Method To Madness

in Reflections3 months ago

As my wife is away tonight, Smallsteps and I spent the time doing homework, talking and making some origami cranes. After the success of the very simple bookmark on the weekend, and making some special paper planes yesterday (a model my father taught me), this was the next step. Obviously a seven year old doesn't have the precision, nor the power in their little fingers to get a clean result, but it is part of the learning experience that everything takes practice. And if we want to learn something, we have to have the patience to build understanding, and the acceptance that we are likely to fail along the way.


Learning something new is always uncomfortable to some degree, because there is always some level of uncertainty, some unknown, as well as the known potential for failure. And while no one likes to fail, it is possible to learn how to deal with it and recover from it faster, especially when the opportunity of the outcome, is greater than the cost of the lesson. The earlier we learn good process, and how to continuously improve what we do, the farther we can travel.

But, learning styles is as much about nurture as it is nature, perhaps more so even. This means that we can be conditioned into holding processes from childhood for a lifetime, and instead of feeling like they are something we can change, it becomes a part of us, something we identify with. And, the processes we apply are the same for all things, where we do something a certain way, as if that is the way we have to do it, even though we haven't worked out if that is true, or if it is even the best way for us. This means when any thing arises that questions our process, we feel personally attacked.

For instance, a client today was telling me how his working process is different to his colleague's, where he gets smaller tasks out of the way as they come in from project managers, while the other person lets them pile up and does them in batches. What he has noticed is however, that the project managers are pushing more work his way, because it is being done on a shorter schedule than from the other person. The preference to have a queue of jobs waiting might suit his colleague better, but their preference means that they are a bottle neck in the organization and due to this, they are creating another bottleneck, because my client is getting overwhelmed with requests.

It is an interesting problem that made me think about how our preferences and processes can unintentionally impact on others, but we don't necessarily see how it affects them. So, we keep doing what we do, the way we do it, because it is the way we have always done it, even though the cost to others will eventually turn back and become a cost to ourselves. Essentially, the colleague is becoming an untrusted node and is getting bypassed, which means that they are reducing their possibilities, because of their process.

Now, perhaps my client has in-built mechanisms as well as early conditioning to have that continuous improvement mindset. Or perhaps it is because over the last few years he has obtained six sigma "blackbelt" status, which is at the level that he can lead an improvement strategy in an organization. Whatever it is though, he has improved his processes over the last few years a lot and I play a role in this improvement process also, because I offer perspectives to reflect on that he doesn't find elsewhere.

Behavioral changes take a long time to happen in most instances, because there is a process of retraining involved and the muscle memory is there to keep us returning to our defaults. Even with intentional activity, it can take 18 months or more for some people to change even relatively simple activities, and even longer if it is the type of change that is "part of us", where we have been conditioned from adolescence and maintained and reinforced it for decades. In some respects, it is like shaking an addiction - once an addict, always an addict.

I think that a lot of parents want what is best for their kids, so try to teach them right from wrong. The problem is, that as things are always changing, a lot of what we might think of as right, might become wrong in the future, like advising pregnant women to smoke to relax. However, while we are teaching children what we want them to know, we don't really do a very good job of teaching children how to learn, or how to improve what they know, or how to improve the way they apply it. Knowledge is just not enough, otherwise we would all be doing incredibly well, since we all have the entirety of human knowledge at our fingertips.

If we can't apply it, it is useless to us.

Folding paper tonight reminded me of a post I wrote in the first couple months I was writing, called 24 Folds. It is about how we fold ourselves like a piece of paper in ways that mark us, that leave creases on us. But, we are also able to unfold ourselves and fold in new lines, new directions. We are still the paper, whether we are in the shape of a plane, or the shape of a crane.

Fold a piece of paper 42 times, and its thickness would reach the moon.

[ Gen1: Hive ]


The reward for being a good worker is more work.

There's a lot to unpack here, but I'm going to make some assertions based on the current science/psychology and my personal intuition. (Keep in mind I have an active role in neuroscientific research, so it's not completely baseless.) This is the a heavy reduction of the science, but I hope I get the point across.

Here is my personal way of thinking about it:

The brain is like a tree of connections. You have a constant barrage of sensory input. Whether sleeping or awake, it's hard to turn off sensory perception. This gets filtered through a network of neurons saying "fire" or "don't fire." The inhibitory processes do a great job of filtering unimportant stuff, or maybe we just have a limited "bandwidth" that necessitates this and "prioritizes the queue" if you will.

Based on the signaling patterns the connections between neurons strengthen or weaken. This could cause morphological changes at the dendritic spines (message receivers) or the receptors on certain cells get an increased sensitivity based on their rate of fire.

Here's where my personal opinion leaks in a little. I look at memories like shapes. It's not a storage, but a topology of the cascading effects of a series of neurons. Some shapes are more efficient. Others are hazy, but strengthen a certain way over time.

This strengthening is not permanent. It's not a slow "fading" of the strength of a connection either. There is a constant state of degradation thanks to immunological cells called microglia. The microglia function much like other immunological cells. They eat dead stuff and protect the brain. They also "prune" weak connections.

Synaptic pruning is a very important process in development. Microglia "eat" the connection or engulf it rendering it ineffective. Children have many more neuronal connections than adults. Microglia get fairly active and there is a massive pruning period in the developmental brain. This happens at different rates for different regions, but ultimately (maybe) as a side effect neurosignaling pathways become more efficient. I'd also argue this makes them more rigid and less adaptable. Most simply stated, the adult "tree" isn't making new branches that will grow into primary branches in the future.

So, even though people may think of adults having "less space" it probably doesn't have as much to do with that than new (substantial) branches are much harder to grow.

In your defense, nurture always has a lot to do with everything. (Epigenetics may have some strong impacts here as it can create generational change.) What you're exposed to in development creates branches that may become strong enough in the face of the dynamically changing winds of degradation mediated by microglia. There's less room for this to happen in the adult brain though, because the connections are less; therefore they are more strong. (Used more often etc.)

I'm currently working on so many things (while a student at the university), but one of the things I'm most excited about is developing my own experiment for studying this synaptic pruning and its effects on consciousness through a interdisciplinary approach with computation and biomedical science (through anesthesia).

I could throw some much crazier shit out there but this is one of the many threads in my life. Hence why I'm not writing on Hive. (I know, I suck.)

Hope you and the family are well!

How you have explained it is similar to what I have believed since I was a kid. We build roads of information conduits, and the more we use a road, the more the brain builds it, so some are highways. I think the pruning happens naturally through disuse (things might become irrelevant as we age), or disease like Alzheimer's. I see the reason that Alzheimer's can be hard to detect very early, is that it is pruning and the smallest roads we don't use disappear and we don't notice. The ones we would notice are the highways, but they have a lot to lose before we are noticeably "affected" by the loss. At some point though, the loss of the smaller roads means that there isn't enough information feeding into the larger roads either, or it is joining the conscious flow in random spurts.

What I have noticed in myself however, is that it isn't always possible to build new roads once some are lost. The brain might be able to circumvent and "mimic" some of the lost function, but it doesn't necessarily replicate it.

You seem to have a really good intuitive grasp on it. Like I said, some of this is my own intuitive belief so use at your own risk. I've been toying around with simulating some of this and something interesting has emerged. It seems like the thought processes are competing for space. This is aligned with the idea of plasticity. I hope to build a model that shows this better than it is now, but I definitely feel like I'm on to a few things. We need to just use the law of parsimony to reduce some of the complexity and why wouldn't there be a competition on a cellular/organ system level? It's present on our level.

Also, isn't it pretty cool how our understanding of blockchain could help explain this network? There are some irreducible emergent properties of networks that I find fascinating.

With Alzheimers there does seem to be a misfolding of proteins. Maybe that's what diverts the signal and gets the connection "eaten."

Either way, cool stuff. I love talking about it.

The world is changing faster and people are having children later.
We have to wonder if that age gap and background progress make us less qualified to raise them than we realise. I'm passing along what I learned as a kid in the 80's, which is so far removed from what's relevant now; maybe they're better off raised by tiktok.

Maybe - but think about the sacrifices a younger parent might make - or those that an older parent doesn't have to make, will they be more capable to buy more, parent less?

While I was rocking Smallsteps in a pram as a baby while friends (childless) were visiting for dinner, they said we should get one of those automatic beds that rock the baby. Convenient for sure (most probably), but at what point do we stop being parents?

Ironically the point of being a parent is to eventually render oneself redundant. So not 'if', but 'when'.

I go more for the time variable. Today's hectic life makes us slaves to the clock and genetically, through the ease of technology, we are losing our learning skills and capacities; we suffer from a kind of programmed obsoleteness.

I have observed that today's young people are slow to learn; the simple acquisition of basic knowledge that has been in books for years, and they don't even have to analyse it as the great thinkers did.

Some sciences have evolved and others like mathematics have stagnated, and yet learning mathematics is difficult -simple rules that have lasted a long time-.

I maintain that children are “sponges”, but the worst things in life are learnt quickly and the really important -beautiful- things take time. I am reminded of the words of a famous song: “the most terrible things are learned quickly, the beautiful things cost us our lives”.

Some sciences have evolved and others like mathematics have stagnated,

I think it is because of where mathematics is applied that it looks like it has stagnated. In the past, it was used to solve for relatively practical problems - now the best mathematicians work on wall street, creating financial products.

My son, at the age of 7, grew onions on the windowsill and sold me green sprouts. 2 years have passed and he wants to have a plot in our garden to grow and sell berries and vegetables on the market. He also has good account growth in Hive, from 2500 to 5000 HP in 1.5 years :)

When kids try to sell things in some countries, they get fined for not having the right permits or insurance...

I'll help him sell the berries :)

Very smart words, learning styles are intrinsic aspects of each person, a parent who is willing to question and change that style is willing to do anything to improve the quality of life of their children, but what is good and what is bad is a matter of subjective beliefs of each person.

And what is good and bad changes over time, depending on what culture decides.

I think one needs to desire and thirst for a positive change before he/she can actually take actions to become better. Knowledge is not enough really. Even though learning something new may not seem really good at the beginning but with time, we can blend in.

I like the paper you folded, it looks like the cap a tribe wears in my country 😄

I am guessing the caps aren't made from paper :)

No, they're not made from papers, but something stronger along with a kind of fabric to bring out it's beauty.

Do you know that book - Ultralearning. Some of your ideas are expanded in there, great to adapt to children education.

I don't know the book. Will look out for it. :)

I think that learning becomes uncomfortable to some extend as we get older, as if there is no empty space in the brain :)

as if there is no empty space in the brain :)

I think this is actually part of it - except it is more that there are too many repetitive processes that leaves little room for practicing anything else.

Learning something new may be quite difficult especially when it is not something that brings in money, lol but we all know that’s the truth.
Learning something new is good because if exposes you to know about different things but as humans, most of us are not always interested

Learning something new may be quite difficult especially when it is not something that brings in money, lol but we all know that’s the truth.

If money is the motive, then money makes it easier. But, people should think about what they actually need for a good life too.

Fold a piece of paper 42 times, and its thickness would reach the moon.

This is the first time I've heard of this, and when I looked it up, it is theoretically true. That's pretty cool. It reminded me of the grain and chessboard. Simple concepts can give really complex outcomes over time.

The learning potential of children are really high. They learn how to read, write, on top of other subjects like math. I am trying to learn a new language, and just looking at my current progress, and how much more I need to do, it becomes daunting. Just memorizing all the words for simple objects is already a lot. That is why kids being able to do all that and adding other extra curricular activities like learning instruments, sports, dancing, etc, makes me envious of their ability to absorb knowledge.

It reminded me of the grain and chessboard.

Yep. It is pretty amazing.

Just memorizing all the words for simple objects is already a lot.

I think this is one of the reasons kids do well, because they don't memorize words that they want to know in the future, they use the words that they need now. One of the challenges of learning a new language, is being able to go in as a child, forgetting what we already know from the languages we already know. If that makes sense. The way you (and most) are doing it, is trying to build a translation dictionary, rather than a usage model with relationships between items and how they work together in the normal flow of life.

The problem is, that as things are always changing, a lot of what we might think of as right, might become wrong in the future

I never read buzzfeed and vox and other woke content for this reason. They were creating body positivity movement among diabetics It is so much fucked up. Like to avoid hurting feelings they kept obesity among people. It's like woke is mind virus designed to reduce population. No wonder china has to drop the corona to deal with this.

They were creating body positivity movement among diabetics It is so much fucked up

It is like a religion. "Don't use protection and grow the flock" - while people are dying of AIDS.