- Scott H Young - https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog -

Maximize Brainpower: Program a Function Library for Your Mind

Your brain is like a computer. Most computer languages use functions or methods to simplify common problems. Rewriting the same code every time you want to process how a button is clicked or a data is written would take forever. Functions simplify the code by having a template process that is flexible enough to handle different inputs.

Brains have functions too. These are little processes for routine cognition. Here are just a couple different types of ‘functions’ your brain utilizes to think:

Libraries of Thought Functions

To save time, many programmers find libraries of common functions. Why reinvent the GUI? Experienced programmers often save there own functions and classes from program to program. This allows them to have a personalized approach but it doesn’t require new effort for each application.

This is similar to how people think. We adopt functions of thought from other people to save time. We also store routine functions that we have built. Our little tricks for solving problems, our personal hacks for daily life and the lenses that we use to filter the world.

If you want to be an effective programmer, you need a large library of premade functions that you understand. These functions become your hammer and saw when constructing a program.

If you want to be an effective person, you need a large library of premade thought functions that you know how to use. Thought functions become your tools for effectiveness in life. Having a large base of functions helps you solve problems, understand the world and make you happier.

Finding New Functions

How do you build a thought function library? I believe the answer has two parts:

  1. Itemize your current functions.
  2. Collect and refine new functions.

Itemizing Current Functions

It is likely that you don’t even realize the functions you already have. It has only been in the last several months for myself that I started becoming aware of the methods I was using. Before that I often solved problems, absorbed new information or executed habits without thinking.

Start by noticing when you run functions…

When I started programming, I had access to a library of functions, but I couldn’t reprogram them. Functions that automatically did things I didn’t want, becoming a burden. It took practice and time, but eventually I learned to reprogram functions I didn’t like. Creating my own libraries and modifying existing ones I finally had functions that worked for me.

Reprogramming your brain is a lot harder than reprogramming a computer. It takes a lot of skill, and unfortunately there are few tutorials. Become aware of the patterns you run. Label and explore these little functions. It may not be enough to change them, but it is a start.

Creating Your Thought Function Library

Once you start noticing your own functions, it is time to refine them. There are two ways you can build a thought function library. Steal functions or build your own.

When building your library, there are several types of functions you should be on the lookout for:

How to Steal Functions

The world is filled with pieces of functions. All you need to do is watch and integrate it into the You Operating System. Stealing functions is like rummaging through a flea market. You are going to get a lot of crap, but when you find a gem it won’t cost you much.

Refining Your Own Functions

Thieving has its limits. The next step is to refine and build your own functions. The line between what you steal and what you make is blurry. Although I’ve programmed some basic GUI code, it has never been so radical I can’t claim some inspiration from classic interfaces. Building and stealing are often one in the same.

Debugging the Library

Most software has bugs. Glitches and errors that ruin performance. Refine your functions, seek out new ones and compare. Linux users often scoff that people still use Windows, despite the obvious flaws. Don’t let the same thing happen with your brain.

Image courtesy of flickr [4].