@ Supply Chain Management


Imagining the tenth dimension (Or thinking out of the box?)

Sometimes I wonder if it is fair for me to pick on a teenager’s inability to manipulate numbers. After all, I have the advantage of double their years to have it figured out. Well, then I am reminded that this is something that is commonly observable human nature. It is one thing not to know simple math, it is another thing to disdain any attempt to point out simple/simpler ways of being effective at simple math, it is another thing to argue utter nonsense in order to make the problem go away and yet another thing to acknowledge one’s ignorance or mistake and correct it. Various actors in my previous post display these characteristics and its opposites to varying extents (Before thinking out of the box, How about thinking in the box?)
My humble point is this – that the purpose of education should be to teach thoroughly the simple abstractions that are necessary for life, plant the curiosity for digging up facts and the human values that integrate these abstractions and facts in a coherent way. If there is a fact of life, it is that humans make mistakes with all sorts of combinations of abstractions and in order to make the world work, one must be willing to repair the effects of our errors. Ofcourse, one must be able to discover these errors in the first place.
There is a frequent observation that I have made during the course of my life – a paradox. It goes this way…
All school children are taught elements of grammar during their education. Well, at least, that was the way it used to be. I wonder if today, the authorities have dispensed with the need for learning grammar (segments of the creative arts have definitely abandoned any notion of grammar). However, if you read the great authors/speech writers etc, you would find that they frequently flout the rules of grammar. While grammar is essential to communication or the communication of ideas, particularily compelling ideas conveyed in improper grammar are still compelling enough to forgive the author’s ungrammatical ways. Or simply put, while grammar is essential to clear communication, sometimes the communication is quite clear despite wrong grammar. So why bother about grammar at all? Let’s just make it up as we go. Clearly, this is not going to work. This, I believe, is the motivation behind the pithy phrase – Rules are made to be broken. It could very well be that these rules are man-made rules but that is not the (right) reason why they’re broken, they’re broken because something more compelling is at hand even if the rule has to be broken in order to get at the result. Of course, this is the dynamic between revolution and orthodoxy – while a rigid orthodoxy is often stifling, endless revolution approaches chaos. The way through, the historical observation, is treading the middle ground or meandering in the middle.

So what does all this have to do with thinking in the box and thinking out of the box?
I’m proposing something of the sort that in order to be able to think out of the box, one must be sufficiently schooled within the box i.e. to know the box, what it entails, what parts of it are really unalterable natural laws and what parts of it are statistically observed behavioral laws and what parts of it are merely conventions that have become embedded and gives the appearance of orthodoxy.
One of the readily appropriated outcomes of this type of thinking is to cross-pollinate between different and diverse fields, drawing insights and abstractions together and applying them to the problem at hand.
In that vein, consider the following presentation that I found simply fascinating and irresistibly clear in conveying what is essentially a set of abstractions about reality (or in actuality, a possible reality just based on logical possibilities). Its a presentation called – Imagining the Tenth Dimension, a visualization by Rob Bryanton (See his blog here).
Now, that is a version of thinking out of the box for some (other than theoretical physicists and mathematicians) but a sort of orthodoxy for others. The takeaway for me was how to structure one’s thinking when it comes to explaining something quite outlandish as ten dimensional reality. More importantly, why should anyone care about something like this?
And that’s why its important to think outside the box, read widely while working focused – another paradox.

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Category: Personal Observations


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January 2007