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Mik Seljamaa 🇪🇪

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Mappers and Packers

Or at least, all this should be true. Unfortunately, we are descended from industrial and agrarian societies where one day was very much like another. Efficiency was dependent on getting everyone co-ordinated into simple group activities. On the other hand, there really wasn't much call for inventiveness. We developed social customs that teach people to stack knowledge packets and focus on action. Reflection (`daydreaming') is discouraged during early school. We observe children closely and note deviations from action-based behavioural norms with concern. One even hears parents who are concerned that their children may have physiological abnormalities if they do not wish to play a particular sport.

One cannot easily teach reflection to a child. Unlike the performance of a physically manifested task, subjective experience must be discussed.

One cannot easily ascertain if the reflection is proceeding well in a person. Only by careful discussion or watching the long-term results of a child's mentation can effective daydreaming be identified.

So there is nothing in our social history that motivates parents or teachers to teach reflection. There is nothing that makes teaching reflection in school a priority.

In fact, the reverse is true. When a child attempts to reflect, the consequent lack of manifest physical activity is chastised. When questions prompted by reflection are asked by children, they are rarely addressed by busy adults. Where reflection succeeds and understanding is gained, this can become a handicap to the child. If there are another fifteen simple addition sums to do, the child will become bored, be chastised, and labelled as incapable of performing the simple task, although nothing could be further from the truth.

Notice that although adults chastise different effects on each occasion, what the child has been doing in each case is reflecting. Many people have actually been conditioned to think that reflective thinking is, in itself, socially unacceptable!

The traditional story is that thinking is taught at universities, but with a whole degree course of thirty years ago packed into the first year of a modern course in most technical subjects, this rarely happens.

In the workplace, educated people are still regarded as able to think, and indeed all programmers must be able to do it to some extent, just to accomplish anything. We are the amongst the most reflective people in society, but we are still far from the homogeneous group. Some of us are better at it or less nervous about it than others. Again it is not taught, and with the workplace a part of the embedding society, the cultural environment often remains based on knowledge packets and action, rather than mental maps and understanding.

This leads to two distinct groups in society. Mappers predominantly adopt the cognitive strategy of populating and integrating mental maps, then reading off the solution to any particular problem. They quickly find methods for achieving their objectives by consulting their maps. Packers become adept at retaining large numbers or knowledge packets. Their singular objective is performing the correct' action. Strategies for resolvinghash collisions', where more than one action might fit a circumstance are \ad hoc.

Copyright (c) Alan G Carter and Colston Sanger 1997

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