Ways of Thinking: the Syllogism versus the Tao

Jan 04 2011 Published by Neil Gains under culture

“In Confucianism there was no thought of knowing that did not entail some consequence for action.”  - Donald Munro

“The Greeks became slaves to the linear either-or orientation of their logic.”  - Robert Logan

Do Asians and Westerners think differently and why?

In The Geography of Thought, Richard Nesbitt provides a clear, detailed and researched explanation of many of the ways in which Westerners (most typically Americans and Western Europeans) and Asians (most typically East Asians from China, Korea and Japan) think differently and some of the reasons for these differences.   Read more »

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Listening to the Rhythm of Life

Sep 13 2010 Published by Neil Gains under sensory

“The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is that we may listen more and talk less.”  - Zeno Read more »

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Rules that make the Inception

Jul 26 2010 Published by admin under context

“It is the framework which changes with each new technology and not just the picture within the frame.”  - Marshall McLuhan

“Every human mind you’ve ever looked at … is a product not just of natural selection but of cultural redesign of enormous proportions.”  - Daniel Dennett

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Kids Inspiring Creativty

Jul 20 2010 Published by admin under creativity

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.”  - Mary Lou Cook

“Stay young, stay foolish.”  - Steve Jobs

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Monkey motives

Jul 08 2010 Published by admin under evolution

“I’d rather be a climbing ape than a falling angel.”  - Terry Pratchett

On my way home on the bus yesterday I spotted ‘a small fella’ driving a big black Hummer. Why did he feel the need to buy this I wondered? Surely the pleasure of acquiring and driving it can only be short lived at best.  What makes someone spend almost US$150,000 on an unreliable, gas guzzling, hard to drive sport-utility vehicle?

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Asking Why?

Jul 05 2010 Published by admin under creativity

“I have no special talents.  I am only passionately curious.”  - Albert Einstein

“Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect.”  - Steven Wright

I really enjoyed Dave Trott’s article “A creative mind is an enquiring mind” and recommend everyone to read it.  He is right that curiosity is what makes us creative, having an open mind, pursuing diverse interests, challenging assumptions, and above all asking lots of questions.  We are naturally born to be curious, and as children are enthusiastic in asking ‘why?’ (and just as importantly ‘why not?’).  The key to creativity is to keep the child within us, the enjoyment of playing, and to never be afraid to ask ‘why?’.  Albert Einstein was known for his playful side and his childlike enthusiasm for new ideas and challenges – similarly Dave Trott describes the sheer fun and enjoyment that four modern scientists had in talking about some of their favourite heroes and ideas.

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Elementary, my dear Watson

Jun 22 2010 Published by admin under brain science

“Anyone who has begun to think places some portion of the world in jeopardy.”  - John Dewey

You can learn a lot from the game of Jeopardy! as revealed in a recent blog by Jonah Lehrer and the original work by IBM, who have spent years building a “question answering” machine called Watson, in the quest to develop artificial intelligence.  While Watson performs impressively, (s)he has some significant failings, and chief among them is that (s)he doesn’t know what (s)he knows in the same way that you and I know what we know.  What I mean by that is that humans can be remarkably quick to react to a question, even when they do not have the answer, but only know that they know the answer (ie we recognise that the answer is buried somewhere in our brain, and therefore react to a question, without having the answer immediately to hand).  Think of all those times that you stick your hand up to ask a question, without knowing precisely what you want to ask – despite your pre-emption, you still manage to ask something intelligent.  Or remember the experience of having something on the ‘tip of your tongue’ – you know that someone’s name beings with K, but you can’t quite remember what the name is!

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I know what I like ….

May 22 2010 Published by admin under brain science

“The fixity of a habit is generally in direct proportion to its absurdity.”  -  Marcel Proust

Emotions are at the heart of decision making, and there is more recent evidence that often we are not conscious of the reasons for our choices, but those choices are based on our unconscious beliefs about the positive or negative emotions that are associated with specific choices.  In a recent article in the Journal of Consumer Research, which I picked up in a neuroscience blog (details below), researchers demonstrated that respondents focused on positive and negative emotions in making decisions about fictitious brands, and ignored more conscious (rational) information on product features (and could not recall the reasons for their decisions).  This meant that a product with inferior features, was chosen ahead of a product with superior features (ie strong rational reasons for choice), when associated with emotions which were more positive than those associated with the superior product.  Respondents were not conscious of the reasons for such decisions, and were not able to identify the reasons for their choices.

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Oblique rules (or the importance of being irrational)

Apr 19 2010 Published by admin under behavioural change

“Do I contradict myself?  Very well then, I contradict myself.  I am large, I contain multitudes.”  – Walt Whitman

In Obliquity, John Kay provides an elegant and clear explanation of why goals are more likely to be achieved when pursued obliquely rather than head on.  He provides great examples of how the most profitable businesses are not run for profit, the most successful careers do not pursue success and many other cases where iterative or adaptive approaches lead to greater success than more direct ones, with the ability to cope with the complexities of a changing world and human social networks.

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