The Nature of Non-Intuitive Thinking
Figure 1: An excerpt from Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebook on human anatomy.
I have the most respect for non-intuitive thinkers. The definition of a non-intuitive thinker is however, not intuitive.
The nature of non-intuitive ideas
As a starting point, we may consider what a non-intuitive idea is. A non-intuitive idea can be considered as one that is hard to replicate with limited conscious thought. The notion of limited conscious thought is important. If conscious thought were plentiful instead, it would suggest a non-intuitive idea is one which would take time to get to.
So the other question is if two or more people were given the same time, could they come to the same conclusion? If they can, then the idea must not be non-intuitive enough. But if they can’t, it suggests that non-intuitive ideas have some time-dependent complexity.
What is a complex idea? By definition a simple idea can be described easily. So a complex idea must involve multiple interacting parts and have a time dependent component. By definition to be non-intuitive the interaction of these parts must be rare enough to be difficult to replicate. Given this, idea complexity can be described logically through probability. In a given time period, the number of interacting elements for a complex idea must be large enough, that the probability of them colliding over that time period is small. This suggests that a non-intuitive idea can be described as a low probability collision between a series of smaller, perhaps more intuitive ideas.
So how can a complex idea, be rare enough for it to be considered non-intuitive? The first way would be if the sheer number of ideas that combined together was impossibly large. The second way would be if the number of ideas that came together were smaller, but more diverse. And the third way is some combination of the two.
But we know non-intuitive ideas don’t occur in isolation, on their own, hanging on busy street corners waiting to collide with each other. No, collisions happen in the heads of people. Unlike traditional thinkers, the nature of how these thinkers assemble their ideas diagnoses them accurately as non-intuitive thinkers.
This suggests that there are two components to non-intuitve ideas — the structure of a complex idea, and the qualties of a person who can assemble them. Lets dive into the latter more deeply.
The nature of non-intuitive people
By definition a person who can easily assimilate existing ideas, to string together in an order that makes them a complex idea, in record time, again and again is a non-intuitive thinker. In order to achieve such a condition there are a number of personality pre-requisites. What are they?
In order to assimilate existing ideas, a person must be inherently highly curious. As a result the range of ideas they can assemble from the space that they explore in is large. Curiosity drives this exploration.
In order to make a complex idea rare, the diversity of ideas that get assembled together is a key variable. To truly assemble together diverse ideas one has to be incredibly open-minded. No field, or demarkation of knowledge is off limits. In fact the higher the diversity, the more open-minded one has to be.
To assemble ideas together, one has to play with them. Some of these combinations will make sense, but some won’t. The undiscriminatory nature of play means non-intuitive thinkers can make their ideas tactile, and free-flowing. The spirit of play, and undirected exploration is key.
Not only can non-intuitive thinkers build complex ideas, but their vast bank of ideas allows them to do so at greater speed. In unit time, a non-intuitive thinker can run through new complex ideas faster than anyone comparable. Speed allows them to approach any problem multiple times where a traditional thinker can only have one attempt. Speed brings together curiosity, open-mindedness and playfulness into another dimension.
The experience that a non-intuitive thinker gains, their experiments that succeeded, their half formed thoughts and fully formed realities enables non-intuitive thinkers to perform fluently. Time after time, they are able to come up with new ideas. Why? because they have developed an arsenal of personality traits, experience and work
A non-intuitive idea is different from existing ideas. Sufficiently different that more traditional thinkers may reject them, or fail to recognize them. To construct and express them requires supreme conviction and courage to challenge the existing state of knowledge or ideas. Non-intuitive thinkers do not lack this.
The value of non-intuitive thinking
In summary a non-intuitive idea is one that is complex and rare. Non-intuitive thinkers more easily apply themselves to build such ideas from existing fragments. Their approach is novel, which means that both the ideas and the thinkers are highly treasured.
This type of thinking has a huge role to play in the world. Non-intuitive thinking is required to solve the world’s problems and to express ourselves more fully as a species. To solve disease, to become an interplanetary species, to create new films, Art, music, and writing. How we direct our non-intuitive thinking is entirely for us to decide.
Leonardo Da Vinci, was one of the greatest non-intuitive thinkers in our history. In this age of information, our ability to be productive polymaths is surely greater.
His way is inspiring.