Space to Think

So thinking can develop

Of Patterns, Prejudice and Slow thinking

Steven Johnson, in his stimulating book, Emergence, offers a quote by the futurist, Ray Kurzweil to emphasis the importance of pattern formation and recognition.

Because each individual neuron is so slow, [Ray] Kurzweil explains, “we don’t have time to think too many new thoughts when we are pressed to make a decision. The human brain relies on precomputing its analyses and storing them for future reference. We then use our pattern-recognition capability to recognize a situation as compatible to one we have thought about and then draw upon our previously considered conclusions.”

This raise two thoughts for me in quite different directions. The first is that Kurtweil seems to be alerting us to a neurological dimension to prejudice; and this may give us some clues as to how to deal with undesirable prejudice in ourselves and society. The second thought is that Kurtweil seems to offer a way of understanding the importance of forms of slow thinking and collaborative dialogue.

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March 19, 2008 Posted by | complexity, dialogue, emergence, learning, slow-thinking | , | 1 Comment

Slow Thinking for Creativity

I discovered an article by the well known John Cleese, originally prublished in edutopia magazine in December 2005: Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind | Edutopia. Cleese writes:

Then I came across research done at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1970s by Donald W. MacKinnon. He had examined what made people creative, and he found that the professionals rated “most creative” by their colleagues displayed two characteristics: They had a greater facility for play, meaning they would contemplate and play with a problem out of real curiosity, not because they had to, and they were prepared to ponder the problem for much longer before resolving it. The more creative professionals had a “childish capacity” for play — childish in the sense of the total, timeless absorption that children achieve when they’re intrigued.

The title of the article is taken from a book it goes on to refer to: Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less, by Guy Claxton, an academic psychologist.

Claxton uses the phrase “hare brain” to refer to the sort of deliberate, conscious thinking we do when we apply reason and logic to known data. “Tortoise mind,” on the other hand, is more playful, leisurely, even dreamy. In this mode we are contemplative or meditative. We ponder a problem, rather than earnestly trying to solve it, by just bearing it in mind as we watch the world go by.

It seems persuasive, but counter cultural; which means that we probably need to cultivate and practice some deliberate habits to enjoy the fruits of creativity possible.

Thanks to Doug Johnson’s Blue Skunk Blog for pointing me to the Cleese article.  It has set me thinking, slowly.

March 2, 2008 Posted by | creativity, imagination, slow-thinking | , | Leave a comment