, I kinda knew that already - but this begins to explain how they manage to have enough information to get by in the world without getting run over at a crosswalk, and still manage to hold on to that lack of a deeper understanding.

No comments: