1001 reasons to beware of your knowledge

By | 2006-07-09

At bed-time, I’m reading a Go book called “One Thousand and One Life-and-Death Problems“. It’s a collection of problems to challenge your mind. The interesting issue is that most problems are quite easy, but anyway you spend a lot of time trying to solve them. Why? Because they make you think, they put in doubt your self-acquired knowledge. Sometimes you see a problem, and (without a really thinking) you say “it’s impossible, there is a mistake for sure”… but it’s only a first impression made by your lazy mind. This is not good. So this book helps you to break this subtle barrier between lazy and real thinking.
In Go, you learn a lot of shapes. You see them over and over, and you usually “absorb” them. But all of your knowledge can be questioned, so you have to be really cautious applying them. For example, the 3 stones straight shape (A1-A2-A3 in the figure) is (according to me) a 1-eye shape. Also, the 2 stones shape (C1-D1) is an eye-stealing standard shape. So, when you take a first look at this problem, which the title is black to live, you quickly think it’s impossible, because you know you need 2 eyes to live (and in the figure: 1-eye-shape plus 0-eye-shape is less than 2-eyes). But, wait a moment, there are only 2 posible moves to play (at B1 and at B2) so… why don’t you calculate both? Why do you assume it’s imposible? Why don’t you use your mind to do some real thinking? I’m sure in real life, during a tournament, a lot of people missread this situation, with time running out, and leave with a loss. It’s a bad thing to assume (ass+U+me, as my english teacher says).

Your knowledge is not a help to make you avoid thinking, but a tool to help you in different ways, to offer you wide possible solutions, and to help you to create new solutions, for the problem you are facing. And this is true not only for the game of Go, but for all knowledge you have in your mind (from engineering to social things).