December 5, 2011

System One and System Two — the brain's " two independent sytems for organizing knowledge."

Writes Freeman Dyson, explaining Daniel Kahneman's new book "Thinking, Fast and Slow":
System One is amazingly fast, allowing us to recognize faces and understand speech in a fraction of a second. It must have evolved from the ancient little brains that allowed our agile mammalian ancestors to survive in a world of big reptilian predators. Survival in the jungle requires a brain that makes quick decisions based on limited information. Intuition is the name we give to judgments based on the quick action of System One. It makes judgments and takes action without waiting for our conscious awareness to catch up with it. The most remarkable fact about System One is that it has immediate access to a vast store of memories that it uses as a basis for judgment. The memories that are most accessible are those associated with strong emotions, with fear and pain and hatred. The resulting judgments are often wrong, but in the world of the jungle it is safer to be wrong and quick than to be right and slow.

System Two is the slow process of forming judgments based on conscious thinking and critical examination of evidence. It appraises the actions of System One. It gives us a chance to correct mistakes and revise opinions. It probably evolved more recently than System One, after our primate ancestors became arboreal and had the leisure to think things over. An ape in a tree is not so much concerned with predators as with the acquisition and defense of territory. System Two enables a family group to make plans and coordinate activities. After we became human, System Two enabled us to create art and culture.

The question then arises: Why do we not abandon the error-prone System One and let the more reliable System Two rule our lives? Kahneman gives a simple answer to this question: System Two is lazy. To activate System Two requires mental effort. Mental effort is costly in time and also in calories. Precise measurements of blood chemistry show that consumption of glucose increases when System Two is active.
This is a fabulous article with lots of great stuff worth reading, but I just want to lock onto the point about consuming calories. Yes, we're lazy, but we do all manner of ridiculous things to consume calories and they tend to require overcoming laziness. If activating System Two is a substitute for trudging on a Stairmaster or whatever, maybe even lazy people will do it. Can we lose weight by thinking hard? I'll leave it to others to collect and analyze the evidence. That's just my instant, intuitive take on the matter.

80 comments:

sorepaw said...
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John M Auston said...

I think, therefore I yam.

Hagar said...

Thinking hard does indeed raise your metabolism and burn calories.

You have not experienced that in your job?

EDH said...

System One reminds me of Malcom Gladwell's thesis in Blink.

"If activating System Two is a substitute for trudging on a Stairmaster or whatever, maybe even lazy people will do it. Can we lose weight by thinking hard?"

Maybe not when it comes to weight loss. Granted, I've noticed high level thinking for extened periods does make me hungary, which would indicate high calorie consumption.

But I wouldn't be surprised if that kind of "brain hunger" is much more influential on the appetite center of the brain, and triggers a stronger conscious urge to pig out.

So, if you don't have a surplus of food, you eschew extended System Two activity to save calories and avoid hunger; but if you have access to food, then it's probably "think and binge," probably in quantities in excess of what is needed to maintain sedentary, albiet high-level brain activity.

pm317 said...
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Dan in Philly said...

I have trained many to do my work (public accounting) and I always warn the new grads they must expect to be exhausted for the first 6 months or so - they are simply not used to working their brains as hard as they are going to have to and until they get used to it, they will be unbelievably tired.

Of course, once you train your brain (using system 2, in this case), then you can do much of the work without thinking (system 1) and it gets easier. The really successful accountants are the ones who are constantly challenging their system 2 brains to re-train their system 1 brains, seeking out new challenges and new potential effeciencies and opportunities.

I think success in the information world always goes to those the most able and willing to constantly engage their system 2 brains.

EDH said...

I suppose portion control and eating more small meals would help control the "think and binge" urge, but try to get me to do that!

Skyler said...

Why does he seem to think these ways of thinking are unique to humans? I'm pretty sure other mammals think the same way, if not as well.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

The lack of an S2 intelligence is to no small degree what characterizes "Trash" cultures, no?

The impulsive inability to plan more than a little bit ahead, or defer gratification, the tribalism, the tendency blame others, failure to understand consequences of actions ... reflect an absence of S2 traits amongst those we might label as "White Trash," but also what should be labelled "Black Trash" -- the predominant African-American urban sub-culture.

You see the same thing amongst a depressing number of Palestini and other Arabs, but not usually, for example amongst African immigrants from places like Uganda.

The essence of S2 thinking would seem to be that it develops a larger framework and longer term context in which S1 decisions are less likely to go wrong.

I decided a long time ago, after much S2 thinking, that I would attempt to earn my living as an organic farmer. Consequently, when bugs are eating my crop I don't rush to the harshest chemical available in order to kill them. Now!.

Or having decided to marry the woman now my wife, I don't smash her in the face if she starts yelling at me about some stupid thing.

In short, S2 thinking is a non-trivial part of what defines being civilized.

Shanna said...

Why do we not abandon the error-prone System One and let the more reliable System Two rule our lives?

We still need to make snap judgements at times, particularly when we are in danger?

This is pretty much the entire premise of 'The Gift of Fear'. Fear is our brains processing all these little bits of information and telling us it's time to run.

ndspinelli said...

Our brains are almost all fat. That's why cardiologists are so wrong when they say you can't have too low a cholesterol #. You indeed can and there's increasing evidence too low cholesterol can lead to dementia.

As for using you brain to consume calories, then you lose the fat in your brain and can't think as well. If you eat good fats like olive oil, coconut oil, etc. you can replenish the brain..but those are calories. Get off your fat ass and walk..it's not quantum physics!

Alex said...

I bet 90% of Althouse users are very fat.

ndspinelli said...
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Henry said...

Very interesting article.

Dyson's (Kahneman's) point about mental effort ties strongly to information theory and thus information technology. it is much more work to transmit unique information than repetitive information. Compression algorithms (JPG is one) look for patterns that can be described in shorter bits of information than a literal copy of the original. Often, the easiest way to get information to fit a pattern is to discard some of the information (JPG also does this).

Information handling is work for both biological, mechanical, and digital entities. It's a fascinating topic.

w/v: undead (System Zero)

Michael said...

No, Professor, lazy people will not employ System Two because, because they're lazy. Treadmill, deep thinking, early rising, difficult reading are all the same to lazy people.

Henry said...

As for Althouse's rhetorical question:

If activating System Two is a substitute for trudging on a Stairmaster or whatever, maybe even lazy people will do it.

Lazy people don't do either.

But maybe, if we take the few people who do exercise, we could get them to watch Kahn Academy on the display in front of the treadmill instead of Real Housewives or VH1.

Or maybe we could convince them to get off the treadmill and go run outside, where your brain has a lot more information to process; or stop using the nautilus and use free weights that require much more mental concentration.

Henry said...

Or, what Michael said.

Coketown said...

I read a similar article a few years back suggesting that intense study (system 2 thinking) burns 1/10th the calories of moderate exercise, and doesn't offer the same benefits as physical exercise to the immune and cardiovascular systems, or to building muscle. So, yes, your brain burns calories to function...and that's about it. So you could either run on a treadmill for 30 minutes or commit yourself to intense study for FIVE HOURS to burn the same number of calories but without lowering your risk of heart disease. And there's a multitude of chemicals released during physical exertion that improves brain function that aren't released during intense study. So that's another trade-off.

I think "efficient" is a more appropriate word here than "lazy." We weren't always fatasses eating bon-bons while watching soap operas! There was a time when conservation of energy was crucial to our survival, and this two-tiered system of thinking is apparently a product of that. You can't just abandon this evolutionary process because suddenly energy conversation is no longer crucial.

traditionalguy said...

T read that yawning is done to cool off the calorie burning system 2 brain.

I remember once moving tons of stuff from one house to another and keeping track of it mentally was exhausting , although the young movers did all of the lifting.

This may also explain the disease of Lazy Government and Monopoly Employees who treat thinking as a unheard of extra burden upon them.

The wife and I have found that working old crosswords exercises the mind.

gail said...

Both my mom and I have a terrible time recognizing people. I saw one study that indicated early childhood, undiagnosed vision problems may be the root cause. And my eye dr has told me I have the slowest focusing eyes he's ever seen, even when corrected to 20/20.

I've found concussions have negative impact on both systems. For me, it's not about being lazy, it's about not being able to concentrate.

ricpic said...

Every time I've let System Two override System One I've paid the price.

edutcher said...

I think we never abandoned System 1 is because life never became that safe until very recently. Marauding bands of marauders were a feature of life until about the last century or two - in some places, still are.

As for the exhausting nature of hard, intensive thought, The Blonde, whose work required physical as well as intellectual exertion, would always ask me when I came home wiped out from a hard day of coding, "From what?", and I would just give her a dirty look.

ndspinelli said...

Our brains are almost all fat. That's why cardiologists are so wrong when they say you can't have too low a cholesterol #. You indeed can and there's increasing evidence too low cholesterol can lead to dementia.

You wouldn't have a source or two for that, would you?

Not disputing what you say, but The Blonde is interested in this stuff.

rhhardin said...

Which system is interested in sex?

Armstrong and Getty question to interviewee financial expert Clark Howard: So which is cheaper in the long run, a prostitute or a wife?

The Drill SGT said...

The most remarkable fact about System One is that it has immediate access to a vast store of memories that it uses as a basis for judgment. The memories that are most accessible are those associated with strong emotions, with fear and pain and hatred. The resulting judgments are often wrong, but in the world of the jungle it is safer to be wrong and quick than to be right and slow.

We Drill SGT's attempt to instill survival memories in our trainees :)

If I say "drop", you drop, no debate, no questions, all I want to hear is chests slapping dirt :)

Even higher order military decision making has a lot of rote implementaion of mini-plans built in. We call them battle drills.

The Maxim is that,

"an 80% solution, implemented rapidly, and with vigor, beats the hell out of the perfect plan implemented too late and timidly."

timid gets you killed.

in the world of the jungle it is safer to be wrong and quick than to be right and slow.

Rabel said...

"Mental effort is costly in time and also in calories."

This could be good news for certain people. The mental effort required to find a "rational" reason to vote for Obama in 2012 could lead to a supermodel figure.

Psychedelic George said...

SciAm article on the machine-mind interface.

We are all going to jack in.

Or if not we're all going to be flash frozen (to be decelerated, not die) and be thawed. Just like Birds Eye peas.

Sounds nuts, but I'm sure Thomas Jefferson would have thought liver transplants were silly, too.

Coketown said...

Also, if people make a conscious effort to defy their evolutionary disposition by willingly living less efficiently--or less "lazily" as the article and Ann suggest--, and substitute an efficient method of thinking for a less efficient method, should we extend this to other practices? For example, the way we walk. The natural movement of swinging one's arms opposite to one's legs developed because it's the most efficient mode of walking; keeping one's arms stationary or moving them in sync with one's legs burns more calories than swinging them opposite the legs.

So, is it laziness to walk naturally? And is it worth looking perfectly ridiculous to burn a few extra calories?

t-man said...

OT -

Sorry, for the off-topic post, but I have to mention that my copy of the ABA Journal, with the offending Blawg 100 article, just appeared in my office in-box.

J said...

A cognitive illusion is a false belief that we intuitively accept as true.


Like a false belief in say ...the visions of Joseph Smith, the efficacy of the Mass, or the dogma of Old and New Testament? False beliefs put food on the table, schwester

bagoh20 said...

You don't want to get a muscle-bound brain - it can cost you flexibility and speed.

Synova said...

I think that equating intuition with system one is wrong. Intuition isn't fast, for one thing. It often involves a great deal of thought and consideration even if it comes down to a feeling that you can't quite justify.

System One, as it's described in the quoted part (I did go skim the rest) if it is recognizing faces and understanding speech, it is also throwing a spear or catching a ball or landing where you jump to and doing sums in your head.

Preferring slow is retarded. (pun intended.)

Should we prefer figuring our sums each time? Or doing the math for the ballistics and intercept when we play a game of catch or shoot a gun? Should we distrust our ability to interpret language or recognize faces? It keeps us alive and conserves energy. Win-win.

So we have two sorts of slow... intuition and conscious reason.

The premise that System Two is more reliable and more often right is unproven. If our gut knowledge and beliefs are sometimes wrong, they're oftentimes right. Is System Two actually always right or even usually right?

Methadras said...

The police (not the band) are a perfect example of system 1 and system 2 modes of thinking/information processing.

Synova said...

I'd also like to disagree with Bart.

Planning ahead is a luxury available to those with a surplus. Planning ahead without a surplus is extremely difficult. It takes a great deal of energy, yes. It also takes a belief system that includes confidence in your eventual success.

This is actually one of the places where government destroys us by feeling itself entitled to what we earn. Can you get ahead by doubling or tripling up in a nasty apartment for several years? Or will what you save be taken? Will prices increase faster than your savings so that not only do you end up with nothing, you were miserable all that time? There are so many laws that make it impossible to be poor, illegal even to be poor. For a whole lot of people it's impossible to live *legally* below their means in order to Plan Ahead.

People make rational decisions for their situation.

chuck said...

System two is there to provide deep cover to system one so that it can sneak in disguised as deep thought.

I suspect Kaneman has lots of knee jerk opinions that he thinks are deeper and more, well, thoughtful than the knee jerk opinions of others who are just a bunch of unevolved dummies.

On the other hand, maybe there is some actual research to support his opinions. We'll see.

Michael said...

I'll leave it to others to collect and analyze the evidence. That's just my instant, intuitive take on the matter.

I see what you did there.

Mark O said...

This is a wonderful book. Highly recommended.

Zach said...

One possible reason for retaining System One: things that you can slowly and painfully work out from first principles are most often things that you already know, but want to be systematic about. Being very careful about assumptions, logical reasoning, etc, isn't a very good way to learn something new.

ndspinelli said...

Can anyone suggest a good book I can order on Amazon. I know someone who is afraid to fly. She won't even admit it. This woman says she takes only driving vacations because that's what she likes. Her ego won't allow her to admit a frailty..one that many have. So, maybe a general book on self awareness and then one of the specific fear of flying. Thanks. I would like to get her this for Christmas and of course, help our dear professor also..win/win!!

Coketown said...

This woman says she takes only driving vacations because that's what she likes.

Have you considered that she's being forthright and honest? And that giving her a book on overcoming a fear she doesn't have might be a waste of money? I mean, I'm not afraid of flying but I still prefer driving vacations, time permitting.

Maybe you need a book on self-awareness and she needs a book on scenic routes across America.

Zach said...

Reading the article, I was struck by the thought that Freeman Dyson is the man Malcolm Gladwell wishes he was. His little anecdote about his observations as a statistician in the Bomber Command and the illusion of validity is well placed, unobtrusive -- and a perfect example of what Kahneman is talking about.

I'm not the first to observe that Freeman Dyson is a very, very smart man, but he is, and it's worth pointing out when you see a good demonstration.

DADvocate said...

Why do we not abandon the error-prone System One and let the more reliable System Two rule our lives?

Kahneman's answer may reflect his own thought process as it seems to be one not well thought uot, the product of a lazy mind.

System One and System Two are constructs he created they don't actually exist. They are parts of a much larger system of which pieces can't be thrown out and added willy nilly.

Humans have "three basic innate fears: of sudden motion, of loud or abrupt noises, and of sudden approach. The rest is learned. Those quick decisions are generally based on learned knowledge.

I never considered the quick responses as intiutive, but as instinctive, although I realize it's not truly instinctive.

DADvocate said...

I know someone who is afraid to fly.

It's not the flying that bothes me. It's the crashing and burning.

fizzymagic said...

Having read the book, I am not a complete fan. Kahneman does an excellent job of describing and understanding cognitive illusions, but his insistence on using an emotionally-laden word ("lazy") to describe the brain's reluctance to invoke System 2 unless absolutely necessary is unscientific (and ironic, since it invokes System 1 to assign an emotional value). System 1 performs tasks that are stunningly complex; facial recognition, for example, is simply not possible for System 2.

On the other hand, however, the book is valuable in explaining the political climate.

Henry said...

Maybe you need a book on self-awareness and she needs a book on scenic routes across America.

It was when she tried to drive to France and ended up in Montauk that he knew there was a problem.

rocketeer67 said...

You can't just abandon this evolutionary process because suddenly energy conversation is no longer crucial.

No longer crucial...for now. Wait a few years. Our "betters" are trying their "best" to get us back there.

DADvocate said...

Sports make a good example of the intertwining of One and Two, if you want to look at the mind that way. My primary sport was basketball. A player spends thousands of hours developing reactions - where my hands go in different situations, what my feet do, how I run, how I shuffle, etc, etc.

Eventually, through practice, that information is passed into System One. Then the actions seem "intutitive," but's actually because I trained that intuitiveness into my mind and body. Just like a lawyer trains his/her mind to think and analyze in a certain way.

The two systems are not independent. Nothing in you body/being is. The whole idea is foolishness to sell a interesting sounding book.

J said...

Syn---the sergeant and his platoon (Sys. 1) might do for infantry, but you're going to need the techie-engineers and propeller heads (Sys. 2) to build the gear to win the war, soldier.

Synova said...

The infantry is no more Sys 1 than the engineers.

The engineers aren't working everything out from base concepts every time either.

Henry said...

@ndspinelli -- If you find a general book on self-awareness, let us know. We all have relatives here.

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ndspinelli said...

edutcher, Hopefully you can get this before its deleted.

My primary source for the low cholesterol/dementia relationship is my primary care doc..Harvard Med but don't hold that against her. She had me @ a very low cholesterol level[statins, exercise, and diet] because of a history of stroke. Both my grandfather and old man died from it. About 3 years ago she directed me to a couple of studies. One was related to Alzheimers and another to Parkinsons related dementia. The Alzheimers study was on an Alzheimers.org website. I forget where the other one was. My doc is very secure and lets patients make their own decisions, the antithesis of an autocrat. However, she suggested I cut back on the statin, which I agreed w/ based on my reading. My total #'s were really low and my HDL is in the upper 80's/low 90's[very good]. The cutback on statin has not affected my good HDL #'s. The total is now in the 180 range[it was in the 150's]. She says that is perfect for me..a good safeguard from stroke but enough fat for the cabesa.

I hope this helps and I hope you get to read it. Good luck w/ your health, dude.

J said...

Syn.: Ive only read Dyson's review so will refrain from making a definitive claim, but Sys. 2 looks to be the rational, planning mind, and Sys. 1 the ...primitive, primate part of the mind. So, any human--including engineers-- might at times return to the primitive Sys 1. (fighting, eating, f*cking, what have you), but when an engineer sits at a computer, spinning integrals and working on the F-35 he's connected to another realm--Sys 2.

traditionalguy said...

To get the Darwinian anthropologists thinking even harder, scriptures say that Christian men can be "renewed in the spirit of their minds" by the Holy Spirit (Breath) speaking the Word of God in faith through them.

That is some of that Tim Tebow stuff that only works when it's tried.

Synova said...

But infantry isn't about primitive snap judgments any more than, say, my karate classes were when I took them. It's very much science and thought and reason and a whole lot of analysis ahead of time.

People are trained to do things that aren't intuitive, aren't that "System One" thing that is described. That the training becomes automatic doesn't make it less based on conscious analysis.

m stone said...

fizzymagic: On the other hand, however, the book is valuable in explaining the political climate.

Explain, please.

Triangle Man said...

@J

Primitive activities are not the only applications of System 1. Pattern recognition and intuition are valuable assets in science and mathematics.

Suburbanbanshee said...

The more stuff you load into System 1, the more time you have for System 2 to work stuff out, or for Systems 1 and 2 to cooperate.

However, I think this article vastly underestimates the uses of intuition. There are people who write songs and poetry consciously; but there are many more who do it intuitively, and only use conscious thought to tidy up the edges.

There's more math complexity in throwing a ball than thinking up a melody; but that doesn't mean it's easy. Writing a song in a white hot flow of intuition is tiring, too; but it's still probably more efficient than grinding it out the hard way. Anyway, creative thought isn't lower-value or stupid thought, just because it's not conscious thought.

rhhardin said...

Doberman developing System 1 and System 2 today (video).

Tyrone Slothrop said...

My first instinct was to say this is just bullshit, but then I thought better of it.

William said...

In my adult life, mostly what I have concentrated on is how to avoid work and where to eat. I'm still annoyed that they have have not yet created a voice activated remote control for the TV. One of these type 2 geniuses should be working on it. Really, we can send a man to the moon but we can't produce a voice activated remote control for the TV. Still, the annoyance and excess activity reaching for the remote keep many thin.

mtrobertsattorney said...

It is easy to assume that System Two is responsible for human evolutionary progress and therefore important for the survival of the species.

But this is not self-evident. System One may not be conducive to species survival at all (System One, after all, has produced all sorts of rational systems of mass destruction). Whereas pure instinct may be of much greater benefit when it comes to matters of survival. If so, System One turns out to be a regressive mutation.

For my first witness, I call the lowly cockroach.

Jose_K said...

Why do we not abandon the error-prone System One and let the more reliable System Two rule our lives?
Dyson must stick to physics, evolution is a blind process you dont have choices.
By teh way stresfull jobs keep people thin.

ndspinelli said...

The coackroach will be sworn. "Mr. Coachroach do you swear or affirm.."

Judge: Mr. Coackroach, you cannot scamper under the bench and be sworn, it must in the presence of the court and jury.

Mr.Cochroach: But, your honor, there are some fresh scone crumbs under your bench..it's merely instinctive.

ndspinelli said...

Judge: Mr. Cockroach, will you please spell your name for the court?

Mr. Cockroach: Yes, your honor it's C.o.c.k.r.o.a.c.h.

Francisco D said...

I have not read the comments on this thread. I am only writing to say that Danny Kahneman (and his deceased colleague Amos Tversky) are the two most impressive academic psychologists I have ever known of.

Tversky gave amazing lectures, and was an incredibly bright, humorous and self-effacing individual. Unfortunately, I never met Kahneman, but they are the only (cognitive) psychologists I know whose work has been used extensively in other fields.

OTOH, it sounds like he is only talking about cortical and sub-cortical functions of the human brain. This is sort of old wine in new bottles, unless I missed some nuance.

ken in sc said...

I spent a good part of my life, 24 years, under the control of people who excelled in system one thinking. I was in the Air Force as both enlisted and officer. Only pilots are allowed to command units which include pilots—meaning that most units are commanded by pilots. Pilots, especially fighter pilots, are trained to react without thinking. They are a special kind of athlete. To qualify, they must be highly intelligent and capable of understanding complex mathematics, however they are trained to the point where they no longer think about what they are going to do, they just do it.

I had several commanders who could not communicate in normal English. I call it fighter pilots disease. Both of the Bush presidents had it. They are not stupid, their brain is just wired differently. They had to have an interpreter, usually called a vice commander.

Wally Kalbacken said...

An ape in a tree is very focused on not falling.

And in many cases, on waiting for the zookeeper to throw that bucket of shredded oranges and bananas.

ken in sc said...

Or, I forgot the best interpreter was a public relations officer, a beautiful, young, female, 1st Lt. or Captain--Blonde of course.

Freeman Hunt said...

Women suffer temporary cognitive impairment while pregnant. It is noticeable, a foretaste perhaps of possible senility in old age.

I was wondering if it affected System One or System Two differently. But it seems I am too impaired to puzzle this out.

Terry said...

The problem with "System 2" thought is that it is biased and promotes the idea that rational and contemplative "System 2" thought is more important than intuitive "System 1" thought.
Level 3 thought is characterized by sneering cynicism.
Can I have a Nobel Prize now? I mean a food pellet?
Thank you.

Sorun said...

Really, we can send a man to the moon but we can't produce a voice activated remote control for the TV.

If you promise that the only sound coming from your TV is music, we'll take a crack at it. Otherwise, separating your voice from all the Bob Barkers and Terry Bradshaws is too difficult.

Synova said...

Freeman... it kills system two and enhances system one.

Thank you.

And congratulations. :)

Chip S. said...

DADvocate said, Eventually, through practice, that information is passed into System One.

Anyone who plays a musical instrument recognizes the truth in this.

"Intuition" is the fool's name for hard work.

--Rodolfo Tonetti

↑ possibly inauthentic quote

Don't Tread 2012 said...

System One could be loosely described as 'knee-jerk' and System Two is a self-checking function.

System Two apparently is disabled (I would take lazy) in many people's bodies these days.

Take for instance, the OWS crowd. System One appears to be quite robust. System Two is corrupt.

Nobody is 100% right the first time through. Factor in the fear of being wrong (rejection anyone?) and you have a recipe where System Two becomes 'disabled'.

Interesting.

I love to eat fat. Mostly healthy nuts, and the 80% beef for burgers that Bobby Flay recommends.

I am not 'fat' however.

Alex: your height and weight????

Bruce Hayden said...

Primitive activities are not the only applications of System 1. Pattern recognition and intuition are valuable assets in science and mathematics.

An example of this was some 30 years ago, when I was one of the high gurus of the glass room computer era. My job was to figure out why the mainframe computer had crashed. It was made much harder, because our computers had multiple processors working at the same time. It often involved finding timing windows, where the actions of two processors interacted differently than expected by the designers.

I was pretty good at it. The way that I envisioned the way I would work was that I would methodically go through the hex/octal dumps in certain ways. The light would eventually go off, and I would pursue an avenue for awhile, again, methodically, and often for success.

What I saw myself doing was using my methodical brain to control the stimulus that I provided my pattern matching brain. And, meanwhile, somewhat akin to that fighter pilot, my pattern matching brain improved with use - the more I did this, the quicker I saw the patterns.

I kinda miss that integration of the two parts of my brain. After that, I went into the design of operating system and data communications software, which was much more methodical, and thence into patent law, which again is primarily methodical.

Henry said...

@Freeman -- Yes! Congratulations.

Bruce Hayden said...

That said, you still see this difference between intuition/pattern matching and working through things methodically in the practice of law.

About 60 years ago, when my father was starting his practice of law, he had two very different mentors. One would jump immediately to the answer, that was mostly correct. And, the other would work through the problem methodically, and ultimately get to the right answer, and did this just a little more often than the first attorney.

I think that my brother and I still demonstrate that difference in the different ways that we approach legal issues in our practice of patent law. I am the intuitive one, and he is the methodical one.

The problem though in the practice of law is that most attorneys are very busy, and essentially get paid for the work produced. This means that being fast is financially advantageously. But, it also means that mistakes are made based on jumping too quickly to answers. Compounding this is that it takes decades to build up a good set of pattern matching templates and skills, but often the attorneys who can jump most quickly early on are the ones who succeed most brilliantly. Think of it maybe as the pilots who started flying instinctively, instead of working up to it over a long period of time.

And, another problem with that is that when you have operated instinctively, using pattern matching, for an extended period of time, you lose, or at least significantly weaken, your ability to work through problems methodically. Watched an old boss do this sometimes - he would jump into a problem, expecting a quick answer, and then when he was stymied, put it off for awhile, and then jump back in. I was able to save the day a couple of times by being the one who methodically worked through the problem (here, carefully reviewing all the patent claim terms in view of the allegedly infringing devices). I think that despite being one of the brightest patent attorneys I have ever known, 30+ years of success using pattern matching and its instant gratification sometimes spoiled him for using the methodical side of his brain.

Bruce Hayden said...

So, why the two parts of our brain? I think that those above who have pointed out that the pattern matching portion of our brains is the more primitive are probably correct. The way that we see the world is very much a result of this.

When man tried to implement machine vision to mimic, to some extent, what we do naturally, we found that recognizing much of anything was extremely hard, and doing so in real-time, far harder. Why do those tiny dots we see equal lines, and those lines equal "table" in our brains, as contrasted to all the trillions of other options? We don't put all those things together consciously. We couldn't, and still get anything done.

We know from working with lower order animals that they utilize pattern matching too. For example, my intro psych class concentrated on operant conditioning - and in lab, we trained pigeons to respond to certain stimuli in certain ways. And, moving up the hierarchy, we know that our closest relatives, chimps, can put a name to objects. They too can be trained to put a word like "table" to the generic class of tables.

Why then, our ability to think methodically and logically? I think because that is how our species has been able to take over the world. I think that you see more of this in chimps than most other lower animals, but, still, the gap between them and us is significant in that regard - likely much more than the difference between us in our respective ability to pattern match.

sarthak said...

@Styler....because he wrote the book, so he had all the choices and decisions to make and yes as a reader we have the right to question the writer but I believe that is to the extent of what it explains and not pertaining to the subject of explanation or rather he has the freedom to choose hi/her specimen....That is something left to the Readers as individuals, and so I believe you have all the power to explore and apply it to as many living organisms as possible depending on the time and comfort that resides in one's room.

sarthak said...

I think the secret lies in the slow and steady transition of every thought/result/analysis popping out from 'System 2' to 'System 1'. In a perceived as 'average human', it may be evident on how one drives as an amateur and then after a considerable period of time like an expert, and in the perceived as 'geniuses', how one could calculate 786*752 in a negligible period of time. The two examples clearly state the above transition.