Learning From Others – Hawking, Turing, Feynman

You’ve got all the tips on working remotely now – the internet is full of good stuff. People are showering you with great advice on how to deal with the current situation. And if there’s still a challenge that you can’t google the answer to, I’ve written an article about my favourite personal problem solving strategies: Adapting to Life Changes: A Basic Guide to Personal Problem Solving.
 
Instead of further adding to all this good stuff, I decided to do something else for you. If you’re having a lot of time on your hands and are someone who likes to ponder and entertain thoughts, digging deep when looking backwards and dreaming of great possibilities looking forward… this blog post is for you.
 
I used books I love as prompts to start thinking about ourselves and the life we’re living. If you get nothing else out of this article, I highly recommend you check out the books – they’re awesome!!
 
Here’s how it works:
  • The books are just inspiration.
  • I’ve selected the quotes from the people featured in these books that resonated the most with me right now.
  • Based on these quotes, I’ve complied a few questions you may wish to talk about – with yourself or with others or maybe even with me (let me know).
 
What’s the point of all this? I’m aiming to trigger four things (definitions from lexico.com):
  1. Reflection. (Serious thought or consideration.)
  2. Retrospection. (The action of looking back on or reviewing past events or situations, especially those in one’s own life.)
  3. Introspection. (The examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes.)
  4. Prospection. (The action of looking forward mentally; anticipation; consideration of the future; foresight, planning; an instance of this.)
 
If you don’t have much time, I’ve highlighted my personal top quote.
 
My hope is that you gain more clarity about who you are, what’s important to you personally and what you’d wish for the world. And maybe, just maybe, it inspires positive change in you.

Stephen Hawking says…

“Hawking” by Ottaviani & Myrick

He’s the guy who wasn’t supposed to live longer than three years after being diagnosed with ALS but went on to not only live, but contribute to his field in great ways. Among other things he figured out Black Holes, provided a theory of how our universe came into existance and became somewhat of a pop culture phenomenon as well. Hats off to the man!

Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.
When was the last time you enjoyed being in wonder? What was it about? What are you interested in? What would you like to learn? What leaves you awestruck?
 
 
We are in danger of destroying ourselves by our greed and stupidity. We cannot remain looking inwards at ourselves on a small and increasingly polluted and overcrowded planet.
What actions and behaviours – maybe you never thought about this – contribute to the good of the world? Which don’t? What would you like to change about yourself so you become a force for good simply by living a virtuous life?
 
 
If you believe in science, like I do, you believe that there are certain laws that are always obeyed.
What keeps you grounded? What rules and sentences anchor you when you feel lost? Who helps you remain calm and hopeful?
 
 
I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We’ve created life in our own image.
What do you wish would change in society? What should we, as humans, do differently? What might be possible if we used our superpowers for good more often?
 
 
The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.
Looking back at your life, what were the positive results that followed a crisis? What opportunities came with hardships? How long did you have to wait until these became clear – a week, months, decades?
 
 
I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.
Do you feel helpless or powerful? Where does your attention go when you feel helpless? What do you focus on when you feel in control? 
 
 
It is no good getting furious if you get stuck. What I do is keep thinking about the problem but work on something else. Sometimes it is years before I see the way forward. In the case of information loss and black holes, it was 29 years.
What is a puzzle or challenge or problem you kept working on for a long time, not knowing whether you’d solve it? What kept you going? Who helped you? What have you learned about yourself? How can you use this in the challenge you’re facing now?
 
 
We should seek the greatest value of our action.
What value are you providing right now? To whom? What else could you do or offer that brings good to others?
 

Alan Turing says…

“The Imitation Game” by Ottaviani & Purvis

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Turing test. Yes, that’s named after him as he is considered by most as the father of AI. Another famous achievement was cracking the Enigma code to help out in WWII. No small feat given what was at stake and that every minute he didn’t know how others were dying. It’s on!

Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.
Have you been underestimated once? Did you once underestimate someone else? How did it make you feel when you/ the other went on to do it anyway? If you don’t believe in yourself or someone else right now – what is that doing to you/ them? What might be possible if you changed your disbelief to encouragement?
 
 
If a machine is expected to be infallible, it cannot also be intelligent.
What aspects about you are imperfect? How do you use your strengths to succeed anyway? What about your imperfections is an advantage?
 
 
The isolated man does not develop any intellectual power. It is necessary for him to be immersed in an environment of other men, whose techniques he absorbs during the first twenty years of his life. He may then perhaps do a little research of his own and make a very few discoveries which are passed on to other men. From this point of view the search for new techniques must be regarded as carried out by the human community as a whole, rather than by individuals.
Who’s wisdom, knowledge, information, results, work … is your success and achievement based on? Who can you be thankful for, that they’ve gone before you? 
 
 
We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.
What richness is in today? What are three things you can get done in the next couple of days that provide meaning and value to yourself, your family and the world?
 
 
Codes are a puzzle. A game, just like any other game.
What challenge are you facing right now? Where are you stuck? What happens if you start to see it as a puzzle rather than a hassle?
 
 
Those who can imagine anything, can create the impossible.
What are you dreaming of? How would you finish the following sentence: “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” What is one small action you can take that’s moving you a tiny step closer to this?
 
 

Richard Feynman says…

“Feynman” by Ottaviani & Myrick

Feynman’s work was honoured with a Novel Prize, this should give you an idea how important his contribution was. I’m no phycisist, so I’m having trouble understanding what much of it means. I’m more than fascinated though by his double-slit experiment to demonstrate the wave-particle duality.

Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars – mere globs of gas atoms. I, too, can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more?
How can you combine head and heart more often in your own life? How will your relationship with yourself, people and the world change if you did?
 
 
The idea is to try to give all the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.
Did you ever cheat on a test or told a little (or big) lie in an effort to look good? How did it feel in that moment? How does it feel looking back? How would you have to live your life so you don’t have the urge to hide parts of it from others?
 
 
It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.
Do you act more based on your opinion or based on facts? Do you keep the course even though reality suggests it might be wiser to change it? If you were willing to be wrong more often – where might you start?
 
 
I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.
How can you amp up your humility? What’s an example where you were arrogant and thought you were better than another? Looking back, what is different now? What have you learned? How have you changed?
 
 
First figure out why you want the students to learn the subject and what you want them to know, and the method will result more or less by common sense.
What’s motivating and driving you to do anything? With a million choices to respond in a conversation, what’s guiding your decision? When leading your team or business, what ultimate personal goal and values give you direction?
 
 
The thing that doesn’t fit is the thing that’s the most interesting: the part that doesn’t go according to what you expected.
Did you ever stop yourself from being extraordinary to fit in? Did you ever do that to someone else? How can you foster more positive deviance from the norm in yourself and others?