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I am right, You are wrong
(a view of our brains at work)

From this to the new renaissance: From rock logic to water logic

By Edward de Bono (includes links to many of his other books)

I am right you are wrong

Amazon link: I Am Right You Are Wrong: From This to the New Renaissance: From Rock Logic to Water Logic

Introduction: The New Renaissance
Humour is by far the most significant behaviour of the human mind.

You may find this surprising.

If humour is so very significant, why has it been so neglected by traditional philosophers, psychologists and information scientists?

Why humour is so significant and why it has been so neglected by traditional thinkers together form the key to this book.

Humour tells us more about how the brain works as mind, than does any other behaviour of the mind—including reason.

It indicates that our traditional thinking methods, and our thinking about these methods, have been based on the wrong model of information system.

It tells us something about perception which we have traditionally neglected in favour of logic.

It tells us directly about the possibility of changes in perception.

It shows us that these changes can be followed by instant changes in emotion—something that can never be achieved by logic.

There are probably no more than two dozen people in the whole world who would really understand (at the most fundamental, system level of brain mechanisms) why I claim such significance for humour.

After reading this book there may be some more who come to understand the basis for the claim—and its implications for the future of society.


  • Preliminary
    • Foreword by Ivar Giaever, Nobel Prize for Physics, Rensselaer Institute
    • Foreword by Brian Josephson, Nobel Prize for Physics, Cambridge
    • Foreword by Sheldon Lee Glashow, Nobel Prize for Physics, Harvard
    • Author's Note
    • Introduction: The New Renaissance
  • Our Thinking System
    • Overview
      • Some of the topics that are covered in this book are listed below:
        • Why humour is the most significant characteristic of the human brain and why humour has always been neglected by classical philosophers.

        • Why, contrary to our traditional view, the brain may be a very simple mechanism acting in a highly complex way.

        • The very important difference between our usual 'passive' information systems and 'active' information systems.

        • Why the very excellence of language for description has made language so crude and inefficient for perception.

        • Why we are able to see only what we are prepared to see.

        • Why it may be much easier to learn things backwards rather than forwards.

        • How patterns have both broad catchment areas and also knife-edge discrimination.

        • Why the classical thinking traditions of truth and reason that we inherited from the Greeks may have set civilization on the wrong track.

        • How we became, and remain, so very obsessed with history.

        • Why I call our traditional reasoning 'table-top' logic.

        • How we can have been so successful in technical matters and yet made so little progress in human affairs.

        • Why the analysis of data cannot by itself produce new ideas and is even unlikely to discover the old ideas in the data.

        • How we can move from the behaviour of a neurone in a neural network to the behaviour of the mind in politics, economics and world conflict.
        • How we can have a patterning system and yet enjoy free-will.

        • Why we have completely failed to understand creativity and why something that is logical in hindsight may be inaccessible to logic in foresight.

        • Why logical argument has never been successful at changing prejudices, beliefs, emotions or perceptions. Why these things can be changed only through perception.

        • How beliefs are cheap and easy to set up in a self-organizing system and how they provide the only perceptual truth.

        • How traditional logic has trapped us with the righteousness of its absolutes.

        • How we can design specific creative tools that can be used deliberately to generate new ideas.

        • Why there may not be a reason for saying something until after it has been said—the logic of provocation which is mathematically necessary in a patterning system.

        • How a simple, randomly obtained, word can be so powerful a creative tool.

        • Why there is an urgent need to create many new words to help our thinking.

        • Why there is a need for the functions (such as zero-hold) carried by the new word ' po '.

        • Why the established scientific method and its call for the most 'reasonable' hypothesis is perceptually faulty.

        • How the Laffer curve (more is better) is such a problem in our traditional thinking.

        • Why our cherished argument mode sets out to provide motivated exploration of a subject but soon loses the 'exploration'.

        • Why our underlying model of progress—evolution through muddling along—is bound to be ineffective.

        • Why philosophy can never again be more than a word-game unless we take into account the system behaviour of the human mind.

        • Why the false dichotomies we constructed in order to operate the logic principle of contradiction have been so especially disastrous.

        • Why poetry and humour both illustrate so well the logic of perception, which is different from the logic of reason.

        • Why we left perception to the realm of art and why art has done such a poor job.

        • Why truth is best described as a particular constellation of circumstances with a particular outcome.

        • How we may eventually derive a new ideology from information technology just as Karl Marx derived one from the steam-engine technology of the industrial revolution.

    • Human Affairs
    • Perception
    • Humour
    • Practical Outcomes
  • The Human Brain
    • Validity of the Model
    • Different Universes
    • Traditional Table-Top Logic
    • The Nerve Network of the Brain
  • How Perception Works
    • Overview
      • PATTERN-MAKING: the brain works by providing an environment in which sequences of activity become established as patterns.

      • TRIGGER: the brain will reconstruct the whole picture from just part of it or a sequence can be triggered by the initial part.

      • ASYMMETRY: the sequence patterns are asymmetric and this gives rise to humour and to creativity.

      • INSIGHT: if we enter the pattern sequence at a slightly different point we may follow a short cut. We can rely on chance to bring this about or do it deliberately.

      • LEARNING BACKWARDS: there is good reason to believe that learning things backwards is much more effective than learning them forwards.

      • SEQUENCE: the brain is a history recorder and the patterns are highly dependent on the initial sequence of experience.

      • CATCHMENT: each pattern has a very wide collection basin so that a variety of inputs will give the same output.

      • KNIFE-EDGE DISCRIMINATION: the boundary between two catchment basins is very sharp, so very clear distinctions may be made between things which are quite similar — provided the patterns are in place.

      • PRE-EMPTION: once a pattern exists it is very hard to cut across it to establish a new pattern.

      • MISMATCH: if what is offered to the brain contradicts what is established as pattern the brain notices this strongly.

      • READINESS: the patterns in the brain are not solely in an active/inactive state but there is a 'readiness' to go which is dependent on context and emotions.

      • CONTEXT: the actual patterns that emerge are determined by history, by activity at the moment and also by context which sets the background readiness level of different patterns.

      • CIRCULARITY: a circularity can be established in which patterns lead back into each other. This is the basis of belief systems.

      • MAKING SENSE: the brain has a powerful ability to put together and to seek to coalesce into sense whatever is put before it.

      • ATTENTION: there is unitary attention which may take in the whole field or focus on part of it, ignoring the rest.

      • RELEVANCE AND MEANING: attention will move to those areas which trigger existing patterns.

      • NO ZERO-HOLD: the activity in the brain cannot stabilize into a zero-hold which accepts input but does not seek to follow an accepted pattern.

    • Sequence Patterns
    • Trigger and Reconstruction
    • Asymmetry of Patterns
    • Insight
    • Learning Backwards
    • Time Sequence
    • Catchment
    • Knife-Edge Discrimination
    • Preemption
    • Mismatch
    • Readiness
    • Context
    • Circularity
    • Making Sense
    • Attention
    • Relevance and Meaning
    • Zero-Hold
  • Our Traditional Thinking Habits
    • Overview
      • LANGUAGE: marvelous as a communication system but poor as a thinking system, yet it dominates our thinking.

      • INTELLIGENCE: highly intelligent people do not necessarily make good thinkers. Thinking is a skill, not intelligence in action.

      • CRITICAL THINKING: a greatly over-esteemed part of our thinking culture. It is easy and satisfying but produces little.

      • LAFFER CURVE: a major type of error arising from table-top logic. Something is good so more must, surely, be better.

      • PROBLEM-SOLVING: part of the maintenance mentality which will get us back to where we were. Progress requires different thinking.

      • ANALYSIS: a central and valuable part of our thinking system but assumes all situations are closed and cannot produce ideas.

      • DESCRIPTION: both describes perception and can set perceptions through naming. But has no more validity than any perception.

      • NATURAL: the view that 'nature' and deep feelings are what really matter and should set our decisions rather than thinking.

      • MATHEMATICS: the strong certainty of a constructed system, powerful within its area of application, which is limited.

      • EITHER/OR: the seductive dichotomies which we need and create in order to operate the logical principle of contradiction.

      • ABSOLUTES: the need for truth and its multiple purposes. The problem is that absolutes must be circumstance-independent.

      • ARGUMENT AND CLASH: the motivated exploration as a subject. There are better methods of exploration. Clash is not generative.

      • BELIEF: a making sense of things. The circular system in which belief sets the perceptions that reinforce the belief.

      • SCIENCE: a methodology for testing beliefs. Driven mainly by the 'cause and effect' idiom. Weak on the perceptual side.

      • CREATIVITY: strongly neglected because it seems to happen anyway and we have not understood at all what is going on.

      • HISTORY: almost am obsession, possibly deriving from the period when all future progress could be got by looking backwards.

      • LOGIC: we use little explicit logic In our everyday thinking because we have fed it into our language habits already.

      • ART: this is directly concerned with reflecting existing perceptions and changing them, but does not encourage perceptual skills.

    • Language
    • Thinking and Intelligence
    • Critical Thinking
    • Laffer Curves
    • Problem-Solving
    • Analysis
    • Description
    • Natural
    • Mathematics
    • Either/Or
    • Absolutes
    • Argument and Clash
    • Belief
    • Science
    • Creativity
    • History
    • Logic
    • Art
  • Thinking In Society And Its Institutions
    • Overview
      • CHANGE: our basic belief in an evolutionary model. We muddle along and adapt to pressures, crises and innovations as they arise.

      • THE NEXT STEP: the next step we take is based on where we are and how we got there rather than on where we want to be.

      • FULL UP: there is no vacuum, there are no gaps. Time, space and resources are all committed.

      • EDUCATION: a locked-in system that is largely unaware of the need for thinking in society or of the type of thinking.

      • LUDECY: a new word to describe the playing of a game according to the way the rules are written. Not a matter of selfishness.

      • SHORT-TERM: much of our thinking has to be short-term (business, politics) because the rules are written that way.

      • DEMOCRACY: a system designed to get consensus for action but now much more effective in preventing things from happening.

      • PRAGMATISM: if behaviour is not driven by principles that are fixed and absolute, what is the alternative?

      • BUREAUCRACY: an organization put together for a purpose but coming to survive for its own sake.

      • COMPARTMENTS: one trend towards increased specialization and compartments and the other trend towards unifying understandings.

      • UNIVERSITIES: an educational, cultural and research role strongly based in history and dominating the use of intellectual resources.

      • COMMUNICATION: the limitations of language and the imperatives of the media and yet a great power to change sentiment.

      • PACKAGING: our growing skill at perceptual packaging may pose a problem in the future.

    • Change
    • The Next Step
    • Full Up
    • Education
    • Ludecy
    • Short-Term Thinking
    • Democracy
    • Pragmatism
    • Bureaucracy
    • Compartments
    • Universities
    • Communication
    • Packaging
  • Summary Of Practical Outcomes
    • Overview
      • At this point we have reached the end of a progression which had the following stages:
        • 1. A look at the self-organizing model of the brain and a contrast between self-organizing information systems and table-top systems.
        • 2. A look at how the behavior of perception arises directly from the behavior of self-organizing systems.
        • 3. A look at the impact of an understanding of perception on our traditional thinking habits and their defects.
        • 4. A look at thinking in society and its institutions.
      • I would now like to pull together and summarize in this section some of the practical outcomes of this exercise.
        • There are many, ranging from the very specific (such as creativity tools) to the more general (such as concern with the deficiencies of language).
        • Some of the points are simple but others open up huge areas of further consideration.
        • To repeat a point I have so often made in this book, I have not set out to provide all the answers but to indicate that these matters now need very serious attention.
        • There are other points implicit in the book which I have not listed here but which individual readers will note and consider.
      • The practical outcomes fall into two broad areas:
        • 1. Practical points arising directly from our understanding of the nature of perception.
        • 2. Defects in our traditional thinking habits made visible by our understanding of perception.
    • Complacency
    • The Need for More Effort and Attention
    • System Basis
    • Traditional Philosophy Is Dead
    • Perception
    • Mental Illness
    • Free-Will
    • Evolution for Change
    • Argument
    • Critical Thinking
    • Clash
    • Analysis
    • Problem-Solving
    • Truth and Absolutes
    • Description
    • Obsession with History
    • Intelligence Is Not Enough
    • Language
    • Polarizations
    • More Is Better
    • Limited Gate-Keepers
    • Understanding Perception
    • Perception and Emotion
    • Perception and Belief
    • Perception and Truth
    • Prejudice and Logic
    • Time Sequence
    • Reconstruction
    • What We Are Prepared to See
    • Innocence
    • Humor
    • Poetry
    • Stratal
    • Six Thinking Hats
    • Attention
    • Perceptual Tools
    • Mechanics of Interest
    • Attention Flow in Art
    • Manipulation of Perception
    • Zero-Hold
    • 'Same as … '
    • Understanding Creativity
    • The Logic of Provocation
    • The Logic of Insight
    • Specific Tools of Lateral Thinking
    • Resistance to Change
    • The Next Step
    • Education
    • Universities
    • Compartments
    • Short-Term Thinking
    • Ludecy
    • Learning Backwards
    • New Language
    • Water Logic
    • Hope
  • Summary
  • Appendix: Water Logic
    • Hodics


“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic”. — Peter Drucker

The shift from manual workers who do as they are being told — either by the task or by the boss — to knowledge workers who have to manage themselves ↓ profoundly challenges social structure

Managing Oneself (PDF) is a REVOLUTION in human affairs.” … “It also requires an almost 180-degree change in the knowledge workers’ thoughts and actions from what most of us—even of the younger generation—still take for granted as the way to think and the way to act.” …

… “Managing Oneself is based on the very opposite realities: Workers are likely to outlive organizations (and therefore, employers can’t be depended on for designing your life), and the knowledge worker has mobility.” ← in a context




These pages are attention directing tools for navigating a world moving relentlessly toward unimagined futures.



What’s the next effective action on the road ahead


It’s up to you to figure out what to harvest and calendarize
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