TED Conversations


This conversation is closed.

Can we train our intuition to be more effective at solving problems?

Seventeen years ago I wrote an article called, "Communal Blind Spot Theory". In that article it was my experience that in every discipline I have studied there are collective oversights i.e. communal blind spots.

Think of an individual blind spot as you not seeing a glass of water on the kitchen counter in plain sight. Now imagine 1000 people going into the kitchen not seeing that glass of water on the counter.

Can we train our intuition to see through those blind spots?

We speak of a woman's intuitiion. What do we mean? Do we mean a woman feeling uneasy about entering an elevator with a single man inside? Do we mean a brilliant research scientist who has a strong "gut" reaction about one aspect of her studies? Clearly these are two entirely different aspects of a "woman's intuition".

Here is a cook book recipe to use intuition as a research tool. It is argued here that an intuitive view of reality is every bit as valid as a logical and factual view of reality. Thus it is only when my intuition agrees with the facts and logic that I view this as useful knowledge.

Here is how it works in practice. Suppose I have a strong gut reaction that a particular enzyme impacts on a specific gene and this results in an elevated rate of breast cancer. I test this hypothesis and get a null result but my gut tells me that the results are not consistent with my intuition.

Do I walk away from my intuition? According to my theories, no. You run the experiment weeks or months later to try to confirm the earlier results. If you get a null result, then you walk away for another few months. Next time you tweak the experiment say changing the temperature or PH slightly and run the experiment again. If you get a null result yet your intuition remains fixed, you tweak the experiment again.

Clearly this is not possible in the real world; if you were to run the same experiments again and again with null results you won't get funding, but it is critical to finding paradigm shifts.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Nov 23 2012: Re :
    Benoit Mandlebrot, the founder of chaos theory in Gleick' book on chaos said that he used to "construct" his intuition with the "usual tools, the hand, the pencil and the ruler."
    Maybe it means, that to train/construct intuition we should be truly attentive to our experiences, whatever they are. If information is not here , it is nowhere else.
    "the hand, the pencil and the ruler" and Mandelbrot set itself embody the same principle: everything ( all things that seem unrelated ) everywhere are doing the same thing ... infinitely. Or each process of the Whole is the Whole. According to the holographic principle A is not simply connected with B , A is B.
    I hope, this makes sense .
    • Nov 23 2012: Hi Natasha!

      I don't know if I really follow you. Would you be more expansive?
      • Nov 23 2012: Frankly , i have no idea, how intuition can be trained but it works, i guess, by the virtue of the law of correspondence ; intuition is connecting the dots.
        Do you like Zen koans ? A simple story is told with simple language and someone gets enlightened in the end.
        As for the Mandelbrot set , it is a kind of Logos ( visual language ) ; no words no ambiguity here, you see how it is happening/unfolding , you get to know what quantum entanglement means, ' the center is everywhere '. All millennia of evolution behind ' the hand ' ' the pen ' and 'the ruler' come to the moment 'now' to create a line or... whatever and ' the hand, the pen, and the ruler ' alongside with all millennia behind them are doing the same thing with different means the same thing at the moment 'now'
        Sorry, i have serious doubts that it is helpful :) If something comes to my mind that can be more helpful i will come to the page.
        Actually, " one moment holds eternity " or ' to see infinity in the grain of sand " can serve as a soundtrack to M. set, it's all about the same.
        And of course , hermetic " as above so bellow ".
        • Nov 23 2012: I think I understand you---connecting the dots is my specialty i.e. seeing patterns and associations no one else sees. These are what I call communal blind spots and they are present in every discipline I've studied. How does this relate to your 'now'?
      • Nov 23 2012: Time is a 'thing' that keeps everything from happening at once and it is an illusion of the mind , not intrinsic property of the universe. So, remove Time from the picture and you'll get ' now' which is not even a moment ; eternity has no duration at all it's where time stops and all dots are connected into one. Space which is the distance between the observer and the observed is no more ; observer becomes the observed at ' now' . No wonder, you can't describe that experience, because language is Time , it is structured in 'before- after ' fashion and serves the mind which can function only in time.
        Some people can experience such moments of altered consciousness and i believe that they do, but i can't, maybe i am too grounded person and thinking addict, but some approximation is possible via intuition. All points start to converge around one point, opposites resonate and start to complement to each other , you may come up with a paradox , but you don't see it as a paradox you understand that it is the truest truth your mind can possibly get.
        " To be conscious is not to be in time " T.S. Eliot ...and not to be in mind , but at 'now' , but at now the very ' to be' doesn't make sense :)

        Richard, what is your speciality ?
        " seeing patterns and associations no one else sees." !
        • Nov 23 2012: So---if a universe comes into existence and there is no one to observe it, does it exist? Does 'now' exist for such a universe?
      • Nov 23 2012: It is not languagable; 'now ' does not exist for mind. The only way is to open your mind to the great ' who knows ? " :)

        On the second thought, " Does 'now' exist for such a universe?'
        'Yes' and 'no'
        " there is no dance, there is only the dance "
        " now' does not belong to the observable universe ( the universe as we perceive it ), and it is self evident, only ' now' is real.
        When confronted with paradox , the trick is not to push the system to closure, but leave it open. Intuitively you can feel that it is the way it is .
      • Nov 23 2012: Some of the difficulties associated with analysis of time are discussed by physicist David Bohm in his book Wholeness and the Implicate Order .
        I haven't read the book, not yet, but i will when i get it; I think, Bohm is the leading theorist on this and related topics.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.