Developing Sanity in Human Affairs

By Susan Presby Kodish; Robert P. Holston | Go to book overview
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Problem Solving with General-Semantics

David Hewson

Consciously or unconsciously, all of us solve problems. We can solve them more effectively if we increase our awareness of what we do. In this paper I propose to discuss how you can use general-semantics formulations along with modern problem-solving methods, to improve your problem solving. These problem-solving methods and techniques come from the areas of artificial intelligence/computer science, engineering, operations research, and psychology.

I first provide an overview of problem solving, then relate problem-solving methods to general-semantics formulations.

Problem solving can be broken up into six steps, as shown in Figure 1. The first is problem finding, where you find the problem before it finds you. Also at this step, you can find the real cause(s) of the problem, so that you don't just treat the effects; and if you have many possible problems, you can find the best one to solve. Once you have found your problem, or it finds you, then you do Step 2, problem definition. Here you define your problem in the most appropriate way. General-semanticists would apply the formulation that the 'map' (i.e., the problem definition) should be of similar structure to the territory (i.e., the actual problem). Asking the right question can be half the battle. That's why the first two steps try to make sure you attempt to solve the right problem. After defining your problem, you start to solve it at Step 3, solution creation. Here you use an appropriate algorithm or heuristic method to create some possible solutions. An algorithm is a set of rules that guarantee a correct or optimal solution whereas heuristics only improve your chances of getting a solution, that is, there is no guarantee. Also heuristics say nothing about the solution being the best. Once you have several possible solutions, you need to evaluate them and decide which you find the best. This is Step 4, solution evaluation. So in this step you evaluate your possible solutions to see if they are feasible (i.e., they obey all the constraints) and to choose the best one. Once we have chosen a solution we move on to Step 5, solution implementation. Here you take action


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