Risk factors for lateral thinking

0) Routine: practice, practice, practice
1) Low pulse
2) High body temperature
3) Wakefulness (good sleep, caffeine)
4) Boredom

Edit:
5) Social isolation (when talking feels pointless and crazy)
6) Darkness, general pupil dilation

Massive lateral thinking is the crazy thing I do that occasionally emulates actual thinking. It’s the sawed-off shotgun of the intellectual world- you’re going to hit something, which may or may not be the thing you wanted to hit. Works great in target-rich environments, but not so great in a world where everything is either forbidden or mandatory. Like firing a shotgun it is also something you can get much, much better at with practice (assuming potential), to the point that you can actually call upon the muses at will (at least sometimes, in my experience). Honest to Darwin, I’ve thought normal-like thoughts on purpose, like actually dusting a moving clay target that I was trying to hit.

Aside from the benefits of regular practice, here is a ranked list of times that are better for the semi-useful sorts of lateral thinking:

1) Hot shower
2) Long walk
3) Driving
…Artificial break here because nothing else comes close…
4) Sitting still with a big, hot drink
5) Routine mechanical chores
6) Reading introductory textbooks
6) Dreaming in a more wakeful state
7) Running
8) Etc.

These risk factors tend to be contradictory: caffeine encourages short-term, dopamine-seeking behavior, high body temperature usually means high pulse, and so on. But they aren’t strictly contradictory. For instance, taking a long walk will raise your body temperature by quite a bit (and metabolism, temporarily) without really taxing your cardiovascular system the way proper exercise will do. Coffee will also raise your pulse somewhat, but the effect on wakefulness is more important and can override this. A generally low sitting pulse can be achieved by cardiovascular exercise, keeping stress down, and getting enough sleep. (Lifting makes you very focused and very impatient so that you make more lemonade if you already have lemons, but it raises alignment which is bad for inspired lateral thinking.)

Probably the bits about temperature and pulse strike you as the most surprising. But they are more important than anything except routine practice, especially for inducing the creative trance and seamless mental movies. Another fun bit of Stephen King trivia: IIRC and Salem’s Lot is the correct book, the protagonist Ben Mears was a writer who had a routine of writing in the evening with a beer and the thermostat turned obscenely high. In particular, this indicates he was entering a very low-inhibition state. Wakefulness tends to be more important for more directed, realistic creativity like STEM. You know, daytime stuff. No monsters invited.

I’m going to try quantifying these tasks in terms of “microzens per hour”, according to my experience. Think of a microzen as relating to the moment that inspires a single train of thought, including examples, unless an application feels “big” enough to have its own line of thought, complete with examples. This is going to be a very strange system for those of you who don’t routinely do RAM dumps.

Hot shower (10)
Long walk (8)
Driving (7)
Sitting still with a big, hot drink (3)
Routine mechanical chores (2)
Reading introductory textbooks (1-5, depending on the book)
Dreaming in a more wakeful state (1)
Running (2)
Average, everyday life (~0.1)

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About Aeoli Pera

Maybe do this later?
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9 Responses to Risk factors for lateral thinking

  1. lflick says:

    If the mechanical chores are *very* routine, they approach driving in helpfulness for this purpose. E.g. my favorite, milking sheep.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      Didn’t I say *nothing* comes close? You are ruining my dogma with your heresy.

      Actually, I forgot to include church. That’s a pretty good time too, maybe 5 microzens/hour. If they frown on scribbling during the lecture- um, I mean sermon- you can use the method of loci to reproduce the insights soon afterward in a RAM dump.

  2. Lazer says:

    “Probably the bits about temperature and pulse strike you as the most surprising.” Treadmill Desk does this excellently. Up the speed for a burst when you hit a roadblock. Slow back down when you get in the stream.

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