Can you solve this?


Have you ever watched an old school detective show? The detectives on the scene have done their due diligence, but are stumped about the case. Just then a guy in a beat up car drives up to the scene. He gets out of his car and flashes his credentials. "Who is this guy, Sergeant?" The hot shot detectives ask with obvious objection. "I invited him" replies the Sergeant. The seemingly out of place detective, walks through the crime scene. He asks funny questions the presiding detectives didn't think to ask and looks in places they didn't think to look.

As the end of the episode approaches, the quirky detective reveals a number of small details that the others missed. He reveals: who committed the crime, when they did it, and how. The culprit interjects, "but how could I do this when I can't even walk." He replies, "That would be true if you were telling the truth about your ability to walk. Tell me something. How does a man that can't walk have shoes that are worn out? I saw the bottom of your soles. All of your shoes show consistent wear from usage."

"How did he solve the crime?" You ask yourself as you watch him explain the details. "Gosh, I can't believe I missed that. It's almost like he was there watching the crime unfold. I wish I could solve a case for once. But it is just a tv show and there is no way this is how people solve crimes."

Some of us enjoy puzzles, but puzzles can elude many of us. Why is that?

Do You Like Puzzles?

Why does it seem that some people enjoy puzzles while some of us don't? The truth is pretty simple. A lot of us give ourselves permission to be mentally lazy, myself included. How many times have you chosen to turn on the television and passively take in information versus solving a jigsaw puzzle? How many times have you asked someone for an answer to a question that you could have easily Googled? How many times have you chosen easy instead of challenging? By default our brains love high efficiency and low work loads. Our modern society hasn't really done us any favors to help us collectively improve our thinking abilities.

Companies like Google, Amazon and Apple, have changed the perception of time for many of us. I'm not saying that people haven't been mentally lazy in the past, but I think there is argument to be made that as we add convenience to our lives, we run the risk of transferring that perception to our mental thinking. Let me explain.

Imagine that you wanted to build a robot in the year 1990. How would you go about that process? Where would you purchase the metals or plastics that you would use? What motors or servos would you put to make the robot move? How would you know how much battery or power to supply it? Google was around until 1998 and Ask Jeeves, the electronic search butler, was founded until 1995. How would you find the parts? Who could explain to you how to do the electronics? Who would explain to you how to bolts and servos need to be mounted? What kind of remote or computing power would it have?

Making a robot of any kind in 1990 would have been a challenging task. It would have required a lot of time and effort, and probably would have turned out pretty lame. No offense to your robot making skills. Now try this; type out "how to make a robot" or "build a robot" into a Google search and see what you get. If you did this task, you not only have a couple of pages dedicated to the making of robots but tons of websites dedicated to it. There are kits that you can buy and classes that you can take.

Today, you don't have to wonder where you will find robot parts, you don't have to contemplate how to build one. Technology has come such a far way and the world is now so connected, that most of the things that you could ever want to do in life, only require three things: time, money, and a Google search. You just don't have to work mentally the same anymore; from conceptualization to execution.

To add to the challenge, many things may rob us of precious opportunities to stop and think. Fatigue, stress, and multitasking, tend to make us feel like we don't have the mental energy to commit to mentally challenging tasks.

Television and movies give us plenty of stimulating talking points, but watching television is a semi passive activity. You don't have to consciously think when watching the screen.

Television can be a great tool for learning but when it's strictly based on consumption, it can be bit mind numbing and useless. Why does all of this matter?