Qualia of the problem

I have a generic rant about the qualia of the problem.  It goes something like this:

Qualia are a philosophical concept, they refer to subjective personal experience that can not be described, they are personally experienced and cannot be communicated.  Almost sad, how we can never truly share the same experience of us experiencing that sunset, of course we can show someone, or we can tell someone, but we can never directly impart the qualia of experiencing that thing.

With regard to problems and problem solving – I don’t smoke, and I have never gone through the process of trying to quite smoking, but if I did there would be a reason that I was originally smoking and a reason I wanted to quit.  With that in mind, I can propose suggestions for you to the generic, “quit smoking” and what I know about the problem, but even if I had quit myself, I would have probably had a completely different experience of quitting and what was stopping me and what I had to overcome in order to succeed in that goal.

Even if I quit smoking for “health reasons” and you are quitting smoking for “health reasons” those health reasons might not be the same health reasons.

We are humans, we are fallible and we like to summarise when we describe or situation to others.  We do this because it’s easier to summarise than it is to go into detail.  When it comes to problem solving – summarising does the opposite of being helpful, in fact it tends to hide the nature of problems and often obscure us from the solutions.  Einstein said, “if I had an hour to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes figuring out what the problem is and 5 minutes solving it”

When I ask you what the qualia are of your problem, yes, qualia are unsharable but all the same – I want you to go into details about what the goal is, what is in the way and what it feels like from the inside, trying to quit smoking or choosing to smoke anyway.  And even though some days you will choose to keep smoking, you can still quit smoking even though you will some days choose to keep smoking.  It’s almost like two minds fighting for control of the body.

When you go into details about the health problems, it needs to be abundantly clear that last week you walked up a set of stairs with some friends and you couldn’t keep up and you realised that being able to breathe was more important than smoking, and so you want to quit because you can feel what it’s like to be on one of those machines that breathe for you and it’s not pretty.

Or is it about looking hot for summer?  Because you look in the mirror and think – one of these days I have to start paying attention to my body and making it look like how I want it to look.  Which qualia are your qualia?  And now that we know which qualia are yours, what exactly is the problem related to those quales and how do we fix it?

I have said this rant or a variant of this rant so many times that I can repeat it and explain it on many problem areas.

The thing to realise is that to solve a problem you need to delve into what exactly it feels like to have that problem and usually when you are solving the problem is at a different time to when you are having the problem which means you need to understand the problem abundantly and from a distance in order to solve it.


Try this

  • What is the problem?
  • When was the last time it happened, describe it?
  • What did it feel like to be having the problem?
  • What have you tried to fix the problem?  What happened? Did it work?  Why would it have worked, why won’t it work in the future?
  • What is the most obvious solution?  Why does it usually work for other people?  Why will it work this time?  Why won’t it work?  Can you do something about that to make it actually work?
  • Describe what you were thinking when you were going through the problem?

Meta: this took 1 hour to write.

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