On thinking better

What does it mean to think better?  When I first began my career as a software developer at a company in upstate New York way back in 1973, my first greybeard mentor gave me some advice.  He told me to learn the things that never change because it will give me more time to spend on the new and interesting things when they come along.  That advice stuck with me.

When you think about how much things have changed in the last 50 years with advances in technology and medical research it’s easy to start feeling like what you learned when you were young is completely outdated.   But that isn’t necessarily so.

In my “Quiet Little Town” story, Fred is working on a secret research project  aimed at helping kids think better and make better decisions by placing them in a virtual world where they face difficult, but common life situations.

Today, many high-tech companies are spending hundred’s of millions of dollars on an idea known as the Internet of Things (IOT).  IOT is the modern world of interconnected humans and software-controlled devices intended, along with artificial intelligence, to make our lives easier in the future by helping us solve common everyday problems.

So, a natural question this leads to is:  Will these huge investments in technology and medical research help our future kids think better and ultimately achieve the goal of Fred’s secret project?

Well, as usual, I don’t want to give away what happens in my “Quiet Little Town” story, but let me share a true story that might give you a hint.

In his bestselling book, “Zero to One”, Peter Theil co-founder of PayPal, tells the story of one of Google’s supercomputers that received great reviews back in 2012 when it was able to recognize a cat with 75% accuracy when scanning millions of Youtube videos.  Peter tells us in his book that this technological advance sounds impressive until you step back and think about the fact that a four-year old can do it flawlessly 100% of the time.

The point is that today’s faster computers and artificial intelligence are great at finding patterns in large masses of data, but they can’t hold a candle to a human when it comes to drawing insights from patterns and the ability to think.

The most valuable lesson my old greybeard mentor taught me almost 50 years ago didn’t have anything to do with computer technology or artificial intelligence.  It was how to use my natural human ability to think about a problem in a logical way leading to an innovative solution given a challenging situation.

Perhaps, one of the best things we can teach our kids today is how to use their natural human ability to think critically in common everyday situations.

How to think critically when faced with today’s common everyday challenges is no different than it was 50 years ago, and probably will not be any different 50 years from now.  Thinking critically is how you think better, and it is one of those gifts you can take with you for a lifetime.

2 thoughts on “On thinking better

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  1. Very appropriate. Everyone needs to learn how to and be able to think. I think what help me was watching how my dad handled things and learning from him.

    Liked by 1 person

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