Good words to search for:

plasticity, learning, belief,
associate, space, sequence, system, group think,
trapping, discriminate,
map, model, games.

Understanding Thinking
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An excellent "fluffbuster" take on how we perceive the world. - Dennis Littrell.
An amazing book! - JEAN EDWARDS ThinkShop
A book that bridges academic boundaries and explains the real-life implications of neural network research. Ivan Lazarevic


I was worried that I wouldn`t be able to grasp it all due to my lack of knowledge in that area, but it was accessible, informative and enjoyable in equal measure. K Rooney is Head of Social Science at Queens' School
Chapter 1 is a 2500 year journey through the evolution of western approaches to truth and knowledge. It argues that we are very good at understanding local visible chains of cause and effect, and successfully employ that ability to make our lives more pleasant and predictable, but occasionally we are struck by disastrous events which have no apparent local cause or reason. This makes us very anxious. We relieve this anxiety by constructing socially agree explanations, beliefs in remote invisible causes (gods, ideologies, science and technology) that can be a tamed by a suitable investment in worship and sacrifice (sacred gifts). The content of the beliefs and the nature of the sacrifices have changed, but their function remains remarkably constant.

Chapter 2 explains how our brains are restructured by the experiences that flow through them. The flow of experience changes the way we see the world. Our current perception is the result of all our previous experiences. We cannot see reality directly. We can only see it through the frames and filters of our personal and cultural history. Our inherited neural networks trap experiences and create meaning. Reality has no meaning until we (our neural networks) carve it up into objects and relations, likes and dislikes, dos and don'ts, and most of it happens pre-consciously. These new discoveries/ideas have serious implications. We have to face up to the fact that we are not as rational, not as 'in control of our thoughts' as we like to think. It may take a week or two for this new perspective to work its way through your current models of the world and for the consequences to emerge. The good news is the we can decide to change the way we see and experience the world, change what things mean to us, if we decide to.

Chapter 3 tells a purely speculative story about the development of our Evolutionary Thinking Levels. It looks at the priority juggling autopilot, the social copycat, the multi-headed egos offering us competing packages of perception and reaction, the game player happily following any number of socially defined rules and procedures, the conscious thinker, the conscience and the self, busily trying (without much success) to orchestrate the others, but managing at least to maintain the illusion of a continuous identity.

Chapter 4 explores major strengths and weaknesses of human thinking and pays particular attention to the limitations of text based 'critical thinking' and its inability to handle nonlinear, dynamic, highly interconnected subject domains, i.e., real life. It promotes the teaching of 'systems thinking' (in addition to traditional critical thinking) and the use of a diagramming tool called Graphical Thinking (derived from business systems analysis tools) which is designed to work with our strengths and mitigate many of our weaknesses.

Chapter 5 applies the ideas in chapters 2, 3, and 4, to the possibility of self-managed personal change. We can't rewrite history, but we can change our interpretation of what those past experiences mean for us now. Since we have a free choice, why not choose to make it mean something constructive? It recommends that we take more care of our precious preconscious neural networks, and try to ensure that we expose our brain to plenty of nourishing ideas and experiences. Since evolution gave us a brain that gets neurological pleasure from exploring and learning about our environment take advantage of it, have fun learning new knowledge and new skills. If our current value system doesn't get us motivated and satisfied, we can change our values and update our models of how the world works and what can be achieved, so that we experience life as being full of exciting, realistic, motivational possibilities. Use diagrams to map out the deep structure of any and every situation, set precise and exciting goals, get clear about exactly what we will need to do to reach those goals. Identify in advance any 'away from' emotions that may prevent us achieving some crucial leg in that journey. If there are some serious emotional obstacles, then be realistic about it. If we can't rewrite that emotional response, or find a way around the blockage, or get someone else to do that part of it for us, then maybe we should think of a more appropriate goal. So the task is to get good at orchestrating all our internal and external skills, knowledge and resources, and get them working together as an effective cooperative team that will get us where we want to go, and get us there in the style of our choosing - if we decide to.

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