The Conspiracy Against Thinking

With the advent of ChatGTP humanity has reached two peaks.

The first peak is the perfection of systems to access complete and accurate knowledge. This process started more than 5.000 years ago in ancient Sumer, with clay tablets recording the first business transactions. It led to more and more advanced storage of information, from books to libraries, and from the internet to AI. It heralded a shift from information access, to information use.

It also birthed the second peak: More advanced systems to access and interpret information, has led to more and more decision making being outsourced. Think of Enterprise Resource Systems such as SAP, or stock trading algorithms widely used on Wall Street.

Wouldn’t it be great of we use the newly available thinking energy to think about even more useful stuff?  Alas, the opposite is often true. For example, more available business data has led to more KPI’s and more meetings about KPI’s.

Since it seems that every single new innovation is now aimed at reducing human thinking, I call this the conspiracy against thinking.

Instead of using our brains to engage in deep thinking, we are creating an environment to further shield it from dealing with uncertainty, ambiguity and complexity. Smart systems now either tell us what to do, or simply decide to do it for us.

The risk is that we slowly unlearn how to think. This, of course, makes us fragile and unable to deal with the next crisis.

Here is the antidote: Deliberately introduce shocks to a well-oiled system. Think of a leadership meeting without KPI dashboard, serving a client order without an SAP system, or doing an executive presentation without slides. In this way, you force yourself and your team to step up and think again.

Unexpected challenges are a wonderful way to insource thinking and exercise the mind.


Harvey Opps
August 22, 2023 at 3:12 pm

Yes, common sense, not too common. Thinking, a subject rarely taught after kindergarten!
Critical thinking, if it were rampant in the US population, current politicians would be afraid to run for public office.

    Paul Rulkens
    August 22, 2023 at 5:41 pm

    Well said, Harvey!

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