Thinking for Ourselves – First Principles Thinking

Human beings are great copiers.  We can see how society is setup, what the roles are, and aspire to be one of the roles.  There is nothing wrong with that, but society is moved forward by thinking differently.  To present a new idea, especially to a group that works in your topic requires vulnerability, brainwork, and courage.

Aristotle first came up with the idea of first principles as “the first basis from which a thing is known” to slice through poor analogies and false logic in something complex. 

Engineering / Making Things – How and why does this work? What can I create based on what I know? What technology is relevant to what I want to do?

People/Philosophy/Society/Politics/Story Telling/Art – How do I feel? What drives me? Why do I do things? What do I observe in those close to me? How do I feel about an emotional story like a book or movie?  Why are others attracted to a story where the protagonist faces fear and performs work for a dream? What feelings prevent me from doing the things I want to do?

Economy – An economy is a way to trade services between eachother.  There are many ways to setup an economy.  People don’t like change but if you want to think of the system what do you know is true? Over time productivity gradually increases from hard work by all. How is this increased wealth spread?  If the government pulls a lever what will happen?  Break down competition to its essence…ambition, livelihood, security with low friction on change. 

Cooking – What are these ingredients and cooking methods? What do they do? What can I create?  If I add this what happens?  If I change this what happens? How can I apply heat in different ways? What is the result?

Child rearing – How does a child think? What do you observe? What is your experience?  What do you want this child to learn?  How do we instill values in children? What kind of culture is needed? How do the needs of children differ?

There are endless opinions out there, but you don’t have to read them all or learn everything about society and its history to form opinions.  Just observe and think about the specific thing you are interested in.  If you present an idea and its proven wrong, now you know it’s wrong.

“Don’t just follow the trend.  You may have heard me say that it’s good to think in terms of the physics approach of first principles.  Which is, rather than reasoning by analogy, you boil things down to the most fundamental truths you can imagine and you reason up from there.”

-Elon Musk

Image References

Shutterstock / Leremy