In Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Phaedrus contemplates where hypotheses come from. Phaedrus says that in the scientific method, hypotheses creation is the biggest mystery. Hypotheses just appear, out of nowhere.
I don’t agree. I think there is a clear explanation as to how hypotheses seem to suddenly appear from nowhere. It is a step by step process.
We experience reality through our mental models. When stimuli occur, we interpret that stimuli and understand it through our explanatory mental models. Thus, reality is mapped in our mind as mental models. We have mental models of reality in our minds.
We can then use our mental models to run simulations of reality that predict real world results. If our mental models are good ways to describe how reality works, our simulations will produce the same results as running the experiment in reality.
If so, we are satisfied that our model represents reality well. Otherwise I we are surprised.
The essence of surprise is a sensory stimuli that was not predicted by running a simulation through a mental model. This means that your mental model of this part of reality does not correspond to how reality actually works, and thus cannot predict reality accurately.
If the ability to predict this part of reality is important to us, this creates unsatisfaction. This leads us to want to create a better model for this part of reality. This is the essence of curiosity.
Curiosity is the will to create a better mental model of reality.
To do this, we start tinkering with our model until we find a way to produce a simulation that would predict the same stimuli we just got from reality. We produce new ideas – ways to edit or remake our model of reality. This is the essence of inspiration.
Inspiration is when you produce an idea for how you can edit a mental model of reality to better align it with how reality works.
We produce these ideas – this inspiration – in different ways.
Perhaps you are taking inspiration from a model that works well to predict a similar situation in another field (cross-disciplinary association). Perhaps you read something and get outside suggestions for how your model could be improved (learning from others). Perhaps you simply randomize a part of your mental model to see what happens – although this rarely produces good results.
The point is, you tinker with your model and run new simulations until you arrive at a satisfactory solution – a model that when run through the same simulation produces the same stimuli reality gave you.
When you find a model that satisfies this, it is time to test if it also works in general, not just in this situation. Your new mental model is the basis of your hypothesis. It contains the cause and effect explanation of why your simulation didn’t work last time but does this time, and it can be used to run new experiments to test it’s validity in predicting other phenomena. You can run your new model through various other simulations to produce an expected result in the form of a stimuli you would expect from running the corresponding experiment in reality. If you do this, and you get the stimuli from reality that your model predicted, you become satisfied that your new mental model predicts reality better than your old model, and you adopt it. You have now improved your ability to simulate reality. This means that your new or revamped model corresponds better to how reality actually works than your old model. You have learned.