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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 02-Jul-08


Wednesday 02-July-08

(Not) good enough thinking

This week I went to another stimulating RSA lecture in which Matthew Taylor was wondering whether and how advances in neuroscience could or should change how we think, even to our conceptions of self. David Willetts, MP, responded from a more economic and political position, noting how people still use Newtonian thinking because it seems to work, and that popular notions of the self are unlikely to go away soon.

And there, it seemed, was the knub of it. It is about 'good enough' thinking. We use what seems to work because it is sufficient for the purpose in hand. But, as Matthew Taylor indicated, the world is far from an OK place. We risk climate change, resource wars and worse -- much, it would seem, due to our good-enough thinking.

Beyond the bounded rationality of our limited reason, we have a deep failing in our ability to think about the future. If we were told that oil would run out tomorrow, we would panic, though when told it may be five years hence, we shrug and fill up the 4x4 as usual. Yet some of us do worry about what will happen to our grandchildren and the future of the human race and, like Matthew Taylor, rail at the world that our current thinking patterns are not good enough.

A core problem, then, is how to turn good-enough into not-good-enough, which may mean somehow bringing tomorrow's woes a lot closer to today. When tension is inversely proportionate to distance, somehow we must close the gap.

David Willetts' argument was to change people by changing their environment. Context creates meaning, and rather than asking people to think differently, he proposed changing those external things that lead us to decisions.

I wondered about the potential of biofeedback in creating internal change. If we know which parts of the brain are associated with particular thoughts, could we not link this back to our conscious thought? Then, forewarned and forearmed, we could disarm those daft thoughts that are driving us down the tubes. Maybe the technology is not quite here yet and walking down the street with an MRI scanner on our heads is a laughable infeasibility, but miniaturisation is the order of the day.

Of course this brings up all kinds of issues and questions. Will we become the Borg? Will governments quite literally control our thinking? Who knows. But one day such thought may be just good enough to ensure our survival.

Your comments

The same kind of not good enough thinking applies to our food security. We champion local food until the price goes up and then dive into ASDA for our ?1 a punnet Strawberries. OK, I am biased, running a local food company,Farm Fresh Express, but we are losing our farms, and when they are gone who will bring them back?

Graham Rawlinson

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