Trapped Inside the Box

In yesterday's exercise, we saw that thinking outside the box was important, but that certainly doesn't mean thinking inside the box isn't important. It is often useful to quickly classify someone or something based on a small set of criteria which may or may not give an accurate description of said person. Its very similar to the information filtering Umberto Eco spoke about in that interview I posted a while back. In certain situations, we absolutely must revert to simple mental models just to filter all the information coming in to us. It doesn't matter how imperfect that filter is, we just need something or else we won't accomplish anything. I'm also fascinated by the ingenuity of people who are forced to think within a box (and the ways they work around it). My favourite example is Isaac Asimov's 3 Laws of Robotics:
  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where those orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence except where such protection would conflict with the First and Second Law.
In Asimov's Robot Novels, he figured out all sorts of clever ways to work around those rules he created. In pushing the limits of the 3 Laws, Asimov was not only working within a box, but also making it an enjoyable experience for the reader. Of course, later in the series, Asimov begins to think outside the box and expands his scope a little, but that doesn't make his 3 Laws obsolete, just more impressive.