There is no substitute for Trial & Error when dealing with your own well-being.
I was introduced to a very interesting train of thought last night on TED. The speaker was Tim Harford.
In his presentation, he explains how Unilever designed the perfect nozzle to manufacture laundry detergent. Quite simply in manufacturing detergent you take a liquid form and spray it on a surface to dry. Once dry you package and sell it. The difficulty in the process is getting the nozzle to spray the liquid just right, in the perfect size for drying. Unilever initially hired the most brilliant engineers in the world to design the nozzle and no one could get it right. Eventually they simply began to try hundreds of different designs, and gradually tweak the nozzles that showed promise. Ultimately this approach resulted in the perfect nozzle for manufacturing. No one could explain why it worked so well, it just did.
The point is, no expert could design it. Sometimes it doesn’t take the smartest person in the room to get it right. In nature, it is the gradual adaptation through painstakingly slow mutations that result in the most successful results.
We are constantly bombarded with the expert opinions, the large corporations telling us exactly what will fix our problems. With health it is generally the largest marketing budget that “shouts down from the mountain”; we are right, we have the solution.
If history can teach us anything; we need to pay attention to works well for us and we do this through the Trial & Error process.
Darwin when writing the Origin of Species would have agreed that almost all improvements are a result of Trial & Error. “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
If you have diabetes, then you need to experiment with a different approach. You need to look for solutions that offer a minute improvement. And then improve on the improvement. If you are overweight you need to examine the cause. Breakdown the data and tweak with the input to get different results.
We need to continue to evolve as a species. True change in nature occurs over very long periods of time but we can exploit that knowledge. We can speed up the discovery phase and experiment with our own well-being. Why wait for thousands of years to conclude that the food we are eating is killing us off one by one. The beauty of eating healthy is the change occurs very rapidly. We improve our health and thus improve our lives. We live longer and pass on our habits to the next generation. Albeit these are not genetic changes; yet… it does give us the opportunity to change our destiny within our own lifetime.
“In a complicated society, we give up to the God-complex, listening to the authorities who have all the answers, instead of facing the task of fixing the problem. Tim Harford tells us that when a problem persists, the method to fix it is simple: trial and error. Experimenting helped me find my perfect running gait. Maybe we can use this method to improve bigger systems, on the scale of societies. Communities can be different and each type needs the leadership and experience of its citizens. If only we can use our humility to admit that we don’t have the answers and our strength to face our problems, fail, and try again. And the confidence to challenge the authorities who tell us they have the answers. By acclimating, we can continue to exist. By reasoning and experimentation, we will thrive.” Tim Harford