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May 14, 2007

Intellectual Philosophy in a Linux Atmosphere

by @ 7:31 am. Filed under General SUSE, SUSE News

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: 3-Dimensional Thinking

Someone answer me this: Why, oh why do we blindly accept that the only way to do something is the way we’ve always done it?

We make decisions every day based off what I call “the safe answer.” All of us are guilty of it.

The sequence goes like this: We are faced with some task. In our minds, we immediately have an idea of the way we know it should be done. But we are afraid. We say, “Well, if I do it that way, there is a chance it could go south and backfire on me. Don’t want that. Rather than do it the right way, I will do it the way that we have always done it.” Somehow, we seek the safe, common, or familiar way.

I call this 1-dimensional thinking. We will do X project the way that we have always done it, because that is what works for us, and that’s the way we know.

In other words, what you are saying is that you don’t want to take the chance that you will improve, because you are taking the chance that you might fail.

Another translation: If you always do things the way you have always done them, you will always get the same outcome.

People, this is not the Dark Ages. That way of thinking went out of style about 500 years ago. Or did it?

Here is a modern example:

Lots of people like BMWs. Let’s say that you want to purchase a BMW in the 7 series line, maybe a 760Li Sedan. The price tag on that car is about $122,600. What is your knee-jerk reaction? “Dude, there ain’t no way I’m ever going to round up that much cash.” This is the 1-dimensional, trained robot in you, analyzing the situation the same way you have been taught to think your whole life: Take everything at face value, make an immediate assessment, and draw your conclusion. *poof*, you immediately return back to your exact life, remaining exactly as you are, having done nothing, and making no progress.

However.

Another type of thought, which I refer to as 3-dimensional thinking, may take you down another path. As you head down this path, your trained robot inside says, “Uh oh, unable to compute. Danger, Will Robinson. Unfamiliar territory. I could fail.” Once you flip that coin over and say, “Wow, isn’t this exciting? I have never done this before, but I can totally make this work. When it does, I can chalk up another success. Sweet!” Then you sit down to find a solution. You may approach the problem from two angles: 1) How could I find a way out of paying full price for that car? and 2) How could I find a way to earn the money for that car with minimal lifestyle change?

Sound difficult? Well hell, there’s a reason they say, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Well, the exact goal of this type of thinking is to find a way to do exactly that. I happen to know a couple of guys who were in almost that exact situation. Know what they did?

They bought three of them at an auction, and sold one of them for 70% of the amount that they had paid for all three of them. This left each with 15% of the total. So let’s say that they paid $142,000 for the three cars. They then sold the one for $100,000. This left $42,000, which was split between the two of them. In essence, they each paid $21,000 for a car worth about 6 times that much. I have seen these cars, and they are quite gorgeous, and almost brand new.

3-dimensional thinking.

Information, Knowledge, Understanding, and Wisdom

Along with decision-making skills, there are assumptions we make about different types of learning. These assumptions are also incorrect.

Let’s say we start out with a book about openSUSE Linux. We will refer to this as some collection of information. Does merely having such a book give us the ability to master its topic? Of course it doesn’t. We must read it.

In other words, for the information to become useful, it must reside in our mind. It must become knowledge. We need to process the information and store it away in our brain. An unfortunately vast amount of people believe that this is the end. Once they have read a book and have gained new knowledge, they are then masters of the topic of that content. Sadly, this is not the case.

To illustrate, let me ask you this: Would you attempt to fly a commercial airliner having only read the operator’s handbook? Believe me, under no circumstances would I attempt this.

Beyond simple knowledge, you need to gain understanding. “What happens when I hit windshear? What if one of my engines goes out? What if… ? Why do I have to use flaps?” You get the point. You need to understand what it is that you are working with from multiple angles. Even in this case, there are many who believe this means that they are masters of the given topic. Again, not so.

Another illustrative question: Would you rather fly the commercial airliner with a pilot who has just barely received his flying license, or would you rather fly with a pilot who has been flying for 15 years? In the vast majority of cases, people would likely say that they would rather have the experienced pilot fly than go with a brand new pilot. Why? Well, the seasoned pilot’s experience has given him wisdom. It is this wisdom that gives him a large margin of preference over the inexperienced pilot.

Only at these advanced stages of wisdom and experience can we say that we “own” the topic. Only then can we say that we are masters of our field.

Let us now combine these two topics. Say we have a given person. This person has the ability to think 3-dimensionally. They are a critical thinker and a skilled problem solver. In addition to this, they also have had a large amount of experience, giving them the opportunity to gain wisdom. What would such a thing produce?

These people are the producers in the society. Societies have consumers and producers. These guys (and ladies) are the members of society who come up with solutions. They invent light bulbs, discover ways to harness electricity, they establish countries, they invent internal combustion engines, they invent computers, telephones, and televisions.

I’m telling you that if you knew your own potential as an experienced 3-dimensional thinker, you would blow your own mind. Our potential as human beings is dumbfounding. Let’s think about it another way.

When you say, “I can’t do that,” you are really saying, “I am unwilling to put forth the effort it takes to solve that problem. I am also unwilling to spend personal resources to arrive at the solution to that problem.” These personal resources usually refer to time. In other words, our response should be, “I can solve any plausible, realistic problem if I am willing and able to put forth enough effort, and given enough time.” By “plausible” and “realistic” I mean that you will never devise a way for human beings to walk around on the sun. I mean that you can, in all truth and reality, find a way to pay $21,000 for a pristine car worth over $100,000.

This is why it aggravates me when I go to the store and ask an employee to help me solve a problem and they say, “I can’t help you, sorry.” I want to take my forehead to the bridge of their nose.

This is also why it is aggravating when I see people who clearly demonstrate their lemming-hood and inability to think for themselves, instead openly declaring their desire to be “one of the sheep.” For example, this is quite easily illustrated in the latest fashion trend. Everyone go buy 2000 labels. On each one, print “I am a sheep.” Now, when you see one of these guys walking around with the damn blue-tooth headset clipped to his ear, peel off a label and stick that thing to his face. In and of itself, there is nothing morally wrong with wearing one of those. However, the symbol of what it demonstrates to me is an eye-rolling declaration of that individual electing to be a total lemming. Especially when they are wearing it during a movie, and the back of the headset has that annoying blinking blue light.

Apply All That to Operating Systems

Again, I provide another example of the 3-dimensional thinking, experienced individual. Take computer users. Many people don’t know why they use what they use, and could not possibly care about anything any less than what operating system they use. Others, however, not only refuse to explore other options, but insist that their way of doing it is the only acceptable way because that is what has always worked and that is what they have always done. This severely limits their potential. 1-dimensional thinking.

Please do not misunderstand. Not all users of the most widely-used OS on the planet are sheep.

It’s just that M$ knows that people prefer what they already know because it is comfortable to them. This is why they retain such a tight grip on their monopoly.

Due to the very nature of the Linux operating system, it almost forces you to expand your mind into the 3-dimensional way of thinking. To be good at it, you will need to get a little experience under your belt. For many people this equates to, “I can’t use Linux because it is different and scary. Thus, I will continue paying hundreds of dollars per year to stay with what I know.” Instead, they should be saying, “Wow, if I jump in and go out on a limb and think and learn, I could be saving myself hundreds of dollars per year, and never get a virus again!” Even if they are not a power user. Even if they will never be a system administrator. You only gonna do email and the Internet? Install openSUSE, install Thunderbird, install Firefox. Adjust their settings to your satisfaction. The end; you are done worrying. And if that’s all you need, very little experience is necessary.

In many cases, the most widely-accepted operating system is not the best solution, but is the one that the most people know. If you want a better solution, do some research, gain some knowledge and understanding, and master the topic just a bit. Think for yourself and make your own decision. You will very likely find yourself using either Linux or a Mac.

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