I was listening to an AMC official being questioned about a dangerously obstructive divider installed at the BRTS bus-stand near LD Engineering. The conversation resulted in no real solution, as it followed the great Indian tradition of dealing with public problems: a denial, an excuse and, in the end, a will-be-solved-shortly!

But, this conversation also had a very lateral learning for me about the one-track-ness of our ability to think: a possible insight that, just likes BRTS, our brain also works in dedicated lanes that it can’t leave.

The problem being dealt-with was of a BRTS bus-stand built in the middle of a road. For a driver going at a good speed on this wide open road, it appears suddenly, making it a spot with a near certainty of killing someone some day. Even for such a serious matter, the AMC official’s thinking remained limited to making the deadly divider more noticeable. I could see that his brain was moving only in a dedicated lane of pre-set logic, i.e. BRTS bus-stands have to be in the middle of the road!

Interestingly, the road in question is a mixed traffic zone without dedicated BRTS lane. There are normal bus-stands on both sides. So, there is a possibility of using existing bus-stands on both sides without constructing a killer bus-stand in the middle of the road! The problem has a possible solution provided the brain can free itself from the pre-set logic.

With arrival of computers, human brain is facing a challenge. With these logically thinking machines in our midst, we would now like to believe that no logical machine can do what our fuzzy brain can. But, are we really capable of lane-shifting in logic?

The answer is both, a No and a Yes. (Now, I would like a computer to try that string!).

No, we are not able to leave the constraint of linear logic with ease. Our thoughts are strings of logic that start and flow as per the pre-set conditions of the program, but this is not a limitation, it is a critical quality that prevents our brain from wondering into million inconclusive directions. We are able to hold a thought because thoughts accept rules in the way they move forward. This is why humans can build a city-wide complex network of buses that function in rule-bound and logical manner. But, does that mean that we also have to live with killer dividers?

But Yes, we can transcend killer dividers due to another brilliant trait of human brain, i.e. ability to break a string of logic, change the rules and create another string. If we did not have this ability, our life would have been a linear string of thought staring from our birth to death!

Logical lane-shifting in brain is a tricky deal. Too much and coherence is lost. Too little and creativity is lost. So, brain also has a mechanism in place to keep the lanes connected. Brain tags everything with multiple associations, allowing shifting from one string to another through these lateral connections. So, better lane-shifting is a sign of a brain rich in associations.

As associations are formed from exposure to reality and knowledge, it is easy to see that lateral solutions can come from people having more experience and learning. For real problem solving, we need people capable of looking at it from various contexts.

But, there is one more way to do it even more easily and that is to use more brains, as each new brain provides a new perspective. AMC may find a way of avoiding killer dividers, provided it listens to more brains! Public consultation is a great idea for public infrastructure design.

DNA: 1/11/2015

I am happy to admit that I have managed surviving till now with minimum effort as all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful. As I needed to while all the free time I generated in course of being lazy, science has been my favorite muse that I have enjoyed company of. As an effort to kill time (in a way, to get even with it) one fine day I decided to write a science column, more for my personal amusement than to attract readers. After getting educated about the attention span of modern readers from my editor, it became more like a challenge to tackle esoteric subjects in 600 words that I have managed to remain interested in for more than a year now. I do not want to add my worldly profile here as these are ideas that need to be considered only on the merits they carry and not as an opinion of a certain human being.

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