Computer operations are one-dimensional. Everything in a computer can be — in fact must be — resolved to a sequence of 0s and 1s.
Human thinking is multidimensional. It embraces reason, emotions, visual images, memories… the list is endless.
However, habits of mental contraction lead us to reduce the dimensionality of our thought. It is easier to maintain our thinking along a single track.
This creates confusion about “intelligence”. An individual who can recall and organize large volumes of information is often called “intelligent”. There are TV game shows built on this idea. However, if the information is all running on a single dimension—cultural trivia, mathematical calculations, medical expertise, whatever the case may be—the intelligence at play has a limited range.
So we need to distinguish two kinds of mental mobility. The first is mobility within a single dimension of thought. This is useful in a particular context—it can get you through exams and it makes for an impressive display on TV game shows.
The second is mobility between dimensions. Here we have a mind that can jump levels without getting lost, a mind that not only manages lots of information, but slips easily between different kinds of information.
True Mental Mobility
I recall a moment when I was interviewing the economist Jim Rickards for a podcast. We were talking about the Federal Reserve and he said: “They get the numbers. They don’t get the psychology.” This was a succinct distinction, not just between one piece of information and another, but between different kinds of information.
A problem with much financial thinking, especially on Wall Street, is that it’s one-dimensional. It reduces money to a spreadsheet. But money is multidimensional. It entails the labor and dreams of individuals, the interactions of massive currency systems, and the relationships between workers, employers, technologies and the environment. What does it take to include all these aspects in our thinking? True intelligence can navigate the many dimensions of a single idea, without contracting.
A multidimensional thinker will notice “the feeling of the thought” while conducting the most exacting rational analysis. She will slip effortlessly from abstract theory to common sense. She will be equally at home with the practical problems and their spiritual implications.
True mental mobility includes dimensional mobility—the agile play of a multi-mind.