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Engineering for the Mind

I used to be a Physicist – I’m sorry about that. I’m apologising for all the conversations that stopped in the past…

Actually I used to be an Applied Physicist and what I actually did was more like ‘Engineering’ and there are some important differences. My take on it is that ‘pure’ scientists seek to answer the big questions about the environment that surrounds us and the laws of nature that drive it – which very often lead to even bigger questions. The Applied Physicist or Engineer seeks to solve problems, often from first principles of how things work but the ultimate goal is to solve a specific problem.

Having worked in very pragmatic industries in the past I’m very familiar with the ‘Engineering’ approach. You have a problem, you work out what the variables and constraints are and you try out solutions until the initial problem appears to be solved. What you have actually done is perhaps unknown but you now have a new formula that works and you stick with it. I have worked with some extremely bright people who had pretty good intuitions about how they solve problems and what was actually going on. However they don’t know for certain and that wasn’t important. They’ll let some graduate student or professor work it out in a few years time – right now they had another problem to tackle and that was the priority.

In fact it can be said that Engineering leads the sciences. Stuff is invented and experimented with to solve a specific problem. The actually understanding of the pure science behind a solution may lag years behind the scientific validation. Did Edison understand exactly what he had found when after thousands of experiments he stumbled across a practical filament for a light bulb? He had some pretty good ideas but at the moment of discovery he was probably more relieved that he had found something that was ‘good enough’.

Why do I mention this? Because the world of NLP is really ‘Engineering of the Mind’. NLP is a very pragmatic approach and works with ‘what works’ rather than obsesses about the actual science of the mind. As the science of the mind evolves such discoveries as ‘Mirror Neurons’ and the complexities of how different parts of the brain function really just validate much of what NLP and similar approaches have been doing for years. It’s exciting to know, for me anyway, that as NLP evolves it can be the Engineering that leads the Science of the Mind.

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