Thursday, January 26, 2017

Lost and found

Most of us have spent time looking for something we needed to locate. Be it the car keys, that important paper or something else we urgently need.

Sooner or later that lost thing often turns up. With a bit of luck before the opportunity where the thing that is lost is needed.

In order to find the lost item fast enough most of us applies some kind of search, be it structured or more unstructured.

And everytime we search that lost thing is located in the last place we would search.

Naturally it is. Why would we look any further once we found what we are looking for? That wouldn't be rational.

We stop looking when we find the solution to the problem. That is the rational thing to do. But it is also a problem. Sometimes it is even "the problem". It might even be an irrational thing to do.

If you have a problem that needs a solution, it is very easy to stop looking when you find the solution. But likely you haven't found the solution, just a solution.

How do you know that there's a better solution, if you just keep looking? The problem is that you don't, so it wouldn't be rational to continue looking. But think again, compare with your experience from the past. How many times have you, sooner or later, identified a better solution after a while?

So how long should you then keep looking?

In the case of a simple problem like the car keys, the answer is obvious (or at least seems obvious). But there might be an other type of answer, and in order to identify that we return to the time before you found the car keys, or a solution to whatever type of problem you try to solve.

What thoughts went through your mind at that point in time?  Perhaps thoughts like "where did I (mis)place the keys?", "when did I see them last?" or even "who took my keys!?".

Or did you search for the solution (sorry, the car keys) while at the same time looking for an alternative solution? "If I do not find the car keys I need to take the bus, and in that case I need to stop searching in 45 mins and instead walks to the bus station." Or "if I do not find the car keys I can call my friend and ask for a ride".

If you continiously look for altetrnative solutions some magic starts to happen.
  • You will likely find an alternative solution before you find the car keys.
  • When you have a backup, alternative solution, you are not as stressed for finding the expected solution (the car keys).
  • And, in the general case, you realize that the expected solution is just one alternative solution among others, some of which known now, some of which will emerge in the future.
This is a liberating experience. And mind-blowing. It's the solution to all problems ;-)

(Some might draw the parallel to "parallel computing", or even with phenomena like quantum physics and Schroedinger's cat - but that's up to you. Just be careful, it might lead into a parallel universe or a higher dimension!)

So, next time you found what you where looking for, keep looking. You should constantly look for things. And at the same time you always will have an alternative solution ready.

Now, where are those car keys..?

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