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Unread September 17th, 2006, 02:23 AM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 174
Arrow Reasoning vs. its discontents

I'm just a consultant, not some great scientist or pundit. I probably have a selective view of the topic since it is a professional specialty of mine to apply systematic methods to locate and solve real world problems in business processes and computer systems. I can tell you truly from hard experience that rational methods, along with expertise and experience, can take at least some people a long way to solving real problems that other people using "emotional" or "irrational" or "intuitive" methods have repeatedly failed at solving. I guess I think those "talented exceptions" are very important.

One of the reasons people hire me is that most people don't understand the basic tools of science and mathematics well enough to use them effectively. They have "theories" (guesses) rather than skills and tools for investigation. Amazingly, in most cases no one has actually tested their theories yet when I come in, only argued for their various theories. By the time I am called in on a problem, they have acted on two or three wrong "theories" and now are in a crisis. They will then pay big bucks to actually solve the problem rather than waste more time and money chasing competing guesses. The first thing I usually do is go back and look at the problem without the benefit of all the theories, and at first they think I'm crazy. But then the data reveals its own hidden story, if I've identified the right place to start looking. I'm just using the basic tools of pattern recognition and reasoning built into us, and extended through mathematics and applied common sense. That's all a "scientific method" involves in practice. Using our built-in tools well. I think that's all we mean by "rationality" in practice, if you strip away all of the ideological baggage.

I don't use "emotion" or "irrationality" to locate the source of an error or determine whether a particular action had a particular effect (that's what got them into the crisis in the first place), I make observations, get impressions from experience, then build an appropriate instrument, gather evidence, and analyze it. And the point is, this is very often domain-general impressions. I am usually not an expert in the situation where the problem is happening, I have domain-general problem solving skills and expertise in a narrow range of things.

If that's not applying a rational method, we must be using the term differently.

kind regards,

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