The importance of patterns

Patterns in general, are important in life because wherever we find them they allow for a certain kind of predictability. As with any sort of inquiry or rambling, it’s important to delineate what one means – especially to avoid the ‘it depends’ and the ‘not necessarily’ groups of people. As usual I will be writing about generalities – that large body of the main (as I perceive it) – and not exceptions on the outer edges of some sample. Also I will refer to examples I’ve encountered recently

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In general

Patterns to most people, are sequences or arrangements of things observable. Be it a decorative pattern or a behaviour pattern there will appear to be some order, even if there is chaos in the micro-detail.  Before I go too far, I feel a need to say that I’m speaking/writing informally and not as ‘a professional’. It won’t be apparent to many why I have to qualify this and I don’t care, why they won’t – and I really don’t have time to give to any of that.

So far, a pattern has some sequence, an arrangement and requires an observer. Once an ‘observer’ comes into the equation, it means that the quality and reliability of the observation is of importance. The observer had to be especially careful to avoid deceptions of the mind and hard-wiring of the brain, to see patterns where none might exist.

Demonstrating a sequence or arrangement could also be problematic. Some sequences can be rather inconsistent, infrequent, or arise out of Chaos. By ‘chaos’ I’m speaking of the mathematical concept. In ‘Chaos theory’ even ‘chaotic systems’ may present patterns – and such patterns are sometimes difficult to find or see with the naked eye. But some are easy to see. I don’t go further on that. (Google is your friend). MacLachlanImage

Pattern recognition is about the observer rapidly seeing similar patterns when they occur. It may often be the case that a pattern is visible to some people and not to others. And I can’t deal with those who would stubbornly refuse to see a pattern, when it is clearly visible or made visible. Pattern recognition is an ability, that is acquired or learned. I’m not talking about innate abilities due to hard-wiring of brains.

Some patterns are visible to the eye. But pattern recognition does not mean that sight is an absolute necessity – I feel a need to say – lest some dumbass reminds me that blind people can notice patterns too. There are some patterns that exist only in the mind and are not visible or tangible to the senses. I’ll mention those later.

This sort of arrangement: AaAA BBBB CCccCCC DDDddDDD EEEEEeeEEE FFFFFFffFFFFF GGGGGGGggGGGGG HHHHHHHHhhHHHHHHHH – is likely to be seen as a pattern by most people. There may also be patterns within patterns and some patterns may have an exponential or polynomial underlying their formation. Of course there are wild and complex patterns that have strange mathematical equations underlying them. In some situations there may be no explanation but a pattern can still be observed.

Recently – I mean in the last year – patterns have become more important to me because I’ve been involved in Forex markets. Perhaps unusually, pattern recognition in relation to Forex markets has accentuated my appreciation of pattern recognition in my line of work (which remains spooky and mysterious). I also discover patterns about me through Forex e.g. I have a tendency on occasions (not a regular feature) to think that the opposite of what I see is likely to happen. [I should be careful to say that this is in Forex trading only and does not extend into general life]. So I may see a pattern on a chart which will indicate that price will go in a certain direction, yet I take an opposing bet – instead of going in the direction of what is logically correct. There are some of course who would chuckle about this and ask me to see a therapist to sort it out. I’m not interested in the ‘psychodyamics’ of myself. All that I know in the latter situation is that the pattern exists – and I’ve developed a counter strategy to manage my strange ‘pattern’. What’s that? It’s as simple as saying “Stop.. what the hell are you doing?” – to myself!! Chrysst – things really don’t have to be complicated!! [That ‘Chrysst’ thing is a now a pattern in my writing – isn’t it?]

Non-physical patterns

The above is of course a behavioural or cognitive pattern in myself and that can’t be put on a chart for all to see. I alone see it – and I think that’s fine. And tough if it’s not fine for others. In fact as I’m writing this I’ve recognised a tendency to be argumentative seemingly with myself. No – my mind doesn’t rage riot on me. But my expectations of stupid comments based on the culture in which I function, leads me always to dismiss silly people and silly arguments in advance. Even culture itself, is about patterns i.e. what a people do, how they tend to think, what their responses might be etc.

I’ve also reviewed another weird pattern about me, which is to be occasional (and infrequent) inattentiveness to things happening to the right of my field of vision. If there are any neurologists out there reading this, kindly calm down. I’m fully aware of brain syndromes that explain such things. The inattentiveness is very few and far between – and I do not have a visual field disorder or brain defect. What I have noticed, is about seven instances from the age of 19, when I’ve had almost had accidents (‘almost’ is the operative word). The first incident was at 19, when I was in Jamaica. I was out with friends, got distracted. Stepped off a pavement (in a sober state), and was suddenly pulled violently back by a ‘friend’. A minibus then passes me about a second later coming from my right!! Why or how did I do that, or miss what was happening to my right? I do not know. That was the most serious near miss – and I do not go into the other situations. I’ve also had near misses with things happening from the left, but far less frequent. Psychologists and other wanna-be quasi-psychologists, who run around the internet picking up psychobabbling junk to regurgitate, will tell me that that very first incident had either consciously or unconsciously primed me to pay more attention to near misses happening to my right – and therefore I’ve over-recalled problems with things happening to my right. It’s not that simple. Anyways, the point is, that having recognised the pattern, I’ve introduced  an ‘override’ of scanning what’s happening to my right three times before I do anything important, such as turning right or left when driving (my car), or crossing a road. I’m now expecting so-called friends who read this to make a meal or joke of it (another expectation, based on pattern recognition of the culture in which I live). [One more opportunity to sack a few].

Human expectation

People expect others in general to behave in certain ways. If you’re walking peacefully on an average workday, on Oxford Street in London, you will expect  to see lots of people moving around doing their shopping. You also expect to see Red buses and people in them. You expect to see black cabs and you expect there will be much background noise from vehicles and people talking. You may also expect to be walking among potential pick-pockets.  All that forms some of the expectations, based on patterns. Of course a foreigner who has never been on Oxford Street  (or accessed information about it), will need to learn the patterns of what generally goes on there before coming to any expectations.

Behaviour can form into patterns. I don’t need to go into career criminals whose patterns of behaviour are quite predictable. But what about ordinary people – average ordinary people out there? They don’t need to be hardened criminals or psychopaths to display patterns of behaviour (or thinking), to have bad patterns of behaviour. There is a characteristic of behaviour in England commonly known as ‘bloody-mindedness’. There are other patterns or traits in people such as insensitivity, callousness and so on. And one must remember that some characteristics only become obvious in certain situations. That they do so also forms a pattern. Some people become callous, insensitive and malicious only in times of stress. The same person may be kind and generous in situations where there is no stress. All that is pattern generation. My ‘job’ is not to ‘sort’ them out – I often muse about the extent to which the average person in England is influenced unconsciously by expectations arising from American movies.

Overall though, the best indicators of future ‘behaviour’, ‘performance’, ‘risk’ etc – is historical patterns of the same. Just today I come across another thing that gives me an insight into human nature and how patterns affect performance. Listen up! I only give out my UK mobile phone number to a very few select people. Mobile phone numbers in the UK almost always start with 07. So it’s quite common to see a number such as 07811 xxx xxx. Now for various very sound reasons which I won’t go into, I’ve decided to use a special telephone number which instantly directs calls straight to my mobile. So instead of giving out my mobile number I give out a number starting with 0871xxxxx xxx. In my place of work I’ve given out this number. Many people have been able to dial the number and get straight through to me on my mobile phone. Look, is this so hard to understand? You dial the number 0871xxxxx xxx  and it rings straight through to my mobile phone. However.. however.. today alone I’ve receive three (3) emails at my current place of work from three different people stating that the number doesn’t work!! “Bollocks!” – was my first thought. What happens next?

Right – I call up person A who had emailed; on an internal line. I tell them that the number works. I ask them to call the number 0871xxxxx xxx from a separate internal line and listen to hear if my mobile (which is next to me) rings.  They dial the number 0871xxxxx xxx – and ‘Presto!!’ my mobile phone rings as it always does!!!! The person A, confirms that they have heard it ring and therefore the number works. So why was it that they needed to email me to say that it doesn’t work. You’ll find out in a moment. Person B who had sent a similar email then rings me having dialled 0871xxxxx xxx and gets straight through. We don’t discuss why they could not find me on my my mobile (0871xxxxx xxx) – I simply avoid it and let them off the hook. We discuss other important matters.

So how come two people, who claim (in writing) that my mobile number (0871xxxxx xxx) ‘doesn’t work’, can actually call through on the same number they said doesn’t work and get through to me instantly? Well one stupidly simple theory is that the number didn’t forward the call at the particular times they tried to call. The probability of that however is extremely remote, because people had been calling me on and off during the day on said number (0871xxxxx xxx) and getting straight through to my mobile (quite seamlessly). What’s caused all of this? My favoured explanation is that these people are idiots. Person A in their email was asking, “is it 07 you mean” (i.e. 0781)? Person B simply claimed the the number didn’t dial. However, there is another ‘trick’ about this 0871xxxxx xxx. Whenever it is dialled, I get an email alert spelling out the number from which the call originated (or first 6 digits of that number if caller line display is withheld). I can safely say there that no such alerts came through for the times when A an B above claimed they had called. [And some idiot out there is now about to invoke some glitch in an email system to explain it away.. woooo.. spooky shit happens – don’t it]. Well – I don’t propose to argue away all possibilities that could explain this. The simple explanation is that the first time around, the idiots dialled 0781 xxxxxx xxx, thinking or rather knowing, that I had made an error – and they didn’t bother to dial the number as written.

Impact of patterns

What the devil has any of that got to do with pattern recognition?!!! Chrysst!! It’s so simple. People tend to follow the patterns in their heads instead of seeing what’s before them!!!! This is not like me above making occasional wrong decisions in Forex trading which is a pretty complicated thing. I’m talking about off the cuff acting on an expectation based on a pattern etched in the brain of somebody. Pattern recognition can therefore etch expectations in the minds of people so that what they perceive is twisted out of shape compared to what is actually out there. I’ve often said that the human animal is stupid. This surely goes some way to proving it. Another amazing thing about the three people who emailed me above on this – is that they were all females. I’d be called sexist if I say that males are evolutionarily more adapted to understanding that the world changes rather rapidly. Caveman would have known this – so males have probably evolved to cope better with rapidly changing patterns. No – I don’t make this extrapolation just from the above instances with this mobile phone thing. I’ve observed that females tend to get rather upset by changes to the order of things – which is a pattern of sorts. Cavewoman would have spent much time indoors (in her cave) – not exposed to the flux of things that ‘caveman’ would cope with when out on the hunt. Woooo.. oooo.. I’m now sooooh.. bad.. how could I say this?! Who do I think I am? etc. I’ll expect to be told that the world isn’t all about pattern recognition.

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