Collapsing Moments. Failure-driven Debugging of Intuition

by Regine Heidorn, Bit-Boutique®.

[Original German Post]

In our consciousness of the everyday grind we are mostly aware of thoughts, feelings and actions for a moment or a longer timespan like days or weeks. We try to do the Right Thing™ at the Right Time™ to keep us in a flow to reach our goals. Frequent self-reflection on this consciousness enables us to tell if we have managed to do right.

I am using the terms right or good though they are not easily defined without getting in a mess of philosophical ethics and morality. Since I am speaking about intuition and failure in our biographies, I prefer to stay on a more subject-related level. Feel free to fill good and right with your own content. In case you don’t believe in these categories at all or don’t value them somehow: they are not playing a really important role in this post.

The reflections by ourselves can be integrated into our daily routines by using our intuition, helping us to improve flow, communication and collaboration. Intuitive processes as a break to sense and consider can be triggered by the will to improve, by doubt or – even worse – by failure. The trigger might just be a gap in perception – something bringing us out of flow, a millisecond of uncertainty, fear, the feeling of something being wrong for whatever reason.

Intuition itself is a process of resonance, in the musical creative meaning of the word. It is a feedback with an open ending, maybe even without a rhythm. We do not know where it will bring us, it is an unintentional process of resonating. In this sense it can become part of the flow. Flow is not only about nice or positive things happening and is not a tool to make us happy. Flow is the river that wants to become part of the ocean; the force of the stream moving us forward towards our draft of our own future.

Flow connects us with ourselves and others. Balance makes us walk, let ourselves go. Each step we’re doing is an act of balance on one leg. Resonance, oscillation becomes the rhythm, helping us to lose fears and become used to collapsing moments of crisis. Breathing out, breathing in – ebb and flow of the soul.

As intuition is an unintentional process it is beyond our control. It is an infringement on rationality, the mind and algorithms. It cannot be limited in time. As a process, intuition is a guessed understanding and can be seen as the anticipation of complex circumstances. It needs distance, exchange, verbalization and sleep as a space for the unconscious to unfold. The process can lead us to decisions that can be right. But it might also happen that it leads us to mistakes or failure.

Let’s think of failure as a strong force pointing out our perception gaps or cognitive dissonances. As long as everything is running as expected according to habits and patterns – how can innovation or improvement happen? Of course we do not need to innovate and improve everything all the time. But we can start relying on doubt, disappointment and failure as strong forces pointing out the need for change.

So how can failure be used to debug our intuition in collapsing moments? First of all failure-driven debugging is based on the willingness to fall into the complexity of the moment. Without a safety net or backup, running the risk of encountering collapsing moments with everything they might contain: past memories, future prospects, feelings, dreams, knowledge, learnings, thoughts, dear people, cravings, moving, experiences, infractions, loneliness, tears, perceptions, fears, scars, reflections, patterns and habits. With all senses wide open to create as much awareness as possible.

Debugging itself, as I see it as a programmer, is the provocation of a system for bugs, mistakes, failures. In that state of awareness for the moment, circumstances can be provoked to reproduce failure. Only trust the facts you have been provoking yourself. Find out where you are standing and what you have to deal with: rather disabling patterns from the past? Craving for something new? Not enough information to make a decision? Too many tears, too much fear to move on? Time needed to unite your emotions and rational mind into a good rhythm again?

Intuition also is bound to patterns, they will be revealed in the decisions anticipated in the process – rational thought and mind strive for security. But that might be misleading if disappointment, anger, fears or tears are not allowed to unfold with all their potential. In living through all conditions and achings chances are best to finally gain a clear understanding of the situation. It is about sharpening reflexes in being able to bear failure as part of the flow.

Not only is intuition, but also failure, beyond any control – what might be circumstances to foster failure-driven debugging of intuition? Being beyond control points to trust. Trust in ourselves to go through distressing processes even if they might end in failure. Trust to open ourselves towards others in a transparent way even if there might be a risk of disrespect or misunderstanding. There might as well be the risk of understanding and empathy as an answer to transparency – let’s see how that could work.

Empathy can be a key feature when it comes to understanding and trust. Basically it is about the capacity to recognize feelings that are being experienced by another sentient being. In neuroscience the explanation for that capacity seems to be the so called mirror neurons which fire when we observe an action by others or do that action ourselves – for example they make us feel athletic when we watch sports on TV.

So our brain enables us to interact with others in an emphatic way simply by imitating what is happening around us. That doesn’t mean that we can understand what happens around us. Or that we agree with it. But it means that we are connected to each other if we like it or not. So when it comes to transparent failure the interaction can be based on the emphatic understanding that human beings are connected in their ability to fail.

So rather than being afraid of failure it can be an opportunity to discover limits and blind spots. Failure can help us in debugging collapsing moments by provoking the circumstances. And we are able to share the knowledge gained in that process.

In our consciousness of the everyday grind we are mostly aware of thoughts, feelings and actions for a moment or a longer timespan like days or weeks. Let’s consider our rationality a stable tool to rely on. It is based on control and might break in case of doubt, mistake or failure. Control is a non-scaling tool, it only fits for certain circumstances provided by the pretended safety of rationality. A lot of energy is needed to keep controling systems up and running, including the repression of all its potential for doubt, mistake and failure.

Doubt, mistake and failure are an infringement on control, as is intuition, trust and empathy. In being unintentional they become flexible tools, that do not break but strengthen the capability to bear collapsing moments. Their flexibility makes them scalable: we can use our intuition to foster emphatic trusted environments. These environments are temporary and complex, so let your mirror neurons do the work. Foster empathy in not coming too close and not staying too far. Trust can develop in nearfield longterm relations.

The more we are able to bear collapsing moments the less we need to control others. Control can be considered harmful in a sneaky way, as it pretends safety on the cost of repression. And think of all the harmful behaviour needed to keep the illusion of being in control: passive-agressiveness, patronizing communications, ruthless lies to blow up egos, collecting data out of context that only reflect moments of rapidly changing identities. Experience teaches us that we can open up as much as we know the cost for repression. And we learn about the prices in doubting, mistaking and failing.

Author: Joerg Blumtritt

Joerg Blumtritt (*1970) is data scientist and blogger. He co-founded the companies Datarella and BAYDUINO, based in Munich, Germany, and Baltic Data Science in Gdansk, Poland. Datarella develops data-driven products for the Internet of Things, BDS delivers data-science-as-a-service, BAYDUINO builds open source hardware. Before that, Joerg had worked for media companies in Europe and the US. Having graduated in statistics and political sciences with a thesis on machine learning, Joerg started as a researcher in behavioral sciences, focused on nonverbal communication. As political activist and researcher, Joerg works on projects regarding future democratic participation and open source IoT. He is co-author of the Slow Media Manifesto and blogs about media and art at slow-media.net, about data and the future of social research at beautifuldata.net, and about the IoT at datarella.com.

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