Knowledge and wisdom? LO28517

From: Benjamin Compton (
Date: 05/16/02

Replying to LO28497 --

This is a topic I've been exploring with some of my friends. . .

My life has been spent working with computers. As a child I learned to
program, as a teenager I did contract work writing software, as a young
adult I quit programming because I was massively addicted to it, and as a
middle-aged man I've gone back to programming because it's what I really
enjoy. . .

What I've noticed over the years is when I have a really difficult problem
to solve, I follow the same procedure.
 a. Define the problem as clearly as possible -- simmer the problem down
to the bare essentials.
 b. Begin thinking about the problem in terms of "what if I do. . ." and
see where that leads me. This is an iterative step.
 c. If after significant effort I still haven't found a solution, go do
something else. . .
 d. In the middle of "doing something else" the solution will come.

It seems the subconscious mind has a real knack for working through really
difficult and non-intuitive problems. So when I'm doing steps a and b, I'm
"informing" my sub-conscious mind so it can process the problem.

Interestingly, once the solution comes it often comes "holistically." That
is, I see the solution as a single identity or thing, not as a series of
logical steps. Often there is no "logical" connection to the description
of the problem I began with, and the solution. This is where my conscious
mind comes into play: It builds a logical connection rom the problem
description to the solution, or if there is already an obvious connection,
it breaks the solution into logical steps.

In talking with other computer programmers this process seems to be fairly

As I've matured, what I've learned to change this process slightly. In
step c. I've learned to slip into something of a trance (perhaps a
self-hypnotic state?) and tap into my sub-conscious mind. This has proven
to be a much more efficient way of solving difficult problems.

The interesting thing to me is that the solutions I (and others find) do
not come from deductive reasoning, or if conscious reasoning. . .they come
from the sub-consciuos mind, and I haven't figured out how that part of my
mind is processing information. It's a bit of a black box: Input -->
Processing --> Output.

Personal experience suggests the sub-concious mind is using some form of
logic, but I can't say for sure. This is where my friends and I have
differing opinions. I tend to believe that the mind itself is a
computational instrument much like a computer, and therefore well suited
to logical thought (a logical conclusion for one who has spent his life
working with computers, right?). Others think that the mind is much more
sophisticated, and that it has an entirely different way of processing
information. But this doesn't make sense to me, any more than my theory
makes sense to them.

I'm not sure it really matters. The point is the sub-concious mind seems
to be the place my friends and I go for "deep thinking."

Perhaps this is what genius is? Is a genius a person where the distinction
between the conscious and sub-conscious mind is transparent? And perhaps
this is why so many geniuses go mad. . .at some point the sub-conscious
mind has can be equally illogical given our experiences with dreams that
make no sense. If a genius is unable to block that irrational part of the
sub-conscious mind that is so prevalent, then they may indeed go "mad" and
live in a delusional world.

Fred Nickols <> wrote:

>I think this is related to if not part of Polanyi's notion of tacit
>knowledge. That which we know but cannot articulate would seem to me to
>inform our actions no less reasonably or rationally than that which we
>know and can articulate. The main difference seems to be that if we
>cannot articulate that aspect of our actions, we cannot make a reasoned
>or rational case to others. And so, some of us at least, fall back to a
>defense based on intuition or hunch or gut feel or some other label for
>those aspects of our thinking that inform our actions yet we are unable
>to articulate, explain and defend.


Benjamin Compton Frisbeetarianism, n.: The belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck. Benjamin Compton <>

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