In this Edition, we return to some of the directions prompted by the book on Reasoning (Edition #006) with a look at Kahneman's System One and System Two. Our link this week is about being along with your thoughts and the effort of thinking. Finally we wrap up with a piece I wrote on Apophenia to complement an interintellect Salon I will be hosting on the 20th of October - Walking the Pattern Recognition Tightrope.
This outline of the idea of dual processing is drawn from the book Thinking, Fast and Slow. The book covers other issues as well, but over half of it relates to the implications of System 1 and System 2 (and of course other researchers have responded to Kahneman's work) so for today I'm just going to cover the basics of the two systems and in the next Edition we will dig into the nuances.
The idea of more than one processing mode in the brain goes back to philosopher and psychologist William James, who drew a distinction between (in his conception) associative and true reasoning. While the modern idea is most associated with Daniel Kahneman the terms "System 1" and "System 2" were first coined by psychologists Keith Stanovich and Richard West in 2000.
Kahneman developed their ideas further and brought it to a wider audience, but many others have worked on different aspects. We'll start with Kahneman's definitions:
• System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.
• System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration.
Somewhat related to the discussion on Decision Fatigue in recent weeks, the piece is interesting in touching on what may make thinking an enjoyable activity.
(A companion piece to the interintellect Salon I will be hosting on the 20th of October - Walking the Pattern Recognition Tightrope.)
Apophenia is "the tendency to perceive meaningful connections between unrelated things." But I prefer the poetic rendition that this is what enables us to stare up at the clouds and see in them familiar objects floating in the sky. Perhaps I like that rendition is it's actually not a kind of pattern recognition I am good at - I rarely see a cloud as something else. I do see more patterns than average though and as the wikipedia entry says: [link again] "Apophenia has come to imply a human propensity to seek patterns in random information".
If we learned anything from trying to build autonomous vehicles, it's that every human has amazing pattern recognition capabilities. At the same time, there are those whose "pattern recognition module" is just that bit more active. Some of them end up in jobs that use that capability (eg Futurist, Analyst, Forecaster, Doctor, Artist, Scientist to name just a few) but not all. But having more active pattern recognition is a possible advantage and at the same time poses particular challenges.
Possibly the best fictional example comes in the medical drama House [link]. What we see through numerous episodes is the challenge of diagnosis - linking disparate piece of information that indicate some underlying phenomenon. The main character is of course (it's a TV drama!) a genius at this kind of pattern recognition. But we also see some of the challenges. Sometimes a set of symptoms could point in more than one direction, i.e. it could be X or it could be Y. Other times, the set of symptoms is caused by more than one thing. Finally, rarely (because it doesn't make good TV) the symptoms are not actually a guide to the problem - or maybe someone is seeing a pattern in the random data.
- Today, 7th October, 1900 London Time (BST), Life Is Simple - Writer Johnjoe McFadden atells the story of William of Occam, who first articulated the principle that the best answer to any problem is the simplest - Occam's razor. (Royal Institution, Online, £Donation Requested)
- Sunday, 10th October, 11o0 BST, Goldberg Variations - Professor Marcus du Sautoy will explain how ideas of symmetry are at work throughout the variations. Pianist Charles Owen will bring his signature clarity of articulation to the iconic Goldberg Variations. (King's Place, Online, £13)
- Tuesday, 12th October, 1830 BST, Game Theory: What It Is, Why It Matters - John von Neumann’s biographer, Ananyo Bhattacharya, will explore the creation of Game Theory in layman’s terms to make sense of the thinking that governs so much of contemporary life. (howtoAcademy, Online, £15)
- Wednesday, 13th October, 1700 BST, Computers With Bodies - Joe Dewhurst is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy and will discuss the contemporary impact of cybernetic approaches in cognitive science. (The Cybernetics Society, Online, £20)
- Saturday, October 16, 1600 BST, Rule of the Robots: How AI Will Transform Everything - NYT Bestselling author Martin Ford discusses his book with futurist David Wood. (London Futurists, Online, Free)
- Tuesday, 19th October, 1800 BST, Selecting Solutions Using Critical Thinking - Hosted by the Disruptive Innovation Hub, York University, Toronto, Canada (Online, Free, Registration Required)
- Wednesday, 20th October, 1900 BST, Walking the Pattern Recognition Tightrope - in this interintellect Salon, I will be hosting a conversation about how we manage our pattern recognition ability. It gives us powerful powers of prediction, but it can also lead us astray. I'm hoping that this will be a great conversation about something many of us experience, but don't often talk about! Please come if you're interested! (interintellect, Online, $15)
- And of course, Edition #010 of this newsletter will be out on Thursday 21st October in the afternoon London time - feel free to share this Edition with a friend before then. ;-)
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