Winds of Change: Days 153-155

I finally came to the conclusion that I’m running away from accountability partner. And I don’t have a cooking clue why. We were supposed to talk on Friday (Day 154) during lunch time, but something came up. So we’ll speak on Monday.

On Thursday (Day 153), I mostly read up on the theoretical framework within which our publication (at work) functions. I had a difficult time expanding my view of science since I am trained in the hard sciences. Our framework at work involves communication science. It was fun. I got some concrete definitions for some of the abstract concepts I struggled to understand or explain satisfactorily.

On Friday, I asked for help with my academic study where I faced a data processing problem. The postdoc students in the lab on campus (not work) gave me a clue. This helped me get and understand the answer.

Assumptions, Worldview

Upon analysing the direction they pointed me in, I realised just how powerful assumptions are. When I started my fourth and final undergraduate year (according to the American system), the lecturer of the practical course said that we must not make assumptions since these influence our interpretation of data.

But, the funny thing is: assumptions shape our worldview. We will never reach the point where we have no assumptions. Even though her advice was given in the science realm, it’s applicable to all aspects of life. In science though, and especially in my field of research, simplifying assumptions are needed in order to understand the behaviour of the organisms or compounds you study. Why? Life is just too complex.

So, our lives are shaped by our assumptions. Our assumptions produce our worldview.

People like saying that we should “think out of the box”. It’s a catch phrase, a buzz “word”. We all understand it to imply creative and/or innovative thinking that breaks with convention. But, is that what it really is? Do we ever “think out of the box”? Don’t we just operate in a bigger box where there are less assumptions when “think out of the box”? Aren’t the operating assumptions of people who think out of the box just different from their society’s conventions?

For example, say I was born in India, lived there till I was five years old. At five years of age, my family and I moved to Germany where I attended school until age 16. At which point we moved to America where I still live. If this were the case, my worldview would be totally different from those of my cousins back home in India because of the experiences I had and the exposure to different cultures and ways of thinking. My operating assumptions would be completely different from my cousins who have never travelled before. And in America and Germany, I would also think out of the box because my history, guiding principles and assumptions were different.

So, what makes you “think out of the box”? Learning. That’s the only way. We are taught to think, and therefore stay, in the confines of respective societies’ and cultures’ boxes. These define who are (supposed to be) to a great extent. Yet the only way to unlearn these conventional ways of thinking is by learning new ways of thinking. That can either happen through books, articles, and other publications, or through experience.

I can see a number of exceptions to what I wrote above which records where my thoughts are on this subject at this moment in time.

Discussion questions. What are your thoughts? Do you think I’m right? Do you see any “special” cases? Care to share?

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