The Architecture of Thought

It is human nature to try and understand our surroundings and in some way contribute to them, either to further our own existence or to help others in some way. Human curiosity is, I think, one of our most powerful attributes - the eternal need to search for more knowledge and to better understand our place in our environment. Now, that's the basis for science, as what science is constantly trying to do is discover how, why, when, and where things exist. In order to make any headway toward answering questions we have had to come up with a method, the Scientific Method, that gives us the capacity to design experiments and processes whereby we can either explain something and predict it, or at least come up with a theory that gives us the best possible description. One of the cores of this Scientific Method is that in order to measure something, to come to a reasonable conclusion, we have to limit any variables in that experiment so any changes that are experienced can be attributed to the one known variable. If we observe changes in an experiment, but there are two variables (i.e., potential contributors), how can we possibly know which one is responsible for the change, or even how much each one contributed to that change? We can't; therefore it is imperative that all variables are removed except for one, so we can determine its effect on that change.

Most reasonable people will see this and agree without doubt that it is the only way we can possibly measure things accurately. Why then is this same method not applied throughout all aspects of life? It certainly should be, or at least we should attempt to apply it. In this sense, I find that in order to apply this to everyday life we have to do something vital if it's to be achieved. This is separating Emotions from Logical Thought Processes. I don't mean we shouldn't use emotions, they exist for a reason and they hold value in our lives, obviously. However, in order to debate a topic and come to a reasonable conclusion we have to at least attempt to remove any variables that may affect the outcome. Probably the largest contributor to strong personal views is emotions. That is based on a variety of things; emotions themselves are based on the history of the individual and their experiences in life. For example, if we were talking about a topic that has affected us personally we are unavoidably going to have a much stronger opinion on that topic. The actual experience is what probably shaped the belief, but it is our emotions attached to the topic which will affect how strongly we follow or defend that belief.

So in order to debate something and attempt to come to a reasonable conclusion we have to remove these variables. As I said previously, first we have to remove personal attachment to a topic and all the emotions attached to it. The reason I say that is because emotions themselves add no potential value to a discussion; they hold no knowledge or information for any topic and therefore cannot contribute to any reasonable outcome.

If we are able to remove emotions from discussions we are left only with logical thought - and an attempt at coming to a reasonable conclusion based on the information we have and the observations we can make. Many people attempt to remove emotions from a discussion (although, frustratingly, some people make no attempt at all), and in doing so think that any thought process that follows must be logical. This is a misconception; removing emotions from thought/discussion on a topic is only the most basic and first step (and yes, the most important). We have to continue the Scientific Method throughout our thought processes in order to be successful. The mistake that is made is thinking we can come to some sort of conclusion about a topic without removing any and every possible variable, except for the one we hypothesize is causing the effect of an experiment.

Now, obviously it is not always possible to achieve this goal of ultimate measurement by the removal of variables, especially in the practical world. This is where reasoning comes in. We wouldn't need reasoning if we could measure everything precisely. My understanding of reasoning, and hence the thought process I follow, which I (unfortunately) find extremely rare, is a careful calculation of statistics and odds. I think everyone uses this to a point, but for some reason it breaks down when applied to certain topics (I would venture one of the major reasons are those fidgety emotions). I think the examples for this are endless, and when you consider many day-to-day choices you make, you should arrive at the same conclusion. So I will venture a few basic examples to show the source of the thinking I'm referring to:

When you travel on an aircraft, there is the possibility of the plane crashing and, obviously, death. You take the trip anyway. Why? You have come to the conclusion that the odds of your plane going down are so small it is worth the very small risk; you don't really have to worry about it that much. You are willing to get on that flight because reasonable thinking says the odds of your survival are pretty good. This example can be applied to numerable other transportation methods and unrelated risks.

When you purchase an item with good reviews or with a good name brand, you are purchasing that product on the idea that out of all the people that have used it, the general response has been positive and has indicated the purchase is worth the price. (Or it is at least advertised as such, which essentially means our motivations are the same anyway, even if the product owner's motivations differ.) So you are looking at the statistical average and coming to a conclusion that the most likely outcome is that it is a good purchase, and so you can feel comfortable making that purchase.

I believe that if people were able to follow this logical thought pattern, the ultimate combination of day-to-day choices would tend to have a positive outcome because the entire process is derived at a statistical likelihood of a positive outcome. That statement is carefully constructed in the sense that we should always take the most reasonable and statistically viable option in decision making because the combination of all our decisions would then statistically tend toward a positive result.

I think thought processes are very complex, and this is just touching on an aspect of our thinking process, but I do think it's important from a personal and societal point of view. One benefit I'll mention but not discuss is the potential for removal of punishment for "wrongful" acts, and focus only on education or correction of the so called "wrongful" act. If someone was always able to justify a choice and action by being the most reasonable choice they could have made in that situation (based on the information they had), then how could that ever be classified as the "wrong" choice? They would have made the best judgment possible based on reasonable deduction. For example, if a driver swerved out of the way of a child in the road, only to hit a family on the side, how could he be judged as wrong? He would have had to make a judgment based on the information he had and come to the most reasonable action, which was to avoid the child. (The word "reasonable" takes into account all factors, including time limitations, i.e., seconds to react).

The most probable, and therefore reasonable, action to take in the current world to address the growing number of massive issues is a shift in thinking and thought process to an objectively-based method - the Scientific Method.


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