Having studied ingeneering, finding solutions to a given problem was part of my job; however, at no stage during my studies at university this process had been explained or taught.
At university time my mind was occupied with too many other matters, not all pertaining to study and therefore, this omission never occurred to me, then.
At the early stages of my working life, I was overconfident in designing things and was entirely convinced about the high standard of my solutions. If Caesar had been an ingeneer like me, he would have proclaimed: “I knew, I designed, I solved.” It is a prerogative of youth to be arrogant, ignorant and humility does not fit in their arsenal. No worries at all.
But it happened inevitably. When I was working in the field of writing implements, I was searching for new ways of controlling the flow of ink in fountain pens. The latter, one would think of as a well covered and investigated field because those pens had been around since ancient times.
However, since they used to be produced by artisans, there had always been a component of alchemy and later, trade secret around it. One would produce it a certain way because it had always been done this way, and no one had asked why.
Never before, had my engineer part been challenged as much. I had learned to apply methods of systematic solution finding, where the problem is divided into subproblems and laid out in a treelike fashion.
For some of them, solutions could be transferred from other fields, for others, the search had to begin. One would progress systematically, step by step.
In this case, I had not the faintest idea where the process would take me; I only knew what tasks this arrangement had to perform.
At the same time, my interest in this process of solution finding had increased, and I began searching for other ways, other systematic approaches besides the solution tree. With this, a new chapter of interest opened, one staying with me for all my life.
Others had been interested in this topic, and it had been already a field of study. Its name: Heuristics; stemming from the Greek word heureka, “I found it!” a sentence exclaimed by some Greek‑Australian gold‑diggers and taken on by many, since.
There is a general principle: The human mind is curious. Give a particular mind a problem, and it can be possessed by it. Heuristics has discovered, during the finding process not only the conscious mind is involved but also the subconscious.
Conscious and subconscious are both parts of the brain or the mind, and both of them have the same curiosity and their engagement in the finding process does not surprise me.
For this to happen, heuristicists have included in those processes periods of times, when, through disassociation, the mind is taken away from the problem‑solution track. And later, half an hour or longer, when returning to this track, snippets of solution enter into consciousness. Fascinating.
Still, those steps are small, but the more people are engaged in the process, and everyone contributes a wee bit, during the period of synthesis a bigger picture evolves.
So far so good.
And Something Else
By then I had been working as an ingeneer for ten years; however, it was still difficult for me to accept the subconscious (some New Age futility) to be involved in something technical, structured, logical in the process of deduction, the crown of thinking. I must have been ready because there was more to come.
I had been searching for the principle of ink flow control for over a year and a half, steadily climbing up the tree, exploring branches, breaking some off, and pursuing the climb up others.
One day, I had a gentle hunch, so mild, I almost discarded it. However, following whatever it was, and, because I had been my own boss, I started on this limb, unattached to any of my logically deduced branches.
I made a prototype and as its shape evolved, its function became so apparent to me as if someone had pulled the blinds up and the sunlight was beaming in. My excitement grew and escalated and even before I began the testing I was utterly convinced it would work.
And it did, superbly, beyond my wildest expectations. However, there was one slight dilemma. There was no explanation suitable for closing the gap between where, in the realm of my search tree, this solution had occurred and the nearest branch of my previous thinking.
Sure, new I understood the function of the solution, it was easy to build a logical bridge between the two banks, and when I finally presented my solution to the management team, everything was joined plausibly and coherently. They needed this connection; otherwise, riddled with their doubts and worries about the risk they could have rejected the solution. What a disaster this would have been.
We were all happy, and thirty years later, they still use it, and it has become one of their trade secrets and the source of a lot of money.
Did I sit on my laurels? Only for a short moment. While the others of the team were celebrating our success, curiosity was gnawing inside of me. Where had this hunch been originated?
No idea; but I can tell you when it happened. On that morning, before I went to work, while I had a shave when I was entirely occupied with a routine job.
Something inside me, my subconscious, worked on my research job while my conscious mind was occupied. Also, because it is much bigger, and it is not sidetracked as quickly and even works for some periods of time during sleeping. Therefore, it had progressed further than my conscious mind. And once the solution was there it presented it in such a humble way.
Where else could it have come from?
Later in life, I became interested in the metaphysical part of technology and life and learned dowsing, hands-on healing, and other useful tricks. And these processes, mainly the latter, have become part of my way. Quite often now, I can literally see a solution, in particular for a mechanical problem.
And getting older, and a bit mature, indeed life’s lessons taught me humility. I have come to the point where the experience has grown so strong so that I have to step aside and admit: I don’t know where these ideas, insights, images, and sureties come from. I have no intention to sound mystical, because, for me, this is real.
Anyone any plausible suggestions at all? I have explored God: for Him, I and my problems are far too insignificant. Extraterrestrials: Why would they be interested in solving my mediocre problems?
If I were Albert Einstein or Nikola Tesla the story would be an entirely different one, but I am not. Do I have magic powers? If yes, their range of application seems very narrow. I would like to know the magic spell and use it on my bank account.
At this stage, it feels like divining. I go out, I am confident in the process because it has taken me to the solution without much of a conscious effort but my intention, and still not knowing how it works it leads me to a divined solution.
 Not to be confused with cognitive heuristics, a branch of psychology. In this case, I refer to ‘The Art of Invention’, methodical guides and manuals suitable to find new solutions, inventions.
 Allegedly, first (circa 250 BC) exclaimed by the mathematician Archimedes, when he discovered the hydrostatic principle of physics, the one of buoyancy.
 A word I have made up physics… physicist, heuristics… heuristicist. Acceptable?
5 June 2011