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Can thinking be taught?

Knowledge, including knowledge of the systems approach, is structured in the mind step by step, from simple to complex. How to identify such steps? What needs to be trained, what unfamiliar mental work should be made familiar?

Here we need to introduce the concept of counterintuitiveness. We live in an intuitively understood world. Our brains travel along intuitive, inexplicably acquired cognitive rails of "fast thinking S1" according to Kahneman, like a tram - following the same route. We are born with these rails gradually established in our brains (in the case of many years of work on this, they call it "experience", in the arts - "sophistication", in literature - "bookishness"), and thinking moves along them, usually bypassing the efficient modern ways of problem-solving known to today's civilization, making it impossible to solve complex problems. Because new knowledge doesn't fit into "sophistication" and "bookishness", you simply have not seen it yet! You can't remember what you haven't memorized! You can come up with something, but it's not a fact that you will come up with something truly effective every time.

Where do our intuitions come from, how do we know how we should think? Most of the time, we can't even remember where we first learned that teeth are cleaned with a toothbrush and toothpaste, not chewed bamboo chips from a sacred udumbara tree, as was customary in India. Reflection (consciousness regarding past thinking situations) suggests that there may be other options besides intuitive ones - counterintuitive ones.

Looked out the window - and there is a flat Earth. When we are told that the Earth is round, what do we say? "This is not true, look out the window." They say to us, "Are you kidding, the Earth is round, look beyond the horizon...". But we insist, "You're talking a lot of unnecessary things, there's nothing beyond the horizon. There's nothing to talk about the distant horizon and what's behind it, let's talk about the Earth, here it is - flat Earth." All life intuition shows that the Earth is flat, people walk on it, and the feet definitely know that Earth is not round! However, for some people, who are concerned not only with the scale of 10 kilometers but also 1000 kilometers, the thought of "Earth is round" comes to mind from somewhere, and they start thinking that way - finding no contradictions in such thinking. After some time, it turns out that besides Earth, there is also the Cosmos with its vacuum, where spaceships fly "falling all the time, but never falling". This is already incomprehensible because with the idea of a flat Earth, the flight of spaceships in a circle at a sufficient speed to never fall - is impossible to understand. There is a discrepancy with the results of the experiment/measurements. Explanations about the Earth being round are counterintuitive, they do not match the "folk theory" of a flat Earth, but they need to be taken seriously (meaning building projects based on it), because it provides better predictions than the flat Earth theory.

The concept of "counterintuitiveness", where you can and need to hear "non-popularity" and "cultural/tractical/methodological adherence", is important. Every time there are problems with understanding how geniuses work, possessing some art that no one can understand and even replicate after understanding, one can expect to find deeply counterintuitive explanations.

The tram of thought in geniuses goes along completely different rails than those laid in the minds of most people. Finding these "other rails" in the genius's mind, laying them in your mind, and running your mental tram on them is usually very difficult.

For some reason, geniuses, often without realizing it, did something completely different than everyone else, simply starting to do something contradicting everyone else's intuition, and it started to work out for them. While everyone else acts intuitively, "like everyone else", and it doesn't work for them. And until the level of consciousness of the genius, or those who are trying to model the thinking of the genius, has not reached an understanding of this counterintuitiveness, new objects do not receive their names/terms, you can't transfer this knowledge to other people, you can't teach anyone this knowledge.

You can't teach a development director (we're giving a conditional job title here) of a major holding company, a dancer, or a politician if you don't understand conceptually at the level of consciousness what they should be doing in the course of their work, following the best methods/practices/processes/culture/style/strategy. The development director must be taught; they should not grow on their own like a tree in the forest. One needs to shift from hunting and gathering talents to settled agriculture, nurturing talents. This is engineering, changing the world for the better. Moreover, such an approach allows automating the work of a development director, delegating part of the work to AI, or assigning it to employees if no suitable AI has been found yet. But this is only possible if you understand what part of the work can be delegated, how to describe the delegated part of the work related to enterprise development, why this development activity should be carried out, what is its essence, what concepts will be involved in thinking about the development of this major holding company.

What distinguishes art from engineering? In art - it's a hit or miss, inspiration strikes, a masterpiece is created. Another time there's no luck, no inspiration - no masterpiece. In engineering (mechanical, software, genetic, enterprise, dance, personality, community, etc.), we cannot afford that. We need to consistently work well, we need the best (not just any) thinking methods that consistently deliver excellent results in typical cases. And it is from this already high "typical" level of quality in typical cases that art begins, differing in brilliant breakthrough works in atypical cases. Of course, art is also present in engineering, but in engineering we aim for stable success and often achieve it!

Wishes of "not limiting creative freedom with templates" do not apply here: people who invent mental bicycles en masse are very likely to come up with not the best solutions. Arguments of "creativity over templates" are only valid for exceptional geniuses, and even for them in exceptional cases. In most other cases, templated mental solutions provide high quality while minimizing mental efforts. It's unlikely that you are that exceptional genius, and you are in that exceptional case of "going beyond known civilization", where you can demonstrate the highest art of working with solutions invented by you personally "outside the textbooks". Most likely, you don't quite understand how exactly you think, which thinking methods you follow. This needs to be corrected urgently: realize how you think and learn better thinking methods.

Again, geniuses are called not all "creators", only those who demonstrate a better quality of thinking than the best known at the moment (state-of-the-art) cognitive templates - and then their solutions become templated, not genius. These emerging patterns of good thinking in civilization must immediately be made explicit, documented (preferably in the form of educational courses as an appropriate form of documenting thinking methods, but there can also be forms of instructions/regulations/corporate standards, and consider whether it is easy to teach agents for whom they were written to work by them. It's not effective to learn to work based on regulations; they are only good for checking how things are already working!).

Identifying patterns/"executed algorithms" in methods/styles of good thinking - this is the work of a culture bearer, describing them - a methodologist, formatting these patterns into educational courses - the work of a methodist/instructional designer. For more information on these (and many other) typical roles in engineering of some expertise in people and AI, see the course "Engineering of Personality."

How is unreflected, unconscious art or craft transmitted? The apprentice looks at the works of dozens, hundreds, thousands of masters, learns to understand the slang of professionals as they learn their native language (without textbooks and dictionaries, just "from conversations"), constantly observes how real masters work, and tries to copy it - just like the saying "monkey see, monkey do". This is what the term "experience" is about (joking here about "twenty-year experience - it's a one-year experience repeated twenty times"), "sophistication" (which many had in their student years, then they froze in their development). Then three out of ten students get some correct rails in the head for the trams of their professional thoughts, start thinking quickly, and make fewer mistakes in typical situations. And seven out of ten - do not get them, and continue to make many mistakes in typical situations. Teaching art or craft is not about "transferring conceptual knowledge", rational manning is not used here.

We need for nine out of ten students to be able to learn some new method (say, the systems thinking method). It is entirely possible to imagine that there will be one out of ten students completely incompetent (severely undereducated in childhood, "from the jungles"), or extremely lazy, or simply not dedicating enough time to learning due to some insurmountable external circumstances (such as getting sick). But the training of only three out of ten students will not satisfy us. This means that we must take such counterintuitive knowledge for teaching, which cannot quickly come to the students' minds on its own, make it a compact and understandable description (conceptual! So that it can be expressed in words!), and then somehow transfer it to the students so that it integrates into their minds. The question is: Does such a thing happen in areas that have traditionally been considered "art" and were traditionally considered unteachable rationally? Yes, it does, quite often! This is the path of Western civilization: transforming "art" (including the art of thinking) after its modeling and rationalization into quickly conceptually transferable skill from human to human through structured learning of mastery.

When you find the right concepts and the right mental operations with them, and the right exercises to speed up the "automation" of thinking (repeating thought patterns helps transition from slow conscious effortful thinking S2 to fast effortless S1), students after training won't even understand what was difficult for them before the training. They will think fluently in a new way (S1), but won't be able to remember how their thinking was rolling along the "folk rails to nowhere" before training (S1) and how difficult they found it during training (S2). Therefore, masters (former students) will be surprised at the behavior of untrained rookies, including their own behavior during the period before mastering a particular method/culture/style/work method. Ask a child why they multiplied very poorly a year ago - they won't be able to explain why. Now multiplication is quite natural for them and does not require the exertion of all their mental strength, as it was a year ago. But let them multiply matrices - and the cycle will repeat: at first it will be incomprehensible, then difficult, then again they will struggle to remember what was so unclear and challenging there.