To understand, study edge cases

This seems obvious, but is often forgotten. When a system functions efficiently, its individual parts are hard to notice. If you want to understand how a system functions, what it is made of, how each part works, but you cannot easily disassemble it and have a look, you have to get out of the nominal regime and let each part function independently, as much as possible.

Some examples:

  • To understand subatomic particles in a nucleus, or to figure out the structure of atom, hit them hard with other particles and see what happens.

  • To understand free will, focus on the situations where the notion fails.

  • To understand consciousness, study altered states.

  • To understand mental health, study mental illness.

  • To understand anatomy, dissect cadavers.

  • To understand logical reasoning, study biases.

  • To understand evolution, study artificial selection.

  • To understand economics, study market failures.

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