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9.2.1 Inferring: Classification


How To Invent (Almost) Anything > 9. Managing in a Complex World > 9.2. Inferring Meaning > 9.2.1 Inferring: Classification

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Classification answers the basic question ‘What am I perceiving?’ and when compared with previous similar experiences may allow other information to be deduced.

Fig. 9.3 Inferring meaning

Basic recognition

The first thing that we do when receiving an input from our senses is to break it up into pieces that we can classify according to the patterns we have stored in our memories, either by direct recognition (‘That is a hat’) or by taking an educated guess (‘That looks like a hat’).

In the rare occasions when we cannot even approximate a classification we might dismiss the perception (using the relevance filter), invent a new classification (for which we may need more data) or be worried by the threat that it might pose to us (using the forecasting filter -- see below).

The context filter

Imagine someone pointing a knife at you. How do you interpret that? If it’s a dark night and you are in a shady part of town, then it will have a different meaning from if you are in the kitchen and a member of the family is handing you the butter knife.

The surrounding context in which events happen has a significant effect on how we interpret those events. It is thus a good idea when you want to invent something to go somewhere where the surroundings make you feel creative.

The work context often puts people into a state of unquestioning compliance, which is not what you need when you want to be creative, so going off-site and wearing informal clothes can be surprisingly helpful.

Another way of being creative using context is to remove the item being investigated from its context and ask, ‘What if this was used elsewhere.’ Imagine taking a vehicle jack and putting it under a subsiding house: as the house leans, you could compensate with a simple adjustment of the jack. Take a razor away from your face and you have a new wood plane or potato peeler.

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