Predictability

One more post of the series “short posts about big topics”.

Today’s topic is predictability. As a disclaimer, I want to say that I was often able to hide it and looked like I was ready to improvise, while I actually had rehearsed the possible two or three scenarios in advance. So much for being praised for credible masking. I don’t think I would have acted differently back then, because looking “normal” was pretty much a requirement from the outside world, not something I voluntarily decided to burden myself with.

But I want to come back to the topic. Predictability took for me one main shape, that is the ability to rehearse written music in my various orchestras and choirs, and being able to exactly predict what was going to happen, because it was literally written down note by note. In choir music it’s how it is written – rarely you get only your own notes, while the norm is to get the full four-voice score. It is a supreme joy to see all the notes on the paper become notes in reality, and me being able to read a few bars in advance, sometimes more, sometimes waiting for a specific section to sing a specific part, and melting when that finally happens, at the precise time, not earlier, not later. When it comes to orchestral/band music, the opposite is the norm, that is, each gets their own notes, only the conductor gets the full score. In a few occasions I was able to read the full conductor score and I got the same profound satisfaction about seeing notes on paper, and soon afterwards hearing them played by exactly those instruments.

Percussion notes, SBO rehearsals (2017)

Another, apparently unrelated, area where predictability reigns, is track driving. I was only once on a F1 track for a day of “Freies Fahren”, and as a passenger, I must say I enjoyed all of it – I don’t think I would have liked it as much if I had to drive myself (so many decisions to take!). As a passenger I took one lap to learn the bends of the circuit (and got surprised+scared once), and from that moment onwards it was pure enjoyment. I knew in advance how each curve would feel, and looked forward for each of them, instead of notes, acceleration and bits of drifting (we were often excused, as the weather was rainy and the track slippery). I can’t really tell if I liked predictability more than the actual driving, but I want to confirm that it was one of the rare experiences I remember as entirely positive and safe. The track is indeed very large and meant for much higher speeds than an ordinary car can achieve, and the surrounding gravel/dirt areas are much larger than any road would offer, so I felt way safer than in everyday traffic. It was movement, in a form that made so much sense to me – much more than moving my own body.

Spa-Francorchamps track, in the BMW Motorsport division colors

This is to say that I need at least one area where things happen as I expect them to, and get really upset if they don’t. I know that many people can rely on a bunch of processes and people to be consistent in time, and therefore are ready to accept surprises and unpredictability elsewhere; in my case, as many of these areas are not predictable, I need some other processes/people to be consistent, and it sometimes comes out as demanding, or at least unexpectedly demanding. I used to apologise for it and hide my needs, and I don’t do that anymore; still, it looks odd, but I stand my ground.

There is much more to say about this topic, but these two examples are the shiniest and clearest I can think of. I may write more in a further post, and would happily respond to comments to this post. Until next time, take care!

Tangram

I first thought that my life would be a blank canvas, on which I would trace my own drawing.

Then I thought about it as a blank canvas, on which I traced a drawing under the guidance of other people.

Then as a puzzle, and I started noticing missing pieces, and the immense task of finding the right place for each of the existing ones.

Finally as a tangram, where the pieces have no predefined place, and there are minimal rules on how to compose a figure out of the seven geometrical shapes.

Gimpo airport stn line 5

If there will be any step after the tangram, it will be a variant where I can use less than all seven pieces, where I can develop the figure on more dimensions than the flat plane…

On different ways to scan the environment

In these past days I have been noticing two extremes of a range, in the way people scan the outside world. These will be my thoughts and observations, even if I can easily guess that this has been analysed before by other people and quite likely by domain experts. If you have sources related to this topic, please leave a comment!

I first thought that the extremes of this range could be similar to the prey and predator schemas of scanning the world, but I realised I know way too little about it, so I will not use those labels. I will use instead the terms “constant scanner” and “optional scanner”.

The constant scanners tend to check the environment (which can be the landscape, the email inbox, the task list, the servers in the network, the news…) quite often, with both the fear of having missed out an incoming problem, and of not being sure to look for the right signals for the problem. The constant scanners tend to be suspicious and look at things under multiple angles, and are reluctant to classify a signal without cross-checking multiple signals/information sources. They tend to be alarmed by small deviations from the usual data flow, as they are afraid it is a sign of a problem that can grow large if not addressed in time. They tend to assume they missed a sign, and try to get better at observing.

On the other end of the range, the optional scanners tend to classify signals and issues once and for ever, check the environment when they decide it is time for it, and address problems when they grow beyond a certain size. They tend to expect the environment to send signals in their own language, i.e. that they don’t have to interpret or fill up with further information. They are often complaining that the signals from the environment are not clear enough for them to act, and tend to hold the environment responsible.

There is of course the whole set of nuances between those two, and the same person can fluctuate along the range, depending on time or on the activity.

I find myself very often near the constant scanner extreme, and I realise I spend a lot of time trying to notice incoming issues even outside my own area of responsibility, mostly because I wish to spare other people the burden of a problem grown too big, and therefore I lend them with pride and even joy my sharpened attention to details. But sometimes I feel like the dog that barks to warn about the incoming storm, and is asked to stop: I know I am not 100% sure it will be a life-threatening storm, but I would never forgive myself for not barking for a really serious event. I wish this could be seen as a positive skill, that allows others to focus on their activities, knowing that I’m keeping a vigilant eye on the surroundings, and would warn them in time.

That’s it for now. I look forward for your comments and for links for further reading!