Abstract Thinking

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Full Title or Meme

Abstract Thinking is the process of creating general rules or concepts that can encapsulate many specific use cases.


  • It is often said that there is no problem of computer science that cannot be solved with another level of indirection (or layer of abstraction).
  • One abstraction of this idea is that it is the filtering of information about one concept that selects only those details are shared with others.
  • For example a Taxonomy is a complete separation of the elements of a set into those that share the same set of attributes. Here an element can only be in one taxon.
  • Another way to categorize elements of one set is to build an Ontology of types that permits elements of the set to be in more that one category.
  • Once an abstract concept is created it can be evaluated and discussed as a single thing.


  • James R. Flynn discovered that as society evolves the concept called intelligence is recalibrated to higher and higher amounts of Abstract Thinking.[1] While it would be possible to say we are getting smarter, you could also just say we are adapting to a changing ecosystem. It is the test that is changing, not the people.


  1. Clay Risen, James R. Flynn, Who Found We Are Getting Smarter New York Times p B10 (2021-01-27) https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/25/science/james-r-flynn-dead.html