Wednesday, August 19, 2009
The PUZZLE MASTERS
In many ways, we (as a species) are soft and seemingly ill-designed for the natural world (red in tooth and claw). We lack claws, sharp teeth, the speed of reflex that animals have … yet, we have fought our way to the top of the pile and become the dominant species on our planet. There are several reasons for this; but the one I want to talk about in this blog is the ability we have of being able to read patterns and bring order out of the chaos that surrounds us.
Each and every one of us has the amazing ability to interpret data that we gather from our external world and bring it together in a way or form that has meaning to us. We have become so good at this, that we can glean scant information from the external world, fill gaps in the data and extrapolate from it, allowing us to make predictions about the future – something animals cannot do.
Our brains actually cope with the external world by creating shortcuts. We have to create these shortcuts for several reasons: firstly, there is often not enough time to follow a process at each and every one of it’s points from beginning to conclusion, we need to leap ahead in order to keep up with what’s going on. Another reason is that there simply may be pieces of the puzzle that are missing, so we need to skip ahead in a desperate attempt to find the next bit we need to make sense of what is unfolding. We are both very good and very bad at this. Or more accurately, we are so used to doing it, that it feels natural and often we don’t even realize we are doing it. We are masters of filling in the missing bits … and masters of skipping ahead.
Imagine that our traffic lights (traffic signals) were designed with say, five lights instead of the usual three. In theory, it would make it slightly easier for novice drivers, giving them more time to work out that the traffic is going to come to a stop. In reality though, we don’t need much of a pattern to make a pattern – and we can all work out, in an instant, that yellow means that the traffic is about to come to a stop. This is something that we take for granted, but it is in fact, one of skills that really separates us from the rest of the natural world. We learn from our past, (by remembering) and we combine those lessons with what is unfolding in our present to make out patterns that allow us to make strong predictions about our immediate future.
Making meaningful sense out of a seemingly chaotic event is central to the concept of intelligent fighting. As our opponent subtly shifts his weight one way or the other, we know he is about to either mount or switch to a headlock – and we begin to respond accordingly. The more time we spend in a state of action, the more quickly we will develop out abilities to draw patterns out of seeming chaos. Sometimes, slow-motion training/rolling can help us with this, particularly in the formative stages of our development. This way we can pay more attention to the how things unfold, which moves precede others, which sets of circumstances provide fertile ground for which types of attacks, etc.
Humans are the best trackers on the planet; not because we have a better sense of smell or better eyesight than animals do – we do not – we are the best trackers because we can make sense of very little data, we can make predictions based on what we have seen before, we can make intelligent guesses and correct as we go. We are – the PUZZLE MASTERS.