Sensemaking & AI

Sensemaking is going to change. AI will allow us to find story-less, a-narrative yet meaningful correlations. Our minds will have to be open to a new kind of awe: that which a machine can make sense of that we cannot.

An abstract image of sense making

Sense-making is an innate, biological urge to make sense of our lives. Humans devote an extraordinary amount of time, money, and attention to sense-making. Our behavior is driven by the drive to both feel positive about our lives and to live our lives in a way that makes sense.

Nick Chater, professor of Behavioural Science and George Loewenstein, professor of Economics and Psychology, suggest that the drive for sensemaking is under-appreciated. They argue that our sensemaking drive is as potent as other drives such as hunger, thirst, and sex. However, it only exists in our minds so is constrained by what our brains can do.

The drive for sense-making depends on cognitive state and external information. It operates via a carrot-and-stick mechanism—it doesn’t feel good when we can’t make sense of something and it does feel good when we feel like we are figuring things out. It feels especially good when we sense that a piece of information is key and explains many things or reduces overall complexity.

The experience of making sense of something, characterized by its tangible feeling, indicates it is a deeply creative process that often involves discomfort. This discomfort is necessary for us to appreciate the relief that comes from successful sensemaking.

Sensemaking often involves crafting narratives that help us perceive our lives as coherent and meaningful. The joy we derive from making sense of our existence is directly related to the significance we place on it, with the ultimate satisfaction coming from feeling that our lives genuinely make sense.

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