SYSTEMATIC PSYCHOLOGICAL INSIGHTS — PART 1

Rohin Gupta
Dec 17, 2019 · 8 min read

STRUCTURED APPROACH TO UNDERSTAND HOW OWN MIND WORKS

PART 1 — UNDERSTANDING VARIOUS ASPECTS OF REALITY THROUGH CLASSIFICATION

INTRODUCTION

Life on earth is almost 3 billion years old. That is, it took this much time for evolution to come up with humans, the only organism with conceptual faculty. Further, in a million years of existence of various Homo species, only very recently we started using mind close to its full potential. Building computers, machines, social and cultural institutions. So in this blog I will try to develop methods to understand something that was 3 billion years in making, and a million years of tuning after evolving. So let’s start a voyage to understand the human mind.

PURPOSE OF HUMAN MIND

Before I delve into human mind, a fundamental question? Why do we need mind?

Looking at our various activities, from production and consumption, to commute & entertainment, answer is fairly straightforward. Our mind helps us to navigate the reality around us. Reality of geography we live in, creation of useful products and services, social and cultural interactions we take part in, physiological and psychological realities of our own self.

HOW HUMAN MIND NAVIGATES BASIC ASPECTS OF REALITY?

How do we understand reality we navigate during the course of our lives? Before we look into the reality of our own mind, it will be easier to first understand the external reality.

CLASSIFICATION

Let’s just step back and think about the work we would have done in past few weeks. If you are a software engineer, you may have classified the feature you are working on. Whether it is Front End or Backend or Middleware. Interactive Application or server processing requests. Similarly, if you are a teacher, your teaching can relate to classification of Human Organ System or Human History (Pre-History, Ancient History, or Modern History). Or classification of physical phenomena as Gravitational, Electrical, or Magnetic. If you are a manager, your work will involve classifying tasks of your subordinates as customer support, or feature development, or skill development etc.

CAUSAL CONNECTIONS

After classification, next step is to identify causal connections in the activity classified, like building an interactive application, or other activities we take part in. For example in an interactive application, given the limitation of human visibility and attention span, not much cluttering should be seen. Network facing server processes should just take requests and delegate heavy lifting to slave processes, given the network traffic related requirements in modern computing system. Or given the multi-tasking nature of modern day jobs, it should be possible for low-skilled technicians to manage the application deployment. Or further, in software engineering the interconnectivity of systems and corresponding hackability makes multi-factor security very important. For teacher, various requirements of life like eating, movement, reproduction, etc. lead to different organ systems. Civilizational, social, cultural, and scientific development separates pre-history, ancient history, medieval history, and modern history. Difference in physical phenomena is triggered by difference in various entities that participate in that phenomena. Mass of entities leads to gravitation, or Chemical-Physical-Conductive properties of certain material entities cause electricity. Magnets and Thermodynamic systems trigger different types of motion. Or for a manager, goal directed nature of humans is a key element in management etc.

FORMING PRINCIPLES FROM CAUSAL CONNECTIONS

After establishing causal connections, some connections are elevated to the level of principal, by incorporating few or many instances of lower level causal connections. Example of such principle creation through causal connections is a famous paradigm for designing user interface, form follows function. Another example is scale-up or scale-down server technologies, widely used in cloud. Integrative approach to child development, by co-relating content of high school subjects like Science, History, and Literature. Or Maslow’s model of motivation, and now also its improvement in management.

APPLYING KNOWLEDGE OF CAUSAL CONNECTIONS AND PRINCIPLES

The high level principles, or relatively low level causal connections, are then applied to specific situations. For example, a general planning paradigm that it’s possible to control only two things among Release Timelines, Scope of project, and Quality of project. This paradigm can then be applied to some urgent requirements coming in the middle of pre-planned release work. Or while teaching, a teacher can co-relate organ system functioning to some popular fact like a Heart Attack. Or she can co-relate a Historical event to some Bollywood Biography etc. Or a manager can apply customer support & skill development paradigm to a specific individuals he is evaluating.

SUMMARIZING GENERAL NAVIGATION OF MIND

Coming back to the main subject, general pattern for navigating reality is to first classify the aspects of reality according to one’s purpose, then establish causal connections among those classified things. If required, the connections can be elevated to form principles, by expanding scope. And principles can be further elevated to form specialized fields like Artificial Intelligence for Policy Based decision making by machines, or even to infer correct policies once goals are fed as input. Last step then is to apply the classification, causal connections, principles, and subject based understanding to specific life situations.

Overall, general navigation of reality can labelled as Rational Thinking.

HOW HUMAN MIND NAVIGATES SPECIFIC ASPECTS OF REALITY?

MATERIAL REALITY

From general pattern of thinking, let’s now look at special areas to focus while engaging in thought.

Digging deeper into our routines, we are surrounded by materials. From fabrics to processed rocks like bricks and cement, to polymer based materials like plastics and cushions. Even more basic part in material judgment is to judge the products based on their usability, and how the usability fits different purpose. The products that fall in this category are chairs, tables, mobile phones, computers etc. Further, for resource intensive products like cars and homes, their maintenance cost also needs to be considered, and also how easy these are to use for different activities. Then there are considerations while doing financial planning for near and long term future, depending on life goals. (Though financial planning also requires understanding of social, cultural, and political reality, apart from material reality).

So first type of special navigation can be classified as fidelity to facts of reality.

SOCIAL REALITY

More important than materials and corresponding products are the humans that make these possible. Next in line of reality navigation is the understanding of various social aspects in our lives, and also how much should one engage in these. Should one aspire to be an introvert genius like Steve Wozniak or Dennis Ritchie, having limited social circle? Or like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, have an expanded social circle? What are the general social principles applicable, irrespective of scope of the circle?

Contrary to today’s mainstream idea “Don’t Judge”, judging individuals is the most fundamental quality required to navigate social reality. The judgment basically involves two parts. Behavior of person being judged, and how the person impacts purpose of the individual who is judging? For example, judging a plumber is fairly straightforward, compared to the judgment on subordinate for over a year. Similar specific thinking can be applied to judging of institutions like businesses, corporations, political parties, cities or states or countries. Such judgment is primarily derived from the products of the institution or society (companies that design and manufacture mobiles, or roads built or cleanliness in a social setting like a city), and also from behavior of public facing representatives like support people or sales reps or candidates or citizens.

CULTURAL REALITY

A special case of social reality, cultural reality involves judgment based not just on behavior of individuals and their products or services, but something more profound. The policies or the strategies or the ideas in general, governing various cultural products. Ideology of political party, the nature of story movement in literature or movies (Driven by main characters or periphery social circumstances? Each approach represents fundamentally different approach to human world view.) Pedagogical principles in education, or investment principles in banks etc. govern understanding of cultural reality more than the individual representatives. Though these representatives and corresponding products can act as first input in the ultimate inference.

Overall, the evaluation of social reality can be labelled as Justice. Further however, the evaluation has to be ultimately first hand. That is, one may rely on peer review for people or products being judged, but he has to cross verify the feedback with sufficiently independent facts. So apart from Justice, Independence is another factor in the judgment of social and cultural reality. (Or even material reality for that matter).

PERSONAL ASPECTS OF REALITY

What is the Objective of all this thinking and judgment? Navigating reality, yes. But where does the navigation, from general thinking to material evaluation or social and cultural judgment; where does this navigation of reality lead to?

It’s all about personal well-being. One starts with a small part time job, upgrades to entry level full time job, growing to become a technology leader or a manager or a territory supervisor, even a CXO, or an entrepreneur improving the world around. The end result is happiness, specifically in the form of purposeful days, hopefully complemented by a comfortable lifestyle. The first aspect of this fulfilling life is physiological reality, and second part is psychological reality which we will explore later.

PHYSIOLOGICAL REALITY

Is my lifestyle enjoyable yet healthy? Are all my needs geared by and aligned with my purpose? Does my food keep me healthy and energetic to do my job, and any other life purpose like writing or activism? Do my clothes, apart from protecting me from the environment, create an overall confident personality, fulfilling the needs required to complete my purpose? Are my housing and commute requirements optimally aligned to make the movement towards my purpose significant enough? Do my social relationships enable or disable well-being of my body — health, comfort, and purpose that is?

Physiological reality therefore is the consolidation of general reality we understand through rationality, and specific realities derived from material, social, and cultural constructs around us. The consolidation of these constructs in physiological reality is driven by the objective of body being healthy and comfortable, to move towards purpose.

OTHER CLASSIFICATIONS OF REALITY

Together, material, social and physiological aspects of reality can be classified as external reality, differentiating it from the reality of our own mind. Other fundamental classification of reality is metaphysical aspects of reality and man-made aspects of reality.

The aspects of reality that existed without intervention of humans is metaphysical reality. The geographical features around us, various plants and animals, the solar system, rest of the universe, and most importantly its laws, are metaphysical reality. On the other hand, the food grown, animals domesticated, products, services, and knowledge created by humans, the society and social interactions are parts of man-made reality. Material reality can be metaphysical reality, if one is considering geographical, astronomical, biological or theoretical physics driven aspects. Or it can be man-made if one is considering products and services. Social reality is mostly man made, except fundamental social characteristics like “Man is a contractual (or a promise driven) animal” in social interactions, or part of human evolution that may lead to cultural practices like marriage etc. Physiological reality is balanced. Nature of human body being metaphysical, and things that contribute to its flourishing being man made.

In the next blog we will move on to central theme of the blog, the internal reality or the reality of our own mind, the psychological reality.

PART 1 ENDS

PART 2 PUBLISHED HERE

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