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Problem Solving

100 STASHED IDEAS

Thinking like Jacques Derrida (1930-2004)

Jackie - his real name - was born in Algeria on 15 July 1930. Some consider him as one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century.

Part of thinking like Derrida is taking the things we take most for granted, such as our identity and language, and looking for assumptions, contradictions, and absences.

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@nicij783

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Problem Solving

In 1967 Jacques Derrida introduced a new method to philosophy named deconstruction.

It is the idea that if something is constructed, it can be de-constructed. Not just things like chairs, cars and houses but also concepts such as truth, justice, and God. Derrida reasoned that these concepts we assume as natural are culturally constructed.

The words and concepts we use, including the words in our mind we mistake for thinking, emerge from the culture around us.

No work can be pure in itself. Deconstruction is always happening in any work, and looking closely reveals how a text is happening and how the creator has pretended it isn't. For example, books like Landscape With Landscape (1985) by Gerald Murnane continually draw the readers' attention to the fact that they're reading a novel but can't just get lost in the story.

  • Derrida thought there was no true assessment of a text. The dominant assessment tells us about the conditions around the text rather than the text itself.
  • To think like Derrida means looking at a text, finding what it is trying to promote, then looking in the opposite direction.
  • Look for contradictions and consider what they mean.
  • A more subtle way of looking at a text is to see what happens if you look at one text through another interpretation. (What role does race play in the Marvel movies?)

A text can be anything, a book, a movie, a recording.

  • Start by finding a silent space.
  • Next, find something to deconstruct: a poem, a timetable, a shopping list, philosophy, this text.
  • Start deconstructing. How is the text regarded? Question accepted truths, and in whose interest it is that they are accepted.
  • Look for places within the text that contradict each other. (Films may provide ample examples.)
  • Don't listen to what the author says. Trust your own analysis of a text.

Deconstruction is not destruction. The concept or object is still there. To think deconstructively is not only to question accepted truths but to ask in whose interests it is if they are accepted.

Jacques Derrida was fascinated by the many factors that went into constructing a concept and the final act of construction itself: the belief that any concept is coherent and has a single fixed meaning and that this meaning is true, pure and unconstructed. He called the belief that coherence is a measure of truth, the 'metaphysics of presence'.

Mathematics: The Language Of Science
  • According to Galileo Galilei, mathematics is the language in which God scripted the universe.
  • A language, as defined by linguist Noam Chomsky, is a set of sentences constructed using a finite set of elements, being able to represent events and abstract concepts.
  • Mathematics is considered a bona-fide language by many linguists though there are others who disagree and say that it is mostly in written format only.
  • A language normally contains vocabulary, meaning, grammer, syntax, narrative and a set of people who use and understand the various symbols.
  • The syntax, vocabulary and grammar of mathematics forms a system of communication which any language must have to qualify as one.
  • It is considered by many as a universal language as it meets all criteria and requirements of the same.
  • Many students find numbers and symbols confusing, and using a familiar language to describe an equation makes the subject easy to understand.
  • Solving word problems, where nouns, verbs and modifiers are translated into mathematical equations is a good exercise.
  • As mathematics is universal, it helps people learn and communicate by acting as a common translator language.

Nouns in math are the Arabic numerals, fractions, variables, expressions, figures, infinity, Pi and imaginary numbers like i.

The verbs of math are equalities and inequalities, addition, subtraction, division, multiplication and many other operatives like Sin, Cos, Tan etc.

The rules of mathematics, like syntax and grammar, are international, with the same structure used universally. Greek and Latin languages are used to denote the various symbols.

  1. Many people are unable to put the effort and blindly follow simple calculations with black-and-white outcomes.
  2. Assuming that there is no room for error in the first place, and making a decision based on that.
  3. Underestimating the ability of things to change for the better, and banking on things to remain bleak and static.
  4. Idolizing others who may not be in the same space as you are, and following their actions and decisions.
  1. Inability to predict our response to risk and making knee-jerk decisions based out of fear.
  2. Past success leading to overconfidence and arrogance.
  3. The false assumption of the information on the table being the complete picture.
  4. Taking the wrong lessons from others' success and failures while not able to grasp the complex and diverse set of circumstances.
Common Causes Of Bad Decisions: Social Pressure
  1. People push their moral boundaries due to incentives and rewards.
  2. No one wants to be kicked out of a tribe or community so they play along.
  3. People do not think through the consequences.
  4. Little things and tiny, overlooked details snowball into something big.
  5. Other people's errors are easier to spot than one’s owns, leading to blind spots and denial of one’s faults.

One way to improve ideas is to think of sources of information as being in memetic buckets. If your idea inputs come from the same memetic bucket, your outputs will replicate the same concepts in that bucket. Your thoughts won't be new or particularly interesting.

To combat this:

  1. Reduce the overlap in idea sources.
  2. Go through your social media feeds and see what sources say the same things in different ways.
  3. Pick one or two favourites out of them, and ditch the rest.
Improving your idea-flow

A lower idea-flow is this sense that you don't have as many ideas as you used to. Reading more encourages ideas to flow.

You can't create time, you can only re-allocate it. To find the time for improving your idea-flow means that you have to find ways to cut back on other things.

Cut your sources of information so you don't hear the same thing in five different ways.

Realize when you should let go of certain inputs, even if you enjoy them.

When you catch yourself thinking "that's crazy," try to figure out why someone would believe that idea.

People are mostly logical, their starting point is just different. When you try to see if you can find the premises for someone's beliefs and ideas, their conclusions will make more sense. Even if you disagree, understanding where they are coming from will help you better understand your own ideas.

Developing good ideas is an active process. The ideas that are starting to form should be coaxed out of you.

  • This is best done by having conversations. It forces you to try to explain them in a moment, realize where they're faulty, then continue refining them in subsequent discussions.
  • Creating is the final expression of an idea. Express your ideas in articles, tweets, songs, paintings, TikToks, to clarify them properly.
Outperforming the crowd

If you want to outperform the crowd, learn the following two essential skills.

  • Generate ideas by broadening your decision frame.
  • You must be able to distinguish between good and bad loner strategies. It is best done by embracing critical thinking.

Strategy development and internal reviews often center on precedents, trends, and due diligence. They address"what will happen."  Change the question to "what may happen" :

  • Role-play other parties.
  • Listen to assumptions in the way a strategy is supposed to work.
  • Watch out for confirmation bias, overconfidence, survivor bias, and groupthink.
  • Forecast your competitors' results.
  • Beware of missing pieces in the tools you use.

When we need to make a decision, we tend to ask "What should we do?" However, it narrows our thinking to one right decision.

If we ask the question: "What could we do?"  it broadens our decision-making frame, because we can consider multiple futures. Could ask what if, what else, and why not.

For example: Ask what would be the equivalent in your industry of something that’s working well in another.

Two strategies

When it comes to setting strategy, there are benefits to both popular and loner strategies.

  • Popular strategies are those that are identified by the crowds. The more people that choose a strategy, the better the strategy performs.
  • Loner strategies are those that are identified by only one person. If you want to outperform the crowd, you've got to do something the group isn't doing.

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