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Sensemaking

What Makes Human Intelligence Essential in the Age of the Algorithm

By Christian Madsbjerg
13-minute read
Audio available
Sensemaking: What Makes Human Intelligence Essential in the Age of the Algorithm by Christian Madsbjerg

In a world where data, numbers and statistics are treated like holy relics, Sensemaking (2017) powerfully advocates a return to humanities-based thinking. These blinks explain the process and principles of sensemaking, a way to make sense of the world through the interpretation of human culture. Being able to look beyond the immediate focus and understand the context surrounding the issues at hand is a critical tool for anyone looking to develop great, one-of-a-kind ideas.

  • Devotees of the human sciences, philosophers, linguists and historians
  • Students of STEM looking to expand their potential
  • Business leaders and entrepreneurs

Christian Madsbjerg is the founder of the strategy consultants ReD Associate, which embraces anthropology, sociology, art history and philosophy. Madsbjerg himself studied philosophy and political science in Copenhagen and London.

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Sensemaking

What Makes Human Intelligence Essential in the Age of the Algorithm

By Christian Madsbjerg
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
Sensemaking: What Makes Human Intelligence Essential in the Age of the Algorithm by Christian Madsbjerg
Synopsis

In a world where data, numbers and statistics are treated like holy relics, Sensemaking (2017) powerfully advocates a return to humanities-based thinking. These blinks explain the process and principles of sensemaking, a way to make sense of the world through the interpretation of human culture. Being able to look beyond the immediate focus and understand the context surrounding the issues at hand is a critical tool for anyone looking to develop great, one-of-a-kind ideas.

Key idea 1 of 8

Sensemaking is a form of cultural engagement made up of five principles.

Compared to the mechanical efficiency of computers, it’s clear our human thought processes are flawed. Yet we do have one distinct advantage over machines: cultural knowledge.

This cultural knowledge can be most powerfully harnessed in a method called sensemaking. Sensemaking is the process by which we gain wisdom through examining cultural knowledge. It’s a kind of cultural engagement closely associated with the humanities.

For example, it might seem normal today to look to numbers for meaning, but sensemaking allows us to go further than sales figures, turnover rates and the like. It gives us a 360-degree perspective on the world.

There are five basic elements to sensemaking.

Firstly, sensemaking understands that humans shouldn’t just be defined by their individual personalities. People are also characterized by their cultural context.

Secondly, look for thick data. Thick data establishes what is significant in a given culture. For instance, the fact that 86 percent of US households might drink more than six quarts of milk per week is thin data. Thick data would help us understand what milk means to them and why they drink it.

Thirdly, consider that human behavior is best understood as existing in social contexts, rather than abstractly. Take love, for instance. It’s so much more than a chemical reaction in the brain that can be studied in a lab. To understand it fully we’d have to look at how love has been experienced in, say, classical India or the West today.

Fourthly, you shouldn’t look just to strict logical processes. Insights can be gained through immersion, intuition and hypothesizing.

The final precept reminds us that we shouldn’t get our bearings from data alone. If we attune ourselves to the world – looking to the stars, not GPS – we can also reach significant insights.

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