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The Algorithm of Doubting

Y. B. Karasik,
Thoughts Guiding Systems Corp.,
Ottawa, Canada.

The ancients said: "Doubt everything". It might appear that this is a good method of creativity, especially in sciences. And indeed, there are many stories of how something was discovered because somebody doubted something. Unfortunately, doubting everything is like searching for a needle in the stack of hay. Most doubts are fruitless and lead nowhere as what is being doubted is often turns out to be true. Doubting everything without a direction is a blind doubting by trials and errors. How to find a thing which is worth doubting ? How to develop an algorithm of doubting ?

To this end a database of instances of productive doubting has to be put in place, as is customary in TRIZ. I started this work a while ago and by now was able to formulate the first algorithm of doubting based on the analysis of examples accumulated. In this article I will present its first steps.

The presentation is based on the analysis of the process of doubting of an explanation by Chubais of why USSR collapsed. Here is his explanation [1]:

What would one doubt here ? An inexperienced reader would rush to check the facts. Was the price of oil really falling in the 1980s ? Whether the Soviet Union imported 25 million tons of grain a year, and Russia exports it ? Etc. But the facts are correct and their doubting are trials that turn out to be errors.

A more thoughtful reader would have noticed that in Chubais' explanation there are premises and conclusions. Figures of import/export of grain are premises. And what are the conclusions? There are two of them, one stated and one implied. The stated conclusion is that the USSR had a not working agriculture. And a not stated but implied conclusion is that today's Russia has a working agriculture. Is this true?

Unfortunately, if the reader would like to verify whether the fact that the Soviet Union imported grain implies that its agriculture was not working, and the fact that today's Russia exports grain implies that its agriculture is working, he would not be able to do so. It is because one first needs to define what is a working agriculture and what is not.

Suppose we define a working agriculture as one that produces enough grain to feed its own population. Then verification of Chubais' conclusions becomes possible. To this end we need to know the amount of grain produced in the USSR and modern Russia per capita. It's a no brainer. The Soviet Union with a population of 250 million produced about 200 million tons of grain a year [2], and the modern Russia with a population of 143 million [3] produced just 92 million tons in 2011, and in 2010 even less - 60 million tons [4]. Grain production in the Soviet Union per capita was definitely higher than in the modern Russia. Why did the USSR could not feed its population then and the modern Russia can ?

It is a good question for researchers. Apparently the Soviet Union had to feed not only its own population but the population of many satellite countries. USSR could likely feed its people, but instead fed a large amount of allies. This is what the foreign credits were used for: on buying allies.

Thus, we now in the position to formulate the following first steps of the Algorithm of Doubting:

Please note that these are just the first elementary steps of a pretty large and complex algorithm. Its full description is beyond the scope of this paper.

Consider now the rest of Chubais' theory. It consists of a series of premises and conclusions:

Both the premises and conclusions do not hold water:

And now here is my theory of why the USSR collapsed. It is a counter-marxist. The marxist point of view is that social upheavals/revolutions happen when the upper classes are unable to rule in the old way and the lower classes do not want to live in the old way. In the case of USSR it was the other way around. Its leaders did not want to rule in the old way and its people under these circumstances were unable to live in the old way.

Thus, the Algorithm of Doubting led us to a new theory of revolutionary situations. But this is already the topic of my next article.


  2. Felix N. Kogan, "Grain production in USSR", United States Department of Agriculture, 1981
  3. Russian 2010 Census Data