Have you ever wondered why an object such as a chair is shaped the way it is, or why it’s even needed in the first place? What mystery unravels when we dig into the very essence of everyday objects and concepts around us?
Navigating through a universe having well-established beliefs and customary wisdom, the hunt for innovative answers and deciphering the secrets hidden behind the everyday becomes not just a curiosity, but a necessity. This is where first principles thinking comes to the rescue. I have posted a detailed blog on First principles thinking – First principles thinking: Concepts & Examples. In this blog, let’s explore how we can utilize ChatGPT to maneuver through the layers of a problem or concept to unearth its foundational principles, often termed as the ‘first principles’ or ‘first causes’ or ‘fundamental truths’.
Exploring the Depth of Cause and Effect: The Wooden Chair
Taking a straightforward example, we delve into the cause-and-effect chain for creating a wooden chair. At a superficial layer, the chair is an entity to enable another activity, which is sitting. Yet, if we peel off the layers, we can dissect this seemingly simple object into a cascade of causes and effects, bringing analytical thinking into play by breaking down the problem into smaller chunks. Here is a ChatGPT prompt.
Perform cause-and-effect analysis to understand the cause-and-effect chain for the wooden Chair. Use following to perform to arrive at the first principle which can be termed as final causes. Effect: Sitting Cause 1: Chair Effect 1: Chair Cause 11: Wood Cause 12: Carpenter with expertise in building wooden chair Cause 13: Carpenter tools Effect 11: Wood Cause 111: Forest Case 112: License to get woods from forest Effect 12: Carpenter with expertise in building wooden chair Cause 121: Carpenter trained from expert or other carpenters Cause 122: People willing to become carpenter Effect 13: Carpenter tools Cause 131: Companies creating tools for carpenters Cause 132: Carpenter having money to buy the tools
When I executed the above, it gave the following as an output. Note, how ChatGPT continued breaking down the things further.
Effect 12: Carpenter with expertise in building wooden chair Cause 121: Carpenter trained from expert or other carpenters Cause 122: People willing to become a carpenter Effect 121: Carpenter trained from expert or other carpenters Cause 1211: Existence of experienced carpenters to mentor the new ones Cause 1212: Accessibility to carpentry education or apprenticeship programs Effect 122: People willing to become a carpenter Cause 1221: Job opportunities in carpentry Cause 1222: Interest or inclination towards craftsmanship and carpentry Effect 13: Carpenter tools Cause 131: Companies creating tools for carpenters Cause 132: Carpenter having money to buy the tools Effect 131: Companies creating tools for carpenters Cause 1311: Demand for carpentry tools in the market Cause 1312: Technological advancements allowing tool production Effect 132: Carpenter having money to buy the tools Cause 1321: Carpenter having access to stable income or savings Cause 1322: Availability of financial systems or resources
Now with above output, you can choose to break down any specific effect and delve deeper into causes thereby arriving at the first principles. For example, I used the following prompt to break down the effect related to “Carpenter having money to buy the tools“.
Can you dig deeper into #Effect 132 to arrive at fundamental principles
When applying the First Principles Thinking, we dismantle a problem or concept into its basic, self-evident constituents – essentially we keep asking “why” until we hit the bedrock of fundamental truths.
Looking at our example, upon reaching causes like “Carpenter having money to buy the tools,” we embark on a more profound journey:
- Why do carpenters have money?
- What enables the availability and creation of carpentry tools?
- Why does a carpenter choose this profession?
Adhering to first principles, the thinking doesn’t halt at surface-level answers. It keeps excavating until it reaches the underlying truths, which might hinge upon human needs and desires, socio-economic structures, or elemental biological and physical laws.
For instance, the root causes or first principles can dive into aspects like:
- Human behavioral economics: Why and how humans value and use resources?
- Social and political stability: How governance and societal norms enable structured commerce and trade?
- Biological and physical laws: What governs the growth of trees, the mechanics of carpentry, and the ergonomics of a chair?
Navigating Through Layers of First Principles Thinking with ChatGPT
ChatGPT, with its extensive knowledge base and advanced language understanding, becomes a powerful ally in this analytical journey. It helps streamline thought processes, furnishing detailed breakdowns of various causes and their respective effects, thereby facilitating a structured approach towards reaching the first principles.
By querying and interacting with ChatGPT, users can dissect multiple layers of causes, observe intricate interlinking among them, and derive insightful connections that gradually lead towards the foundational truths or first principles.
Innovation by Making Changes to Causes
When we break down any object or concept using the First Principles Thinking, as shown in our earlier exploration of the wooden chair, we begin to see a network of interconnected causes that lead to the final product or outcome. Understanding these intricacies becomes the seedbed for innovation, and this is where making selective changes to the causes creates a ripple, offering us a new variant or even a breakthrough.
Leveraging ChatGPT’s immense database and analytical capabilities, we methodically peel off the layers that form the bulk of conventional wisdom. For instance, while exploring the cause-and-effect chain for the wooden chair, we discovered a multitude of factors, such as the availability of wood, the expertise of the carpenter, the economic dynamics, and more, each weaving into the final outcome – the chair.
What if we tinker with these causes? What if a carpenter adopts a different material, or utilizes an innovative tool, or embraces a unique carpentry method unknown to his contemporaries? This is where innovation births – by selectively adjusting, modifying, or completely overhauling specific causes identified during our deep dive.
By employing ChatGPT to unravel the dense web of causality, we can pinpoint specific causes that, when altered, can potentially innovate the effect – the final product. It becomes an enlightening assistant, shedding light on the intricate and often overlooked aspects that might just be the key to innovative solutions.
For instance, the cause ‘Carpenter having money to buy tools’ was broken down into several layers, uncovering aspects related to economic stability, governance, societal structures, and human behaviors. An innovation in any of these root causes – say, introducing a new economic model or policy – could cascade up the chain, eventually altering the availability, quality, and innovation in carpentry and thereby, the final chair.
Takeaway Prompt for First Principles Thinking using ChatGPT
Fill in the blanks for first level effect and cause and execute the following prompt to start doing first principles thinking.
Perform cause-and-effect analysis to understand the cause-and-effect chain for the _________ as effect and ___________ as cause. Use following to perform to arrive at the first principle which can be termed as final causes. Effect: Sitting Cause 1: Chair Effect 1: Chair Cause 11: Wood Cause 12: Carpenter with expertise in building wooden chair Cause 13: Carpenter tools Effect 11: Wood Cause 111: Forest Case 112: License to get woods from forest Effect 12: Carpenter with expertise in building wooden chair Cause 121: Carpenter trained from expert or other carpenters Cause 122: People willing to become carpenter Effect 13: Carpenter tools Cause 131: Companies creating tools for carpenters Cause 132: Carpenter having money to buy the tools
A cognizant approach to First Principles Thinking, especially with technological assistance like ChatGPT, not only grants clarity but also fuels innovation by freeing the mind from conventional paradigms. It opens up avenues for novel solutions by providing a clearer, unobstructed view of the fundamental building blocks of problems and phenomena.
With ChatGPT as our guide in the dense forest of causes and effects, identifying which tree to shake for the ripest fruit of innovation becomes an exhilarating adventure rather than a perplexing dilemma. We open doors to realms of possibilities where each cause holds the potential to morph, adapt, and recreate the final output in unexpected and novel ways.
So, let’s keep digging, keep questioning, and keep innovating by reaching the roots – the first principles. Feel free to reach out to me if you need an assistance.