Critical Thinking
Last update: 11.16.2012
   


People have told me, "You're a deep thinker. You should be a teacher."

All through my life, just about every job I've ever had has included some kind of "thinking". That's what my life has been about, and all in all...

I love problem solving: Figuring out things so that problems go away and life gets easier...
helping people solve problems or to helping them learn how to
observe events, analyze what happened, and out of that, solve problems.

--- what I call Critical Thinking.


I began blogging at current.com during 2009 and left less than a year later. I felt that there, consensus or agreement was more important and more highly valued than discussing alternative views. I found Linked-In some time after that and have participated in several White House Group blogs for many months. I've had some very "[flame on] discussions" with many other bloggers there because of my maverick views there, too..

Although many comments there are extremely intelligent and rational.

However [you knew that was coming, right?] I've had the feeling from both sites and the comments there that some key issues just never get addressed. I'd like to describe and discuss a few as examples here:

I used to work at Hewlett-Packard, and I held positions at several divisions, including the one in Sunnyvale, CA, which used to fabricate extremely complex, state-of-the-art PC boards for HP divisions.

Many dangerous and toxic chemicals were used on a continual basis there, and occasionally someone in the local media or neighborhood would pop up and express concern about the contamination of the Bay or the ground water or whatever, due to the amounts of water taken in, processed and discharged on a daily basis.

To me, the interesting result was that after every flag was raised, the results came back the same: HP's processing and cleaning facilities resulted in discharge water that was more pure than what was being taken in from the city supplies. HP was just that "moral" about what they did and how they did it. Today, people say "those days are past," and i think one of the key issues is to ask "why!?"

I think the answers are many and complex. and i certainly don't know or have many or "them all."

But I have noticed many things in recent years which seem to apply: first, the typical examples people cite, from TMI to Bhopal to Exxon Valdez... splashed all over the media as "the worst ever" and in short time withered and died as "more important issues" displaced them.

In the past several score years, the public seems to have been trained to sit up, bark and beg whenever the mass media holds out an "exciting" treat for them.

The mass media, and (as a result of other forces,) the public, have come to DEMAND instant solutions to whatever problem has erupted, and when they find out that the real issues are complex and take time to monitor, legislate or fix, their attention is drawn to whatever the next catastrophe is.

And the cycle is repeated endlessly.

My engineering training has led me to the observation that, over the past decade, too many people demand 100% safety from systems which are incapable of delivering 100% safety at any price, yet they still demand it. I believe it comes from a widespread ignorance of science and engineering concepts and thinking.

People gripe, "what use will I ever have for the algebra or calculus they shoved down my throat in high school or college? ... I'll never use it on a daily basis."

Nobody ever taught them how much they would or could use those arcane ideas. Nobody explained that no, you wouldn't be calculating the area of a sphere every day, but the thought processes that were being presented to you could be used, if you choose, to apply to virtually any problem that comes your way.

This led to my "operational definition" of Critical Thinking: "Critical Thinking is the search for and determination of the root cause(s) of a problem before a solution is proposed."

Look at how "issues" are handled today. First by the media , which has the overall attention span of a honeybee. Next, gurus demand instant, 100% safe solutions and decide which solutions they demand to be implemented, and they want them implemented yesterday, if not sooner, or the world will end.

It's called "catastrophizing" .... Yeah, maybe I made that word up ...

But virtually no one starts with "What happened? Why did it happen? What are all the things which caused the event to happen? Which things were under our control and which weren't? What parts of the event could we have predicted and which parts really did take us by surprise?

... and on and on.

Picking a "solution" or action plan which sounds good, warms the heart or tummy, but has no real scientific merit in terms of cause and effect. The "instant karma, give me the solution now" solution is often the wrong thing to do. And then we're trapped.

When the chosen solution doesn't work as we hoped or expected, we tend to turn up the volume of the solution and make it bigger, faster, louder and more expensive..... Even though it didn't work in the first place.

Also known as, "If throwing money at the problem didn't solve it, let's throw more money at the problem!


I hope you find the content of my site to be useful, interesting and even provocative.
If we're both lucky, things I write about may save you some nasty "first-hand learning experiences" in your lives.

By reading what I've written, you may look at problems differently and find your own answers and solutions easier and faster.

Basically, "I am here to Answer Your Questions and Question Your Answers."

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