May 27, 2020 • 6M

The Daily Recall #1 - Three Trees Screens Model

Vasili Shynkarenka
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Hi! I’m Vasili, the guy who runs the show. I believe the world would be a better place if you learned something new every day. That’s why I record daily episodes where I explain complex ideas in simple words. I hope you’ll enjoy the show.
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Hey stranger,

Welcome to the first episode of the daily recall show.

In this five-minute podcast, I explain how to use a thinking model that helped to invent a staircase for collecting dates from 12.5 million 20-meter-high date palms in Bangladesh.

If you prefer reading, you can find the transcript below.


All right. I hope this thing works.

Welcome to the daily recall show. I'm your host Vasili. And in these videos, I'm going to be talking about the stuff that I'm learning. Because I believe that if every single person on this planet learned something, just one single thing a day, this would be a better world.

So that's why I'm doing this. And I'm doing this in real time. So there is no editing. And I'm actually recalling the stuff that I am learning myself. So this is going to be really fun because sometimes my memory will probably screw me up really badly.

But anyways, in the first episode I wanted to talk about problem solving. And this is something really cool because the world is really complex and has become more complex in the past couple decades, right? So we get to know how to solve problems really well to operate well on this world.

And there is just one model of thinking that I find particularly interesting that I’ve picked up from a book on how to solve really complex problems.

And the idea is called the three three screens. The idea is that when a normal person, a regular person in the world perceives an object, a tree, right or a presentation of this object, let's say a word "tree" - they kind of have a mental screen in their head popping up. And this screen is like a picture of a tree, but they only see this tree in the present time and just one tree at this picture. I'll just explain what that means a little bit later.

But when a trained person, a person who knows how to solve problems, perceives a tree, he's got three screens. So on the first screen he's got the tree, the same tree that an untrained person has. But on the upper level, he has got a group of trees. So it's kind of like an upper level system that he sees. And on the lower level system he has got a branch.

Now an even more trained person would then see the forest behind the group of trees. Because that's how systems become more complex. And an even more trained person on the lower level would see a leaf on this tree or even a leaf on a cellular level, where cells wander around.

So an even more trained person would then see side screens for each level of this ecosystem and each side screen is like a mirror. So if you ever been to a corridor of mirrors where a two of them are located opposite to each other, you see this infinite reflection. So that's basically a time dimension here.

And for example, on a tree level, right, a trained person sees this tree in the past; how not just long ago it was just a little, little thing, right? And before that it was a seed. And if we go forward in time, a guy with an axe will probably come and cut this tree or something like that.

And on the forest level, for example, something that might happen in the future might be a fire.

So it might you might be wondering how this is any helpful.

And I want to finish this one with a story to explain how to use the model.

So there is this famous problem, the Bangladesh dates problem. Basically, in Bangladesh, there are 12.5 million dates trees, like this tasty little things that you eat. And in Bangladesh, there are 12.5 million of those trees. And the problem was that each tree is 20 meters high. And you got to climb that tree to get the dates. So these guys invited an agricultural company to solve this problem and invent a solution for them so that they would spend much less time climbing those really high trees.

And the guys from the agriculture company came up with an alpinist approach. They suggested making cuts arm in the wood bark so that you have a natural staircase and climb the tree. But that didn't work because the tree would suffocate and lose too much juice and then die next year.

And then those agriculture consultants were really surprised when they discovered how local peasants were solving this problem. They knew the model I’ve just explained. So what they did is when they just planted this tree and it was just one year or two years old, they started making one cut per year, okay. And that's how they would not suffocate the tree because it's just one cut. And once the tree grows into a giant dates palm it's got a natural staircase built in. So that's just one solution; how we can go back in time and figure out that this tree was someday, not so long ago, just a little tiny sprout.

Another way of solving this problem is to go up a little bit in the vertical system hierarchy. So you start thinking, okay there are 12.5 million of these trees. And that probably means that they're not like scattered around very much, right? Because Bangladesh is not Russia; they've got not enough space to plant those trees hundreds of meters away from each other.

So maybe you can plan them in a way so that you don't have to build a staircase for each of them. You can build just one and then collect those dates from 10 trees at the same time. Or if we're on a group level in the vertical hierarchy of systems, we can think OK maybe they're located very closely together already so we don't have to kind of invent a staircase at all. We can just have a rope wrapping around those trees and then climb that rope staircase.

So that's an example of how to use there are three three screen method to solve problems.

I hope you guys enjoyed this episode. See you tomorrow.

This transcript has been edited for clarity.