Using Your Brain Without Thinking
What does it mean to use your brain? And how is that different than just thinking? As developers engage in thinking all the time but here's a entirely separate part of our brains that we might be missing out on using. That could be better at solving some of the problems that we face on a day-to-day basis. My Name is Jonathan trailer listening to develop for T and my goal on the show helped driven developers like you find clarity perspective and purpose in their careers. One of the amazing things about the. Human. Brain. Is Its ability to process complex topics. This is why we can write code that is abstracted so many levels. Away, from a physical reality that we have to tangibly think about. We can imagine entire. Kind of universes where we can create stories and. keep track of those stories while we read a book. A book that was written with a bunch of characters that are enough themselves abstractions. These are characters that we may not have ever even seen that specific character that specific size before. But somehow we are able to process all of this information and create meaning out of it. This is an incredible feat and part of our kind of intellectual superiority that we are aware of the domination that we have over the world around us. Has Given us. A somewhat distorted picture of what the brain is actually capable of more importantly where the limits are. And it's very simple to see the limits of your brain and specifically limits that we're gonNA talk about today. If you want to test these limits you can. Try to brute force memorize the first twenty digits of Pi. This isn't a lot of information. It's just twenty digits in after all we can process a lot more. Information than just twenty digits, we can read entire books with thousands of pages and understand them. So what is it about remembering twenty digits? Makes it difficult? Here's another exercising might want to try. that. You've probably faced already in your career, go and look at the features of what say three or four different libraries, popular libraries or three or four different languages and try to decide which one is best. This kind of information that you have to process. It's really difficult to do because the number of variables and that's the critical factor for today's episode, the number of variables that you have to weigh against each other. Can Be really large temper variables. You can imagine for example. That you're trying to deduce which which language should you learn next let's say you're a beginner programmer and maybe you're trying to decide which language to learn. You can use variables like the market size. You can try to quantify how much you enjoy that language or. Even how much you expect to enjoy it in the future, you can imagine you would use measures like the number of available repositories on get hub or get hubs own report of the trends for a given language. How do you decide what trend to use or how far back to look? These are all different questions they you would have to try to answer and then compare between the different languages. And so now you have this very large list of pros and cons and. You sit down and try to look over that information, but this is. Where we hit our limit. Our ability to cognitively process or think about something on purpose. We only have so much capacity to think in parallel. This is critical factor remember again, the number of variables were very good about thinking about one thing. At a time. In fact, most of the advice that you receive on this podcast is an attempt to get you to think about fewer things at any given point in time and reduce the things that you are working on to the simplest form. So you don't have to keep a lot of information in your head. But if you are trying to make a decision complex decision with a lot of variables. There is another part of our brains we can tap into what's interesting is that as knowledge workers, we are paid for using this one specific part of our brain, this prefrontal CORTEX. The part that's responsible for thinking very deeply and thinking very focused manner. But. There's another part of our brains that can help us think more abstractly. And without the same limits of the cognitive processing limits, the would find in the prefrontal CORTEX. Lots of studies. For example, one from Carnegie Mellon support the idea that the rest of our brain is working on the problem. In parallel to us focusing on other things. For example. If you expose yourself to all of the information about the various programming languages that you're considering let's say you have four of them. Then you can go and do something totally unrelated to that. Your going to keep on working on that decision problem. Now, we're not really consciously aware of this and there's no way to become aware of it but once we return to that problem at a later point in time we may have a different sense of clarity and we might even have. We might feel is a gut intuition, but actually it's an intuition that was given to us by that unconscious processing that's happening in the rest of our brain. So. Here's the critical thing to to take away I. We said the the most critical thing is to remember that this has to do with the number of variable. So if you can reduce the number of variables that you're thinking about, then you can actually process those entirely in that prefrontal. CORTEX. For example, if you're working on a math problem, this is a perfect example of processing in the prefrontal. CORTEX. But if you're working on something that requires much more evaluation much further a can of discussion about multiple variables or a comparison between multiple things, and that's not something that you're going to be able to hold in your prefrontal Cortex, the working memory for of a better explanations too small. So the prescription to fix this problem is to expose yourself to the information all the relevant information for making a given decision and then go and do something else. Maybe take a walk give yourself something that's totally unrelated that won't allow your mind drift backing and try to process that information again, on purpose in that intentional and conscious way.