The Value of Not Thinking

I try to think as little as possible. Humans are bad at thinking. I think a lot, but I actively think about how to think as little as possible.

One of the key tenets of computer science is abstraction. Modern programmers don't think in terms of 0s and 1s. They think in terms of objects and relational models. Each of those objects and models may translate into millions, perhaps billions, of 0s and 1s. No one can possibly think through all of those low level details every time they think about a programming problem. Luckily, they don't have to. Our programming forefathers abstracted that complexity away so that modern programmers can spend their time solving more important problems.

That is just one example of not thinking. But there are infinite more. In particular, I like to setup structures and processes in my life so that I don't have to think. Once I setup a process that removes a layer of thinking, I can either turn off my brain and let it rest (the brain is a muscle, and needs rest) or devote that time elsewhere.

A few examples in my life:

Alfred, and the resurgence of the command line UI

Pre-packed travel bag, including toiletries, chargers, and adapters

Rubik's Cube algorithms - it would be impossible to solve a cube in 30 seconds if I had to think about how the algorithms work. I just know that they do, and spin upwards of 10 spins/second knowing that my algorithms will work.

Of course, there are many examples that we take for granted in our daily lives. We don't have to think about how car or plane engines function when traveling; we don't have to think about the structural integrity of a building before walking inside. We can take for granted millions of little details in life that our ancestors could not. And that's why we're so much more advanced than they are. We don't have to expend any mental energy, physical energy, or time to accomplish what used to take enormous amounts of all 3 of the above. And because of that, we can focus on other problems.

I think this can be summed up in a Persian proverb that my Father tells me. Translated into English: "You can't think on an empty stomach."