Thoughts on “Intuition” for @JohnPurkiss

Here we go. Hope they are useful.

  • Intuition is key to solve any complex problem – the human brain is not adapted to finding solutions by applying rules and (natural) laws.
  • Maybe one can think of intuition as a high-level road map that helps the brain navigate those rules and laws
  • Intuition is often wrong, which is why it is key to follow rules and laws to assert the validity of the result that has been achieved by intuition
  • A prime example for this is mathematics and physics. Especially theoretical physicists (the good ones at least) know many of the answers before they start looking at a problem in detail. It can then take years though (and even more man-years) to use the “pedestrian tools” of the mathematical and physical formalism to arrive at the solution – if it is ever found.
  • Intuition does not come easily. It is built up by exposing the brain over and over to similar events so that it can recognise patterns – this is hard work. This is also where it can go wrong, as those patterns can mean that correlation is mistaken for causality, or, even worse, that an incomplete dataset containing spurious correlations is used as a basis for the intuition, which leads to seeing patterns where there are none
  • Might be worth putting intuition in the context of the cognitive biases as this is where it often goes wrong
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