simplicity_complexity

Simplicity vs complexity

Simplicity originates from seeing the Essence.

Whether something is considered as simple or complex depends on the level of consciousness. The complex becomes simple when your understanding grows.

The key to understand a problem, a concept or an event in a simple way is to get to the essence of things and see how they fit together as well as how they fit into a bigger picture.

A complex phenomenon can be made simple through (a smart) organization. When intelligently organized, its representation usually yields more effectiveness and efficiency than when the opposite holds.

Such a smart organization it is being practiced in art, math or science by the use or an extension of modularity. Modularity is achieved by building blocks of nested complexity such that simple operations are needed to relate or combine these blocks in a meaningful way.

An example

Let’s consider an example in math of a sum and an integral. First we need to define numbers (natural, integers, rational and real), then a sum of two elements. This is further extended to a sum of multiple elements. Knowing what a sum is, we define a more complex structure which is a series, that is an infinite sum. This can be understood through a limit of partial sums. In order to arrive at a finite number, the series has to be convergent.

The structure of a series is now the basis to define an integral. Having a structure of integral, we can define simple operations and make calculations on the level of integrals forgetting these are infinite summations. And so, we can estimate area or probability by using these high level concepts.

The development of technology, such as app-oriented programming, click-touch-and-connect devices, identification or recognition systems, feeds on such modular organizing principle, similarly as natural languages do.

Complexity and the level of details

This brings us to the view that perhaps all problems can be perceived as problems of complexity. If we don’t now how to approach them, this happens because their formulation escapes our current way of organization, be it thoughts, models, techniques or tools.

Simplicity looks at similarity. We need the similarity in order to find commonalities.
Complexity looks at the differences. We need the differences in order to discriminate. 
A solution which is simple is still an interplay between similarity and difference, yet in the right proportions.

Unnecessary complexity arises when you are on the level of too many details. Details account for variability, individuality, exceptions, forms, partial views and shadows. They make life surely interesting, yet when in abundance, they clutter the view and hide the Essence.

There is no way for you to see the emerging behavior of ants if you with your eyes are on their level. It is hard to solve problems if you dwell in them. It is hard to make a breakthrough if you constantly keep thinking and exploring the views, angles, positions and details.

As you need your 3D perspective to recognize the patterns of ants, you need a different level of consciousness to find your solutions. This comes naturally when you detach and begin to ask the questions that matter.

The simplest choices can make you happy.
The simplest strategies can lead to success.
The simplest solutions can solve the most complex problems.

***

Truth originates from basic foundations.
Truth is simple. If it isn’t, then it’s being formulated in a complex way.
Your challenge is to simplify it.

 ***

The photo above comes from a museum in Cardiff, made some time ago.

 

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This is a guest post by my friend Bob.

Consciousness can be pure. This happens when we are just conscious, awake and internally focused, suppressing all thoughts, feelings and desires to act.

Consciousness can also be directed either at an external event or situation or an internal state. If we are conscious the latter is always there. If not, we are just a part of the external world. We are unaware of the fact that we participate in the world, at least by observing it.

Our internal state colors our consciousness. The complexity of an event or a situation creates a palette of colors. Patterns in the possible palettes can be grouped by numbers. Consequently, numbers are thereby related to qualities as far as they are caused either by a consciousness color or a palette of colors.

In this approach a number may refer to the complexity of an event or a situation, i.e. the total number of states which can be distinguished. It may, however, also refer to a particular state inside a given structure or system.

For instance, the number three can refer to a structure of three states, but also to the third state in an event of seven states. This is one of the reasons why a number cannot have a single quality.

The 7 states

While focussing on an event or structure we may discover that its complexity (the number of observable states) increases with observation and perception. For instance, we can be either in the house or outside. But, when considering these two states we will soon need to include the possibilities of entering and leaving the house, thereby creating events of three states (being inside, passing through the door and being outside). Between every two such states an additional one may be observed, giving rise to five states in total. The first and last state may also be split into two finer ones, which gives us seven states. These are:

1. Being inside, unaware of the door. Housekeeping.
2. Being inside, aware of the door. Finishing housekeeping.
3. Approaching the door. Opening it.
4. Passing through the door. Experiencing the threshold.
5. Leaving the door behind. Closing the door.
6. Being outside, remembering the door. Starting a walk.
7. Being outside. The door is no issue any more. Enjoying the walk.

This process may be continued depending on the sensitivity of senses and consciousness as well as the complexity of the event.

The circle of 12

After returning from a walk the same set of events can be experienced in a reversed order. Since the first and last states of the two events (going out and coming in) coincide, such a circle of events has 12 states (instead of 14).

If we define different states of consciousness as having a different internal color then approaching the door and opening it are in the same state as they both are related to a physical experience (walking, touching, opening). State no. 2, however, is entirely different as it refers to activities of the soul or mind: longing for a walk or  planning to go out. In the state no.1 this element is not there, but it may also be non-physical as we may concentrate on housekeeping, reading a book or just sleeping.

This circle of 12 can be experienced as an event in time, but not only. Another interpretation is to perceive it as a geometrical circle passing through four directions (Being inside, Leaving, Being outside, Returning), each with a preparation and a finishing state. The logic of this example does not allow intermediate states between the Being inside and Being outside states different from the already given states of Leaving and Returning.

The tetrahedron of states

Let’s say we have four elements: air, fire (warmth), water and earth. If we consider all states built from and between the four elements, then we have for individual elements, six dyadic interactions (of two elements), four triadic interactions (of three elements) and one interaction of all four elements. This corresponds to the geometry of a tetrahedron: the four corners, the six edges, the four faces and the inside of the body, counting up to 15 states.

For example, each of these states may correspond to our experience for a particular holiday. The face of earth, water and fire  stands for a holiday near a lake in the mountains in the summer, while thee dyad of water and air points to a sailing holiday anywhere, any season.

Going further

We can now consider more and more complex events or situations. The total number of states is limited by the richness of experiences our mind and soul can perceive as different states of consciousness.

For example, if instead of going for a walk, we will go for holiday or participate in a serious talk, such an event can be differentiated into 17 or 19 states.This can be understood as the 12 states on the circle enlarged with additional five or seven states. But now the beginning and end states might not be identical since there is a significant difference inside us before and after the holiday (or talk). We are changed.

Summary

So, what is the meaning of, say, the number four? In order to answer that we have to look at the frame of reference. Where is the four we are asking about? We may experience a situation with four states, we may look at the fourth state in an event of seven states or in an event of 19 states. The meaning will change accordingly.

The quality of numbers can not be discussed in an absolute sense. A number, similarly as a word in a language, conveys a set of possible meanings. The proper one has to be understood from the context.

***

The image above shows a beautiful quilt by Inge Duin. See more of her works on www.ingeduin.nl.

 

successful_decision_making

Photo courtesy Jamie Frith available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

The series of posts on decision making:

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Successful people, professionals and experts are able to make reliable and good decisions. They usually do not enumerate all possible options and evaluate them against external criteria. They usually do not contemplate the variety of options either. They rely on their gut feelings but are not taken away by emotions.

Successful people are action orientated and for this they have to make the decisions fast. What is the key ingredient behind their success

It’s intuition.

Are you the one who freaks out when intuition comes into a play?

Don’t be so. Intuition is not as strange or mystical as you may think. It is truly a daily experience of many successful people, professionals or just plain guys as you and I. What you need is to learn how to make intuition work for you. It is both learnable and teachable process.

Rational decision making has its use when we know all options and are able to define a clear and simple criterion for the optimal choice.

Emotional decision making guides us towards the choices of what we like or emotionally identify with.

Intuitive decision making has the power to combine the best of the worlds, knowledge and feelings, yet thrive on new insights.

Let’s look at the image

When you look at an image, say a mountain scene above, you instantly perceive, interpret and understand what you observe. You do not consciously follow the process of seeing individual pixels one by one or separate blobs of colors in order to understand how they work together and how they optimize some hidden parameters to allow you see what you see.

You directly perceive the scene with its meaning: the mountains, the lake and and the sky. Perhaps you like it or perhaps you don’t. Maybe you feel the emotions from climbing the summit, the marvellous serenity of the mountains or the sense of wonder you experienced. You may sense the inner balance or  the vibration of silence. You may taste the salt on your lips…

Analogy and where it leads

Rational decision making is similar to going through individual pixels or their groups and deriving rules to understand the image. It is a bottom-up approach.

Emotional decision making is similar to paying attention to the feelings, noticing the colors, the atmosphere or the sharpness of edges. It is a top-down approach.

Intuitive decision making is similar to perceiving the image as a whole, with the insight of what it is, including the complexity of the colors and textures and emotions. It is a dance of the middle path.

Intuition emerges when you creatively blend rational thoughts and emotions together. It happens in a state of calmness in which you achieve a high level of perception – grasping of the whole picture. You maintain detachment from both emotions and analysis. You think your thoughts and you feel your emotions. You appreciate them, but you become an observer.

You stand in an empty space where you allow the streams of emotions and knowledge come to you for a powerful integration. And there is a spark from the conscious observer to make this powerful integration happen. In a moment. Intuition is your inner knowing.

In the rational approach you understand what you do as you can enumerate steps, procedures, or  rules. You work with analysis.

In the emotional approach you feel what to do. You work with feelings.

In the intuitive approach you grasp. You recognize. You see. You sense. You know. You work with insights.

Experts

Intuitive decision making is what true experts do. They recognize the patterns of the case, be it a disease, changing conditions on a road while driving, or the next move in a heart surgery, both typicality an anomalies. Thanks to the emotional input (what feels right) they know which patterns are influential and which can be discarded. Having a gut feeling for the possible answers, they will apply these to own mental models and determine the most effective outcome.

Intuition at work: the fast track

The fast track happens when you either have all the knowledge about the problem or you don’t have it but you don’t need it either. It feels instantaneous and it is faster than your ability to observe (the elements of) the process. It may come as inspiration, imagination or a flash of knowing or sudden understanding in the given moment. It is also called upon when there is a high risk or danger at stake.

The challenge is that our rational mind has a strong influence on us. Since the intuitive answer is fast, it usually comes first. If you begin to reason and justify an answer to yourself, it is likely an answer from your rational mind.

A calm state of a mind helps to notice insights, body cues, image flashes and so on.  If you sit with a straight spine and focus on abdominal breathing, especially breathing out (2-4x longer than breathing in), you will begin to experience the intuits coming.

Intuition at work: the slow track

Alternatively, you may need to work your intuition out. This happens when the decision requires an integration of partial knowledge and understanding which are not sufficiently processed by you yet. The latter is e.g. true when you think about a scientific phenomenon or look for a solution to a complex problem. Then intuition works by organizing your thoughts under a deep focus. The focus keeps you in an empty space of your mind and encourages fresh, unbiased thoughts.

So what happens is the following.

You are able to perceive the clues of a situation or a context, to feel the atmosphere around the issues involved, to internally observe subtle details without being able to make them explicit. You recognize the patterns but you cannot elaborate the criteria, the algorithm and the optimization process that aids you in doing that.

You simply either directly know or imagine which decision is to be made, or you collect the patterns and evaluate them against a few chosen mental models (derived from experience, analysis and understanding). The final decision is a high-level integration of your knowledge and understanding, and emotional input realized by your self-conscious observer.

Judgement

In my opinion, intuitive decision making is superior to rational decision making. It integrates multi-modal approaches and multi-sense information.

Intuitive decision making relies on tacit knowledge and pattern recognition built by experience, perception, emotion and insight. It is not fault-free as it strongly relies on perceptual skills, personal experience and understanding. Consequently, different experts may make different decisions in the same circumstances. Nevertheless, there is a clear way how to improve: by gaining more experience and practice.

How to make effective decisions

Since the working of intuition depends on the quality of experience, it may lead to flaw decisions if you are new to a field. Say, good cooks will know which ingredients are going to go together well to bring the desired effect.  As a beginner, however, you have no idea how to mix the tastes. You may have no idea how thyme effects the taste of cucumber in a sour cream salad. Would it be a good combination, do you think? 😉

I believe (a few) procedures and rules are necessary for a beginner to start learning. I support rational decision making in the very beginning. Later, you need to learn how to work with intuition. I encourage you to switch to this approach when you have collected some experience.

You will become a professional.

A recipe for effective decisions:

Foundation:

  1. Internal focus and/or calmness
  2. Emotional  and rational detachment

Action:

  1. Recognition of cues and patterns; selection of a few essential ones  (knowledge integrated with emotion)
  2. Selection of a few alternatives (emotion integrated with knowledge)
  3. Evaluation of the considered alternatives improve the mental models (rational thought)
  4. Final solution by choosing the scenario which feels right (emotion)

Summary

Intuition is the missing link for making effective decisions. Why? Because your decisions include both rational and emotional components. They are fast, informative and based on the know-how of your experience.

If you are not convinced, start experimenting. You have nothing to lose and the whole world to gain. 🙂

Simply trust your inner knowing and see what happens.

You will rock.

***

 

consciousness

How do you recognize a conscious being?

Imagine a completely unknown creature is approaching you. A strange creature, nothing you have seen in your life so far.

Your mind is puzzled.
Your heart is beating fast.
You do not know what to think.
You are not sure what you feel. 
You are curious.
You are scared.

This alien creature is alive. You know it for sure.
But it is not human. You also know it for sure.
Or, at least, not in a human form that you can recognize.
It communicates with you by direct knowing.
It is an airy form with wings in a glow of light.
Are you dreaming it to the existence?

Who knows….  How would you know if it is a conscious being? You would know, wouldn’t you?

Ask yourself.

How do you know that your human fellow is conscious? Perhaps you are the only one who is conscious.

How do you know you are not dreaming? Perhaps everything around you, including your human fellows, are projections of your mind from a dream state. Remember how real the experience in a dream is. What is different with respect to your experience now?

What is your test for consciousness? Have you passed it yourself? 😉 If so, you can name the building blocks of consciousness, then…

If your human fellow is conscious, how can you experience his consciousness?

However crazy such questions may sound to you, it is interesting to explore possible answers. They are not trivial and may lead you to surprising discoveries.

Thinking about consciousness can be confusing as we may get into internal loops of mind inspecting itself. We somehow intuitively get what consciousness is as it describes our personal experience of Self or mind in relation to the external (as perceived) world. But, only when we explore the complexity of our conscious experience we become aware that there is a lot to be learnt and understood. And thinking about own consciousness is a good experiment in building an understanding about Self.

In one of our Consciousness discussion meetings we discussed that we could not often recognize whether another being was conscious or not. On the other hand, we can recognize consciousness based on our experience. Or, in another words, we can recognize consciousness that resembles our own.

This means that we need a human-like behavior in order to conclude that a being we connect to is a conscious one.  When we do not observe such a behavior, then we cannot say much about human consciousness. The other being can still be conscious, but it may either hide this fact from us or we may lack means to detect it.

For instance, a brick may be conscious, but since we cannot observe its ‘human-like’ behavior, for our purposes, we may conclude it is not. On the other hand, a robot-mouse which starts to scream, flounder and tries to escape when you hit it, shows very human-like reactions. And we may be tempted to conclude that it is observable conscious.

Consequently, we can detect the observable consciousness. On the other hand, the only consciousness you know is yours, right? So, perhaps you are the only consciousness there is and you are imagining me writing these words. Or… how else is this possible?

By saying the above I want to emphasize the subjectivity of our consciousness experience. We can share our observations, we can participate in common events but our conscious experiences can hardly be explained. Nevertheless, we can discuss the basic elements of consciousness.

Awareness

The first basic element of consciousness is awareness. Awareness means that we notice what is around us and what is happening to us. It is our meter of emotions that flow through us or get blocked, emotions that drive us, uplift us or perhaps down-lift us. It is about our sensations of all kinds, such as cold, pleasure and pain, smell of coffee, or the feeling of appreciation. Awareness is paying attention to the now. It is the basic quality of living in the moment as it is.  

The basic ingredients for awareness are:

  • sensation and/or senses
  • incorporation into memory/experience
  • possible action (can be different, depending on memory/previous experiences)

Basic awareness can be extended to describe things outside plants and animal kingdom. For instance, a thermometer has some sensory mechanism and takes action to reflect the change in temperature. What however rules out that a thermometer is aware is the lack of information processing and storing. In this context, however, a thermometer with a built mechanism that stores the temperature, provides yearly and monthly averages or other simple statistics would be considered as aware.

Elements of consciousness

Consciousness relies on awareness but it is much more than that. It builds on other important elements. What are the other key elements of consciousness? These are Intelligence, Creativity, Idea of Self, Involvement, Meta-structure and Relationship. In brief:

Awareness is the experience of now.

Intelligence is the power of thought.

Creativity is the power of expression.

Idea of Self is the reference point of who is having the experience.

Involvement is the activity of consciousness.

Meta-structure is the representation of complexity, self-reference, nested structure and holistic view.

Relationship is the continuous communication to the external world.

Somewhat more precisely, the building blocks of Consciousness are:

  • Awareness:
    • sensations
    • observation
    • noticing
    • paying attention
    • emotions
  • Intelligence:
    • learning
    • generalization
    • prediction
    • reasoning
    • setting targets
  • Creativity:
    • novel approaches
    • surprise
    • hesitation
    • humor
    • stepping out of context
    • courage
  • Idea of Self:
    • ego
    • values
    • beliefs
    • morals
    • purpose / mission
  • Involvement:
    • introspection
    • reflection
    • inner feeling: desire, love etc
    • action   
  • Meta-structure:
    • nested structures
    • Self-reference
    • holistic view of Self
    • complexity
  • Relationship:
    • perceived commonness or difference to others “out there”
    • use of symbols
    • communication: language, music, writing , etc
    • technology

So, in order to observe (human) consciousness in another being or a creature I need to recognize ingredients from these key building blocks.  As a result, an intelligent being is not necessarily conscious yet.  Intelligence is necessary, but not sufficient for consciousness. And in my own words I notice the following relation:

Knowledge is to wisdom as intelligence is to consciousness.  Tweet: Knowledge is to wisdom as intelligence is to consciousness. via @ElaPekalska

In the relation above I find both knowledge and intelligence passive in relation to wisdom and consciousness. The former are necessary ingredients for the latter, but much more is needed to get both wisdom and consciousness.

Are there any key ingredients of consciousness missing out? What do you think?

Addendum

In the description above I focused on the elements of human consciousness. In reality, everything, including us, is made from the same potent particles-and-waves-of-energy, coming from God. As a result, everything is conscious, but not in the same way neither in the same degree.

There are levels of awareness and levels of consciousness. Prayer, meditation or simply a silent appreciation of the nature may give you the experience of consciousness which is being present in every single thing. Explore it.

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Books of interest:

In relation to self-growth:

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Other posts on consciousness:

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