Learnlets
Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

30 August 2017

Coping with Cognition

Clark @ 8:03 AM

Our brains are amazing things. They make sense of the world, and have developed language to help us both make better sense together and to communicate our learnings. And yet, this same amazing architecture has some vulnerabilities too. And I just fell prey to one, and it’s making reflect on what we can do, and what we still can’t. Our cognition is powerful, but also limited.

So, yesterday I had a great idea for a post for today. Now, I multi-task, and I have several things going at once. I have strategies to get these things done despite the fact that multi-tasking doesn’t work. So for one, I have a specific goal for several of the projects each day. I write tasks for projects into a project management tool. I even keep windows open to remind me of things to do. And I write non-project oriented tasks into a separate ToDo list.  But…

I didn’t document the blog post idea before I did something else, and got distracted by one of my open projects. I don’t know which, but I lost the post.  Many times, I can regenerate it, but this time I couldn’t.

See, our brain has limitations, and one of them is a limited working memory. And we have evolved powerful tools to support those gaps, including those mentioned above. But we can’t capture all of them.  Will we be able to? Unless I consciously acted at the time to do something, whether asked Siri to note it, or made a note, those ephemeral thoughts can escape.  And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

The flaws in our thinking actually have advantages.  We can let go ideas to deal with new ones. And we can miss things because we’re focusing on something. That’s the power of our architecture.  And if we focus on the power, and scaffold as much as we can, and let go what we can’t, we really shouldn’t ask for more.

Our ability to scaffold continues to get better. AI, better interfaces, more processing power, better device interoperations, and smaller and more capable sensors are all ongoing. We’re learning more about putting that to use by via innovation.  And yet we’ll still have gaps. I think we should be ok with that. Serendipity and experimentation mean we’ll have unintended consequences, and generally those may be bad, but every once in a while they may be better. And we can’t find that without some ‘wildness’ (which is also an argument for nature conservation).  So I’m trying to not get too upset.  I’m cutting our cognition some slack. Let’s not lose the ability to be human.

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