Reality has a surprising amount of detail


I recently came across this blog post that I found very relevant to what we do at Cracking the Code:

The basic point here is that when you look at something (almost anything!) closely, there are more layers and greater complexity than you might expect.

He gives a good example with a construction project — what seems intuitively to be a simple job that can be diagrammed with a quick napkin sketch actually has tons of sub-steps and challenges.

And, importantly, these challenges won’t necessarily be encountered until you actually experience them. They’re hard to predict beforehand just from thinking about the problem / activity…they only come up when you’re actually engaged in the activity itself.

Good bit from this piece:

Again, you might think ‘So what? I guess things are complicated but I can just notice the details as I run into them; no need to think specifically about this’. And if you are doing things that are relatively simple, things that humanity has been doing for a long time, this is often true. But if you’re trying to do difficult things, things which are not known to be possible, it is not true.

The more difficult your mission, the more details there will be that are critical to understand for success.

You might hope that these surprising details are irrelevant to your mission, but not so. Some of them will end up being key…

You might also hope that the important details will be obvious when you run into them, but not so. Such details aren’t automatically visible, even when you’re directly running up against them. Things can just seem messy and noisy instead…

The proposed solution to this challenge is basically to seek out more detail, be intentionally observant. That seems like a good start though maybe can only get us so far.

So of course this made me think about challenges related to learning, whether guitar / music / other complex skills, and how there’s often a huge gap between conceptually understanding elements of technique, and being able to consistently implement them.

A large part of what we do is exposing the hidden details of technique that you otherwise wouldn’t notice. But another big challenge that we’re collectively working to solve, in part through things like #technique-critique here on the forum, is the actual “putting into practice” part of the equation.

Food for thought!


That’s really interesting, I spent some thoughts on that topic in the past, and I’m still not sure how to treat certain situations, at least theoritcally.
I started thinking about when I read a physics blog where someone was questioning if it isn’t about time to stop spreading lies to our children. He was referring to Einsteins theory (in it’s simplest form) and that we still teach summing up velocities eventhough we know it’s not ttrue (for almost 100 years now).
My first reaction was that’s stupid, there’s no noticable difference in the results (in real life) and it’d complicate things in an unnecassary way.
Then I had a look on that formula that’d be needed to use when not ignoring relativity, and it’s not rocket science. You’d to put 5 numbers in the calculator, instead of two, and there’s a devision.
Now I’m not sure anymore, is that really complicated?

Actually to me closest to the truth is having two layers to view things, in a scientific way and in a timeframed way. Real Life is timeframed pretty often, it’s not about getting the best solution it’s about finding the most promising way that ensures at least ONE solution in a given timeframe.
Our brains are trimmed to do that timeframed thing all the time, even more, in most cases the artificíal potential passed our brains a long time ago, our eyes have a lower resolution than common smartphone we can only see a couple of hundred different colors, but our brain is able build pretty detailed pictures with that relativey small amount of information.

But I think we should challenge ourselfs there the technical and scientific progress in the last decades, simply left no time for evolution, evolution needs hundreds or thousands generations, if we don’t train ourselfs on the new knowledge, we’ll still run on the hunting hardware in a thousand years.


Now here’s something where (hopefully) I’m decently qualified to answer :slight_smile:
The problem lies, I think, when one speaks of physics models as “right” or “wrong”. In reality all models are approximations, and become ultimately false if you dig deep enough. But as you say, adding velocities like Galileo (as opposed to Einstein/Lorentz), is an excellent approximation for most tasks in everyday life. When instead you need to place a GPS satellite in orbit, you need Einstein for a good enough approximation.

If you are not happy with approximations, you quickly end up in a situation where you want to include every possible known physical theory, and calculations and predictions become practically impossible (especcially if you want Gravity + Quantum, which we don’t know how to do). I may be going off topic sorry :slight_smile:

TLDR: Approximations are not lies, provided they are compatible with the situation you are considering


I think I know what you mean.
Probably we talk on different levels there.
To me there is a qualtity difference between aproximations, we now that Galileo gives worse results than Einstein (and afaik know the common scientific point is Einstein can’t be true either).
But what I’m pointing to is, if it’d have taken a thousand years from relativity to now, and the division formula’d be the common way to teach summing velocities (I took this example because it’s really still pretty easy). Would our brains still use the easy and worse approximation?
Honestly I don’t know the answer, I’m just not sure how much simplification is really needed if we try to look further than the capabilities of our brains.