Sunday, January 26, 2014

A little Motivation

Not essential to deduction, but great motivation.

Proof of Concept

On the weekends, I work nights at a hotel near the university. Last night, I checked in a guest who, other than being a tad irritated about the price, seemed very normal, and thus I promptly forgot about him. Let's call him Mr. Forgettable.
A few minutes later, I began assisting a second guest by giving him access to our business center. Out of the corner of my eye, barely even registering on a conscious level, I see none other than Mr. Forgettable walk up to the door leading to the fitness center and pool area, bags in hand, then turn around, walk towards me, and say the following phrase: "So when does the fitness center open up?"
At this point I, after making a quick (and very trivial) deduction, responded with: "The fitness center is open 24 hours, and that is a 'push' door." He grinned sheepishly, then chalked it up to being tired and went up to his room.
It is at this point I'd like to attempt to explain my thought process - not because I don't think you understand, but because the point of my exercises has been to practice observation and deduction, and I think this is a fitting (albeit simple) example. Despite my best efforts to keep this simple, it's going to sound a lot more complicated than it really is.
What I Know:
- The fitness center is always open.
- The door he was standing at is a push door, and cannot be locked.
- That door is not the door to the fitness center, merely the hallway by which it is accessed.
- The door is a large glass one with a wooden frame, through which the fitness center can be seen.
- The hours of the fitness center are posted on its window, but cannot be read from behind the glass hallway door (bad angle).

What I Observe:
- His goal is to determine the hours of the fitness center (based on his asking the question).
- He stands in front of the door for a period of time, able to see the fitness center through it (peripheral vision).
-He knows I work at the hotel (the fact that he asked me at all/ I checked him in).

What I Deduce:
- He would rather figure out the answer to his question than ask me, given the chance. He knows I work at the Hotel. But, he walked past me to the door of the hallway and stood there, presumably looking at the fitness center, before trying his luck with me. From this, we can deduce that his standing there contributed to his effort to answer his question.
- Something about his perception of the situation is incorrect, otherwise he would have been able to arrive at the conclusion that the fitness center is always open, or at least that it is open now.
So now, take a step back and consider the question: What could have been incorrect in his perception of the situation? Or perhaps a better question: Where did the error take place?
Which brings me to the door. The error had to have taken place when he reached the hallway door. Otherwise, he would have walked through, read the sign on the fitness center window, and answered the question without my help.
Now for the final bit. What error is responsible for a person not being able to walk through a doorway? The door not opening. And what is the most common reason a person would be unable to open an unlocked door?
"...and that is a 'push' door."

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Introduction (part 2)

My Methods

Over the course of this experiment, I will be designing my own training regimen which will emphasize the three main traits of Holmes' incredible abilities:

1) Observation - Every person has details that make them different. The goal for this exercise will be to observe at least three details per person which make them unique (different colored socks, strange earrings, even something as small as ink smudges on a hand or fingernail cleanliness). Areas of particular interest include wrists and shoes. As a next level, play a game with yourself whenever you're bored. Find the most interesting detail about every person in the room. Have all of the people in the room "compete" in your head for the title of most-interesting.

2) Deduction - The science of deduction, like chicken sexing (look it up), requires a very special kind of practice. It's not enough to go through the motions of adding up information and coming to conclusions - you need to know you if are right. For this exercise, find a proposition (in the logical sense) that you know to be true - I'll say it again, something that you ALREADY KNOW. Your challenge: prove it in as many ways as you can. For example, say you know that your roommate was the last one to open the fridge. You may come to this conclusion by observing that his juice is now in front of yours, or even that it is slightly warmer than yours. If you get very good, you may even be able to deduce that the bowl into which he poured his cereal is sitting in the sink, meaning that he not only opened the fridge, but that he used your milk.

3) Memory - Over the course of Sherlock Holmes' adventures, he makes a habit of pulling useful information seemingly out of nowhere, and utilizing it to finish the case on which he is currently working. The reality is, of course, much cooler. He extracts all of the aforementioned information from HIS MIND. The truly brilliant thing about Holmes is not just his deductive reasoning, but his KNOWLEDGE. In order to function like Holmes does, without the need to look up other than the most obscure details, one must have a lot of background information from which to draw. In order to build this, I propose exercise number three. Whilst noticing your details and making your deductions, should you come across a detail that you believe might be useful at some point, write it down (Ex: "Wow, if I knew more about how a french press operates, I could determine just how new to their job this Starbucks employee is."). At your leisure, look over the list of things you wrote down - look them up. By far the most boring, and equally useful. As to committing the information you learn to memory, I have two words for you: Mind Palaces. But we'll get to that later.

If you have any questions regarding my methods, need more examples, or just want to share your input, feel free to leave a comment.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Introduction (Part 1)

Ladies and Gentlemen, as of now, I embark on an interesting journey. I will attempt to discover exactly what it takes to emulate Sherlock Holmes - the famous and nearly infallible detective immortalized by Arthur Conan Doyle's stories and many TV shows and movies since.

A little background:

There seems to be no reason (other than personal choice) why Holmes could not have been equally brilliant a criminal as a crime solver. Watson, the faithful doctor, even goes so far as to say this in Doyle's original work. Sherlock Holmes, even as a fictional character, is a fascinating person - a man with an extraordinary wealth of unusual knowledge, unparalleled deductive abilities, and a personality suggestive of sociopathy or psychopathy (depending on the representation), bipolar disorder, obsessive behavior, and problems with addiction. Any one of these traits would make for a fascinating subject of study, so it stands to reason that a person (even a fictional one) with all of them merits some study.

I see no reason why a person couldn't be trained to emulate the man. Setting aside the psychological disorders (for now), there are certain striking similarities between myself and Holmes which I plan to exploit in my endeavor to practice the science of deduction. The first trait is obsession. Anyone who knows me in any capacity will know what I mean by this. For those who do not, I have a tendency to do what is referred to as "hyper-focusing." This applies to my school, my hobbies, my work, and even my conversations. I home in on a specific element until it no longer requires my attention (meaning either that it is solved or it is no longer an issue). In addition, I tend to fluctuate in my moods between silent thinker and social performer in a very binary sense. We'll get into my suspicions of my psychological situation later on, but for now suffice it to say that I believe that I have the necessary basic components for a task such as this.

This is the first of two intro-posts. The second will be outlining my "methods," or habits which I will endeavor to practice for the duration of this experiment.

I will be posting as often as I can to update you, dear reader, on my adventures.