Blog of Sara Jakša

The Strength of Multiple Disciplines

Because of a weird quirk in the Slovenian education system, I am currently finishing 2 different master’s degrees. And because of this, I can see the difference between two different programs: one of them being business informatics and the other one being cognitive science.

As you can see from my choice, I am not at all averse of putting different subjects or disciplines together. In the business informatics, it was supposed to be the mix between the computer science and business studies, but it ended up being more a data management and analysis, with management, mostly IT management thrown it. On the other hand, cognitive science is a conglomerate of disciplines dealing with the mind: artificial intelligence, neurology, philosophy, psychology, linguistics and many others.

I have now notices how much the different disciplines can have a different look at the world. For example, when I am making a decision, I can use economic theory. I actually use the arguments that we learned in microeconomics, to convince myself all the time, why the sunk cost is not worth playing out. When I am with other people, I can a lot of times remember, what I learned through empirical phenomenology, mostly through my experience and reading/listening about others. This knowledge of observing my own experience made me realize a couple of things, for example, I don't really have a lot of will power. No wonder I don't trust myself with drugs. Then I can turn around and use what I learn at psychology to try and understand a problem. For example, why there are sometimes failures with short term memories, like we can't remember what happened seconds ago. Then I can turn around again and solve a problem by programing a solution.

I have read before about the importance of knowing multiple disciplines, I just did not take it as seriously as when I started to experience it myself. Now, when I have a problem, I can try thinking like a personality psychologist, economics, businessman, programmer, empirical phenomenologist and so on. Even in everyday life, each of them provides a different point-of-view.

It would help, if I was a bit quicker at this, as it would also help me in social situations. But these have way too many variables, from considering the social norms, history, personality and so on, along with theories from different fields, it is the only time when I most likely have information overload. I am getting better at it, though.

But when I have the time to think it through, then I find at working with the full toolbox, instead of just one hammer.

I does make me wonder about 4 things (more like, my notes could be groups in four things, and each is connected to the topic, so I decided to stick them all in this blog. It is not like anybody is readying this. Because even I could see that I am forcing it a bit).

Openmindness.

In the article titled On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit, there was a difference in different kind of openmindness. One is of reflexive openmindness, which accepts everything. And then there is reflective openmindness, which searches for info as a way of critical analysis and reflection. I do wonder which type of openmindness is necessary for this? Because my first instinct is to go with the second options, but… having multiple perspectives also means that there are always pieces of the puzzle that don't fit. I am not so sure, if something like that is easy to deal with for everybody?

Also, people tend to connect the critical and pessimistic views with intelligence. At least compared to the optimistic ones.

Intelligence

Which bring me to my next point, which is about intelligence. Neil Stephenson did say in his book:

The difference between stupid and intelligent people is that intelligent people can handle subtlety.

Gottfredson talks about how different aptitude learner (so people different by IQ levels) have different learning types. People with lower aptitude do better in highly structured, detailed, concrete and contextualized instruction, which is dysfunctional for high aptitude learners. But on the other hand, the abstract, self-directed, incomplete instruction, favored by high aptitude people is dysfunctional for the low aptitude ones.

Ignoring the interesting face, that nobody is good at anything, the usage of different disciplines does sees something that is not very contextualized, or concrete, and it is not something that can be structurally used, even if it could be structurally learned. So, I am wondering, if this is something, that also more helps some specific types of people and not the other.

Imitators

It is also not a strategy, that is easily imitated. After all, a strategy that involves different kinds of thinking each time is not something that can be though in a month. And I have reads in at least two different articles. One of the reasons could be, that imitators lack this specific type of thinking. I mean, creativity is supposed to be connecting idea in a new way. Imagine what it would be like to connect different thinking types in a new way? Maybe because, when people imitate the solutions, they are generally only imitating the solution, not the process, by which the solution came forth.

So is an advance. I guess this is why I have saved the following quote (which will now be saved in this blog post). You can ignore a bit of Ayn Rand's vibes, that at least I get from it:

For the true source of wealth is not brute labor, or even what you might call brute capital, but the mind. The mind creates new technologies, new products, new business models, new productivity enhancements, in short everything that creates wealth.

What mind is?

Which bring me to my last point. It is important what we think about the mind, and as a cognitive scientist, I can look through it from different perspectives. But I think better that my arguments, at two quotes from Lakoff, which I will present here, as the finish:

Our ideas about how the human mind should be employed depends on our idea of what human mind is.

And another one:

How we understand the mind matters for what we value in ourselves and others – for education, for research and most important, for what counts as a human way to live and act.

(And maybe I am also getting the hang of this philosophy stuff as well. If nothing else, putting random quotes and doing short comments about this was how my last philosophy professor – for philosophy of AI class, was running his whole class. Also, there was a presentation on the last conference I attended that was like that as well. Though my philosophy professors in Vienna were different when lecturing, in a lot more positive way – though even then the things on the handouts were again – quotes :) ).