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Old 11-29-2007, 08:45 PM   #1
Jonathan Silverman
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Why is Black Box called Black Box?

Hey,

What's the origin of naming a workout a black box workout, or calling a gym black box?

I think a black box is when you don't know how something works so you call it a black box. Plus there are black boxes in airplanes that practically indestructible.

thanks.
Jonathan
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Old 11-29-2007, 09:10 PM   #2
Scott A Martin
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Re: Why is Black Box called Black Box?

From what I understand, when used with respect to a fitness program, the term "black box" suggests that we understand the input (what we do) and the output (the results), without necessarily understanding exactly how the input produces the output. I'm not sure if this is helpful or not.
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Old 11-29-2007, 09:12 PM   #3
Jonathan Silverman
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Re: Why is Black Box called Black Box?

yep. that totally sounds like a black box. thanks!
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Old 11-29-2007, 09:18 PM   #4
Eugene R. Allen
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Re: Why is Black Box called Black Box?

The gym's are big boxes, not black boxes.

The black box is the place where magic happens. Why is that when people who haven't been doing deadlifts start doing them see improvements in their bench press and other seemingly unrelated things? Is it muscular, is it neurological, is it endocrinogical or maybe even psycholgical? For the most part it doesn't matter. If you find that something you put into the black box (the lift, the workout, the training philosophy) and out the other end you get better peformance, what went on in the black box is the perview of the folks in lab coats. CrossFitters are intested in what goes in and what comes out, not so much what happens inside the black box.

HOWEVER - when you become a trainer and are designing workouts and training programs, it's quite a heads up for you to know what things that you put into the box create the results you are after. You still may be in the dark about mechinations of HOW the adaptations occur but knowing which inputs create what kind of outputs is vital to program creation.

Your other airplane black box analogy is good too. If you are a mechanic for the aircraft and some high speed component is broken, you unplug it, pull it out, and plug a new one back in. Now it works. HOW it works is not as important as THAT it works. Jonathan you can go study and do research and discover on your own the intricacies of neurosynaptic facilitation and neuroendocrine response and see just what exactly creates the performance adaptations we CrossFitters seek...or you can do the workouts and get stronger, faster and more powerful.

Decide for yourself the better route to take.
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Old 11-30-2007, 05:10 AM   #5
Steve Liberati
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Re: Why is Black Box called Black Box?

In computer programming and software engineering, black box testing is used to check that the output of a program is as expected, given certain inputs. The term "black box" is used because the actual program being executed is not examined. Similiar to CrossFit, we just know it works (based on mountains of empirical evidence) without a need to study and examine its inner working components.

In real terms, "We black boxed CrossFit and found that it works remarkably well not b/c a scientist says so, but because we have data to show its validity."
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Old 11-30-2007, 06:52 AM   #6
Tom Fetter
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Re: Why is Black Box called Black Box?

People argue over whether the term "black box" was first used in engineering or behavioural psych. Describes a discrete place where processing occurs, where it's not truly necessary to the overall design of the system to know what kind of processing that is. The inputs and outputs are the important bit. Hence it's a "box" because the processing is discrete, and "black" (i.e. in-the-dark) because you don't need to understand how it happens ... just that it happens.

B.F. Skinner popularized the term in the 1950s talking about behavioural psychology, though it was maybe used by someone called Neumann in papers from a psych conference in 1948. It was being used at about the same time in industrial engineering.

Must have been something in the air - Kenneth Waltz used the very same concept (though with a different name) in a 1954 book that is arguably the most important work in 20th Century international relations theory. To understand workings of power in the system of states, he said, it doesn't matter what the domestic political setup is of any state. It's interesting in itself and important to a state's citizens, but is essentially irrelevant to the workings of international power politics. Waltz' ideas are the modern underpinning of "realism," the orientation that's guided foreign policy made by virtually all states (of whatever political stripe) ever since.
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Old 11-30-2007, 07:04 AM   #7
Susie Rosenberg
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Re: Why is Black Box called Black Box?

I first heard the term when learning about BF Skinner and his behavioral and learning theories.

Freud and all the offshoots of psychoanalytic psychology were/are all about conjecturing what's inside the "black box", the black box being us, we humans and our minds. They formulated these theories by inferring the workings of the black box by observing the outputs (behaviors) of the black box. A good black box theory is very good at predicting outputs. A weak black box theory....not so much. (I'll leave it alone as to whether I think psychoanalytic theory is a good theory or not.)

BF Skinner came along and said, "that's very nice, but how about this. How about we stop this Talmudic discourse about the nature of psyche, and start paying attention to the relationship of black box input to black box output."

Which is what he did. He varied the stimuli (input) presented to an organism, and then observed what the organism did (output) under the different conditions. He discovered, for example, that you can illicit the most behaviors per unit time if you positively reinforce that behavior with a variable interval schedule---randomly varied periods of time since the last reinforcement. (Slot machines are programmed to deliver rewards on a variable interval schedule.)

So, in Crossfit terms, referring to the black box means "we try X, observe the response Y, and if Y improves, X works."
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Old 11-30-2007, 04:13 PM   #8
John Maloney
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Re: Why is Black Box called Black Box?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Liberati View Post
In computer programming and software engineering, black box testing is used to check that the output of a program is as expected, given certain inputs. The term "black box" is used because the actual program being executed is not examined. Similiar to CrossFit, we just know it works (based on mountains of empirical evidence) without a need to study and examine its inner working components.

In real terms, "We black boxed CrossFit and found that it works remarkably well not b/c a scientist says so, but because we have data to show its validity."
To expand on this (and I am a professional developer) ...

The purpose of the black box concept is to hide complexity. In practice you code a function to perform "X" and the user (typically another programmer) merely calls that function, providing the appropriate arguments (input data), and can expect, and rely upon, a certain result (which can be action(s) or return data). The programmer hides the complexity of how the work is done within the function because 1. the user doesn't need or care to know, and 2. The programmer can later change how the code works (in the black box) without affecting the users application: it will still accept the same input and return the expected output. From the perspective of the user's application, nothing has changed: Input=>black box=>Output

In terms of Crossfit, at a macro level, you show up/do the work => expected results. Coach can change the exercises, the % of strength days vs metcon, whatever. At a micro-level, certain exercises and certain programming will yield certain results.
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Last edited by John Maloney : 11-30-2007 at 04:18 PM.
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Old 11-30-2007, 06:43 PM   #9
Jonathan Silverman
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Re: Why is Black Box called Black Box?

Cool! Very Interesting.
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Old 11-30-2007, 08:08 PM   #10
Jeff Evans
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Re: Why is Black Box called Black Box?

Bah I was gonna come in here and explain all about black box testing of software but it seems the other Crossfit programmers beat me to the punch. Awesome!
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