Using your Brain


Staff member
The following article was published in Infoworld. Link is at the end. Enjoy

DURING THE VIETNAM WAR, hundreds of thousands marched on Washington. A few years ago, Louis Farrakhan organized the Million Man March. I fantasize about holding National Boycott Stupidity Day and getting the same kind of turnout -- throngs of citizens tired of popular culture's celebration of idiocy and ignorance as greater virtues than logical analysis and knowledgeable discourse.

I don't want to blow this out of proportion. I enjoyed Luke Skywalker's decision to trust The Force as much as anyone. But Luke's decision was trusting his own coordination over that of a computer, not "trusting his instincts" instead of logic to make a decision. Popular culture has it that our brains should defer to our guts, despite conclusive anatomical evidence that guts digest food whereas brains digest information, and the success of the scientific method demonstrating that facts and logic are superior to instinct.

This week we wrap up our series on decision-makers. So far we've shot at lawyers, marks, zealots, and politicians. This week we'll conclude with scientists and card players.

Given science's inarguable success, you might think scientific decision-making is the way to go. There's a lot to be said for it. For example, Occam's razor -- the axiom that among all possible explanations of known facts, you should always prefer the least complicated explanation as the one most likely to be true -- is smart advice. So is the corollary that there's always room for doubt, no matter how carefully you've tested a theory.

But scientists can become as paralyzed as lawyers by the need for more and more data. Although they understand that absolute proof is impossible, they are remarkably adept at envisioning what additional evidence might be gathered to reduce doubt even further.

Good card players avoid this paralysis. Consider bridge, where much of the deck is hidden. Whereas bidding, the dummy, your own hand, and statistical probability all provide evidence of where the hidden cards lie, your information is always limited. But you still have to play the hand.

It's a good metaphor for the manager's job: to make decisions despite imperfect information, while taking into account every card being played (i.e., new information) to adjust tactics accordingly.

The important point is this: Certainty is impossible, but you have to make decisions anyway. And those who figure that uncertainty is the time to listen to their guts are wrong.

Uncertainty demands the use of your brain. When your gastrointestinal tract talks, it just means it's lunchtime.
Great post.

I completely agree with the notion that popular culture, through its many outlets has made the public think that they should go with strictly a gut feeling, just because we've been fed this ideal through mass media, and movies.

You are obviously taling abouth the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) banning a homo-sexual scout leader. To be honest at first I heard a blurb of this story on the news, and agreed with the BSA. Then I thought about it more carefully, as a past Boy Scout, we were taught to help others, and treat others with equality and respect. No matter what race, color, creed, or disability. You would think this covered sexuality, but apparently the ultra conservative and right-wing leaders and backers of the BSA disagree.

The Boy Scouts are secretly breeding a new generation that will become racists against gays. Is this deliberate? No, but intentions and consequences are two different things. I think they should make a stand, and say gays are also fellow humans that should be treated equally. That we as the Boy Scouts of America, in a proud tradition of equality will allow homosexual scouts and troop leaders.

But this will not happen, but the government should force an integration. Imagine if they had banned blacks, or forty years ago from the scouts. Maybe Italians, and Jews fifty or sixty years before that. What about the Irish immigrants of the early 20th century. If this is allowed to continue, then other groups will be more easily kept away from the scouts.

If I had been a scout right now, I would have left the scouts because this is an unjust no matter which way it has been packaged, or presented.
No, I was not thinking about Boy Scouts of America. However since you brought that up, here is my experience with them:

When I was in Utah, my boys were allowed to join, but never were able to particiapte fully in the programs. They will not be told if there was a meeting etc. I found out that - in Utah, they use BSA as an extension of Mormon Church. So my boys, not being of Mormon Religion (which is a separate religion from Christianity - no matter what they call it) were not allowed to participate. We did not want to fight it and create conflict among our 98% Mormon Neighbors. So we told our kids that BSA is part of the Mormon Church in Utah and hence to pass on the participation.
Confused ...

Considering the following statements:
I practice Jnana Yoga

a framework within which the self optimally utilizes its resources and processes to anticipate future opportunities, changes and threats
Popular culture has it that our brains should defer to our guts, despite conclusive anatomical evidence that guts digest food whereas brains digest information, and the success of the scientific method demonstrating that facts and logic are superior to instinct.
I have to wonder if the self optimization you attempt to attain isn't in some way related to popular culture's 'gut feeling', the man-on-the-street's attempt at stating that there are 'resources' not recognized, but present. Too often I've seen an Officer attribute to a 'gut feeling' the proper evaluation of a situation when what it amounted to was, as a result of his experience, a recognizing of subtle body language the ordinary citizen would overlook. Something that, I believe, plays into being a 'good cardplayer'.

Also, with regard to 'the success of the scientific method' ... how often has serendipity played a part in a new insight? Had the individual not had the experience to recognize the value of the event ... have 'a light turn on' ... You see where I'm going.
Hey Chagur:

Of course you are confused. You are mixing apples with oranges. They do make great fruit salads though! The first quote was from my definitions and the second quote was from somebody else. I posted it because there are some interesting aspects we should talk on the topic.

If you must know, I never use the words "gut feelings" or "makes sick to my stomach" as an expression. Man's (or Woman's) obsession with body parts are duly noted....

What Bob Lewis pointing out is that Depending all the time your gut feelings is not the way to go. This happens all the time in the corporate world. Instead of thinking it through, getting more data as needed, they go with the gut feelings which is plain wrong. Look at Polaroid and Xerox. The world knows what is happening except the management - who are probably relying on their gut feelings....
On the otherhand you are right in a scenario where a correct decision is made based on facts that the subject is consciously unaware. Like LOVE. Don't tell that to your partner - here we go for the heart. Again one needs more info before jumping to conclusion though.....
Dumb Bit!


Thought that only the first paragraph with the bold type first few words was from an article and that the rest was your take on it ... and that's what really threw me.

My apology.
Personality influances to the brain

It kinda sounds like you are saying their are several types of people/personalities in the world. These types often result in how they will react to outside stimuli. Off the top of my head

  1. Analytical
    Those who require intense amounts of data to act. They will endeavor to see the facts surrounding the situation before acting. Trying to get the best possible understanding of the whole picture.
  2. Driver
    Those who want to get the job done. NOW! Don't bs around we have it to do so let's get at it and plow right in. Most often the ones who will use "gut feeling" to justify an action.
  3. Amiable
    The people driven. Will be more concerned with people and their situations than work at hand. Will discuss who will do what and how so that everyone is on the same page.

There are sub-categories that are to varying degrees between these. Mixtures, that are neither wholly one or the other. Often these factors influence how one sees and reacts to the world around one. The justifications of why are also filtered by what one is.
The first post was a quote from the Infoworld magazine. Now here are my views:

1. Lower order decisions are done what most people say "gut feelings" or "feel-like-it" or some expletives. These are processesed in the lower part of the brain with survival instinct. Like food you eat to basic living. Because these processes are simple and automated, we do not think much about it. When we get sick, we go to a doctor. Most people do not have the knowledgebase (because it is kept out of the society!) to effect a cure themselves. That is why, our government has a law that for the good of the people (because we are stupid!) you must get a prescription from a doctor to get a medicine - even if you know what you need.

(I can see readers wheels are turning. I welcome a debate on this prescription type controlled knowledge environment)

2. Higher order decisions are when the outcome depends on a large number of variables and those variables are changing over time and sometimes those variables are the result of other variables which are also changing in time (i.e. not static). The decisions are made in the higher part of the brain. Higher order decisions are equally applicable to individuals, corporations and governments.

There are a lot of factors that impede the higher functions of the brain and also the resulting decisions. Such as Stress (individuals), social dogma, cognitive bias, pure lack of knowledge and so on. Gut feelings here does not work. You must have the right information and know that you have it.