Humans can find them anywhere, whether they’re actually there or not. Our entire learning process is based on finding patterns, and this applies to everyone throughout the learning spectrum. Whether you’re a toddler learning the basics of reading, or a chess grandmaster, your pattern-recognition ability is what will determine if you succeed or fail.
Patterns make us feel smart. They make us feel like we know what’s coming. Take a look at pop music. We like music with a beat, or a simple melody, or a catchy chorus. Ideally, we like the exact same song over and over again. That’s why many of the biggest pop songs of the past 20 years have been written one man, a Swedish guy named Max Martin, whom you’ve never heard of. Look him up, his story will blow your mind.
We have a fetish for patterns. We’re desperate for them. As Dr. Michael Shermer puts it, “The inability of individuals to assign causal probabilities to all sets of events that occur around them will often force them to lump causal associations with non-causal ones.” Shermer has come to be known as the modern expert on apophenia, which is the human tendency to see meaningful patterns in random data. He coined the term patternicity to describe finding such patterns, and coined the term agenticity to describe infusing them with meaning.
I’m not a nihilist, or even self-loathing, but humans are biased pattern-recognition machines who lazily prefer the comfort of algorithms to the uncertainty of heuristic discovery. It is therefore our mission to sift through the chaos of extraneous info to find order, in spite of ourselves.
When you’re a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.