On Lists, Problems, and Gödel’s Theorem

I have recently seen several versions of the story of the executive who, having tried it, happily paid $25000 for the day planning method: Make a list of the six most important tasks for the day in decreasing order of importance (preferably the night before). Work on the first until it is completed. Then the second and so on. And that was $25000 about a century ago. Linda Ryan has a recent post on this.

Mary Morrissey uses a powerful analogy to emphasise the impartiality of the universe in aiding our intentions:

The universe doesn’t care what thought you think any more than your Google box cares what you put in the question. … The moment you say your interest inside that box … the search engines go looking for everything like what you’re interested in.

Mary also includes another of my favorite ideas, that it is useful to think of ‘problem’ as having a meaning as in the phrase ‘math problem’, with the implication that the solution already exists, it just has to be worked through.

Perhaps we need to discount the modern tendency to set ‘open-ended’ problems, designed to provoke fresh thinking rather than a predetermined ‘solution’. We also have to forget about Gödel’s theorem with its guarantee of the existence of undecidable problems. My apologies to all those who believe they are ‘no good at math’ – now isn’t that an interesting block?!

I have found the list-making method helpful, when I actually do it, but I do think that some flexibility is desirable. Number 1 on the list for today was to put out some advertising, but as I awoke my mind was so full of ideas for this post that I felt I had to write at least a draft.

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2 Responses to On Lists, Problems, and Gödel’s Theorem

  1. Linda Ryan says:

    Great post Archie! I really love Mary Morrissey’s idea comparing Google to the Universe. Thinking of it that way makes it easier to submit a query 🙂

    • amck says:

      Thanks Linda. Yes it’s wonderful how sometimes a small change in point of view can increase the impact of an idea.

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