Deconstruct to reconstruct

The process of deconstruction and reconstruction seems to be a recurring pattern that can be observed in multiple places. This article is an attempt to explain the advantages and flaws of deconstructing and reconstructing, looking at some examples of where this process is occurring.

The first part of the process is deconstructing. It is breaking down something complex into smaller sets. This step is often seen either when we are limited by our ability to work or to understand something. For example, trying to repair a car is impossible unless we understand each of its individual component and are able not to treat it as a whole. This is commonly where rational analysis is needed in order to break down something into understandable parts that can be easily manipulated, transformed, and later rearranged.

The second step of this process is reconstructing. It is necessary to understand the whole. By making interconnections between ideas, and placing what we deconstructed into different places/contexts, we are able to see a problem or a complex system from different angles, and gain a broader understanding of the complex whole. For example, by understanding the function of different organs, our ability to understand living organisms is enhanced, and can be extended to different creatures with slightly different inner workings. This second step is more generally linked to creative thinking, as recontextualizing concepts or things is often best stimulated by a loose kind of intuition rather than by rational analysis.

This two-step process, deconstruct to reconstruct, or analytical/differential thinking and creative/integral thinking, can be observed occurring in different situations. The following paragraphs will be dedicated to pointing out where this happens.

Learning: This is very broad, but when learning a topic, we take it apart to create unique concepts that be applied generally. For example in mathematics, a new theorem forms a singular "idea" that can be applied to different situations, solving different problems. The theorem deconstructs "to its core" an idea, to be then reapplied to other matching problems, sometimes from different angles.

Note-taking: Closely linked to learning, note-taking is a way to deconstruct ideas into written words, then reassemble them into new coherent ideas. For example, when taking notes about a book, a video, an article (e.g. this one), it is recommended to break down the concepts as you read and write them. This is the deconstruction part. Then, you take those coherent ideas that are out of context and assemble them into ideas that are meaningful to you, thus understanding those deeply. This process is called note-making and requires creative thought, whereas breaking down concepts required a logical and analytical understanding of the ideas you consumed. This is why taking notes is a two-step process.

Scientific activities: I have made it obvious in my previous examples, but breaking down problems into smaller units is a necessary step in science in order to understand how things work. This applies to mathematics, physics, or biology.

First principles thinking: this is the idea of breaking down something into its most elemental parts, to understand them deeply and reassemble them in creative ways. For example, if you take a quad bike and skis, you can break down the quad bike into the wheels, the handle, the seat, and combine some of its elements to make a snowmobile. Elon Musk is known for using this technique, as explained in an interview.

Psychology: By identifying and singling out patterns in your thought processes, such as what leads you to go for a run, you are able to gain understanding of yourself by looking at individual patterns of thinking that drive general patterns of behavior.

Pastiche and parody: Parodies usually destroy original works of art by singling out specific characteristics of the original and exaggerating them, deforming them. It deconstructs the work into its basic components to mock them. On the other hand, pastiches are reinterpretations of a work of art. It has already understood its specific components, and the pastiche is using them to convey an idea personal to the author who imitates the original. It is the same creative reinterpretation as in note-making.

The list goes on, and I invite you to think and come up with your own examples of where this general pattern can be observed. Understanding this process can help you to sort out and analyze efficient and deficient systems, thus allowing you to make more enlightened choices. Where there is only destruction without reconstruction (e.g. anarchy), or where there is no destruction nor continual improvement/reconstruction (e.g. rigid religious or political ideologies), start questioning the validity and sustainability of the system. But don't take everything I say for granted, be independent and challenge your beliefs: reconstruction only works if you do it yourself.