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The first principle: Elon Musk's view on the power of self thinking - James clear

2021-05-04 14:47:48 Jiedao jdon

First principles thinking ( Sometimes called first principles reasoning ) Is one of the most effective strategies that can be used to decompose complex problems and generate original solutions . It may also be the best way to think creatively .

The first principle method has been adopted by many great thinkers , Including the inventor Johannes · Gutenberg , John, a military strategist · Boyd and the ancient philosopher Aristotle , But no one is better than entrepreneur Elon · Musk is more able to embody the philosophy of first principles .

2002 year , Musk began to look for ways to launch the first rocket to Mars , The idea eventually became an aerospace company SpaceX.

He immediately faced a major challenge . After visiting many Aerospace manufacturers around the world , Musk found that the cost of buying a rocket is astronomical , the height is 6500 Thousands of dollars . Considering the high price , He began to rethink .

“ I tend to study things in the framework of physics ,” Musk said in an interview .“ Physics teaches you to reason from first principles rather than analogies . Let's look at the first principle : What are Rockets made of ? Aviation grade aluminum alloy , Plus some titanium , Copper and carbon fiber . Then I asked , What is the value of these materials in the commodity market ? The fact proved that , The material cost of the rocket is about two percent of the typical price .”

Musk didn't buy the finished rocket for tens of millions of dollars , It's a decision to start your own company , Buy raw materials at a cheap price , And then make your own rocket .SpaceX The birth of .

In just a few years ,SpaceX The price of launching rocket has been reduced nearly 10 times , At the same time, it's still profitable . Musk uses first principles to decompose the situation into basic principles , Around the high price of the aerospace industry , And create more effective solutions .

First principles thinking is the act of simplifying the process to the basic part of what you know to be real and building from there . Let's talk about how to use basic principles to think in our life and work .

Define first principles thinking

The first principle is the basic assumption that cannot be further deduced . Two thousand years ago , Aristotle defined the first principle as “ The first basis for knowing things ”.

The first principle of thinking is to say “ Think like a scientist ” In a strange way . Scientists take no responsibility . They start with things like “ We're absolutely sure it's right ” It's the beginning of the problem . And then prove something ?

Rene, French philosopher and scientist · Descartes (Rene Descartes) Accepted this method through what is now called Cartesian doubt , In this way , He will be “ Systematically doubt everything he might doubt , Until he left the truth that he regarded as purely inviolable .”

In practice , You don't have to simplify every problem to the atomic level to get the benefits of first principles thinking . You just need to go one or two levels deeper than most people . Different solutions appear at different levels of abstraction . John, a famous fighter pilot and military strategist · Boyd (John Boyd) The following thought experiments were created , Shows how to use fundamental thinking in a practical way .

Suppose you have three things :

  • A motorboat with skis in the back
  • Military tanks
  • A bicycle

Now? , Let's break these projects down into their components :

  • motorboat : motorboat , Hull and skis .
  • tanks : Metal tread , Steel armor plates and guns .
  • Bicycle : Handlebar , wheel , Gears and seats .

What can you create from these separate sections ? One option is to combine the handlebars and seats of the bike , The metal tread of the fuel tank and the motor and skis on the boat to make the snowmobile .

In short , It's a process of first principles thinking . It's about breaking the situation down into core parts , And then a cycle of putting them back together in a more efficient way . Deconstruct and rebuild .

How first principles drive innovation

The example of snowmobiles also highlights another sign of first principles thinking , That is, the combination of seemingly unrelated fields of thought . Tanks and bicycles don't seem to have much in common , But you can combine the parts of a tank and a bicycle to develop innovation , For example, snowmobiles .

Many of the most groundbreaking ideas in history have been to simplify things as first principles , And then replaced the result of a more effective solution for one of the key parts .

for example , Johannes · Gutenberg (Johannes Gutenberg) Turn the screw press ( A device for making wine ) Mobile technology and mobile mode , The combination of paper and ink , And that created the printing press . Mobile has been used for centuries , But Gutenberg (Gutenberg) It's the first person to think about the components of the process and adopt technologies in a completely different field to improve printing efficiency . The result is world changing innovation and, for the first time in history, widespread information .

The best solution is not what everyone is looking for .

First principles can help you integrate information from different disciplines , To create new ideas and innovations . You need to know the facts first . Once you have the facts , You can make a plan to Improve every little detail . This process will naturally lead to a broader search for better alternatives .

The challenge of first principles to reasoning

First principles thinking is easy to describe , But it's quite difficult in practice . One of the main obstacles to first principles thinking is that we tend to optimize form rather than function . The story of the suitcase provides a good example .

In ancient Rome , Soldiers use leather mailbags and satchels to carry food across the countryside . meanwhile , The Romans had many vehicles with wheels , Like a chariot , Carriages and vans .. However , For thousands of years , No one thought of combining the bag with the wheel . until 1970 year , Bernard · Sado (Bernard Sadow) Dragging luggage across the airport , When I saw a worker rolling on a heavy machine with a roller slide , Just invented the first rolling trunk .

Throughout 1800 Age and 1900 years , Leather bags are used for special purposes - School backpacks , Backpacks for hiking , Suitcase .1938 Zippers were added to the backpack in . Nylon backpacks are 1967 It was first sold in . Despite these improvements , The form of the bag is still basically the same . Innovators spend all their time on small iterations of the same topic .

What looks like innovation is usually an iteration of the previous form , Instead of improving core functions . When everyone else is focused on how to make better bags ( form ) when , Bernard · Sado thought about how to store and move things more efficiently ( function ).

How to think for yourself

The tendency of human imitation is a common obstacle to first principles thinking . When most people see the future , They project the current form forward , Instead of projecting forward and abandoning form .

for example , When criticizing technological progress , Someone asked :“ Where is the flying car ?”

Here's the thing : We have flying cars . They're called airplanes . The people who ask this question are too concerned about form ( It looks like a flying object of a car ), So much so that the function is ignored ( Transport by flight ).

This is Elon · musk (Elon Musk) said , People usually “ Living by analogy ”.

Be wary of your inherited ideas ! Past agreements and previous forms are often accepted without question , Once accepted , They set boundaries around creativity .

The difference is Continuous improvement One of the main differences from first principles thinking . Within the boundaries set by the original vision , Continuous improvement often happens . by comparison , First principle thinking requires you to give up your loyalty to the previous form , And put function first . What do you want to achieve ? What is the result of the function you want to implement ?

Optimize features , Ignore form . This is you Learn how to think for yourself .

The power of the first principle

Here's the irony , Perhaps the best way to develop cutting-edge ideas is to break things down into basic principles . Even if you're not going to come up with innovative ideas , The first principle of understanding the field is also the wise use of your time . without Solid basic knowledge , It's hard to master the details of competition .

Every innovation , Including the most groundbreaking innovations , Need long term iteration and improvement . The company at the beginning of this article SpaceX A lot of simulations have been done , Thousands of adjustments have been made , And it takes a lot of testing , Then they figure out how to make a reusable rocket at a reasonable price .

First principles thinking does not eliminate the need for continuous improvement , But it does change the direction of improvement . Without first principles reasoning , You spend your time making small improvements to bicycles instead of snowmobiles . The first principle of thinking puts you on a different track .

If you want to enhance an existing process or belief , So continuous improvement is a good choice . If you want to learn how to think for yourself , So reasoning from the first principle is one of the best ways to do this .

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