Central Intelligence Agency

 The Paradox of Expertise

The strengths of expertise can also be weaknesses. Although one would expect experts to be good forecasters, they are not particularly good at making predictions about the future. 

Since the 1930s, researchers have been testing the ability of experts to make forecasts. The performance of experts has been tested against actuarial tables to determine if they are better at making predictions than simple statistical models. 

Seventy years later, with more than two hundred experiments in different domains, it is clear that the answer is NO.

If supplied with an equal amount of data about a particular case, an actuarial table is as good, or better, than an expert at making calls about the future. 

Even if an expert is given more specific case information than is available to the statistical model, the expert does not tend to outperform the actuarial table.

•• Center for the Study of Intelligence

I was recently watching the live broadcast of the Australian Parliament as the various members and ministers, on both sides of the house, rose to speak during Question Time.

I soon began to get that familiar feeling of disappointment and bewilderment at the quality of the level of discussion so typical of the Westminster system of debate. So, I tried a simple metacognition experiment.

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As each speaker, from all sides, made their claims and touted their party’s policies in the House (which would also be recorded in Hansard) I simply asked myself: “But, is it true?” “Is what you are now saying a genuine attempt at making a fully true statement?”. And then I gave that statement a ‘truth rating’ out of 10 … 1 being low and 10 being high.

An an Elector of Australia I can safely assume this is my right to do so.

Rarely could I confidently answer, “Yes, that is true!” If I had to make a subjective guess I would say that more than 80% of their statements and claims were only half truths … at best. And, as the widely-quoted Yiddish proverb says … A half truth is a whole lie.

(NOTE: This is a simple experiment for you to try for yourself. Tune in to, or go sit in, your local equivalent of the Australian Parliament and try this for yourself. If you like, you can post your results below. The same experiment could be used in other situations where the detection of half-truths is required. In the media there are many opportunities to do this in current affairs, business, politics and other programs and articles. Religious sermons, TV commercials, blogs and tweets may also provide useful opportunities to detect half truths.)

For the first time in history lies can travel at the speed of light.

In our exploding world of cybermedia with social media, photoshop, digital manipulation, phone-hacking and peer2peer messaging at the speed of light, I believe that the global epidemic spread of lies may be one of the most serious challenges facing long-term human survival.

I believe this challenge needs to be taken very seriously and could be considered to be of a potential threat level similar to that of lethal epidemics like Avian or Bird Flu. Many scientists share this view.

As an antidote, SOT has put forward a new thinking methodology to help meet this challenge. To follow on from the previous SOT thinking tools, thinking hats and brain software, this new tool is called:

greyscale thinking: how to sort a truth from a lie.

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What Makes A Great Teacher?

I was once contacted by a young man in London who is a teacher/coach and personal trainer/consultant. He is in the early stages of his career and he sought my advice. He asked me this question: What makes a great teacher? That is a very good question. It’s exactly the question he should be asking as he embarks on this vocation.

My response to him was this: While there are many things that can make a teacher a much better one there is one non-negotiable, one litmus test, which defines a great teacher. This test is about how the teacher’s performance stacks up to the BIG question: IS IT TRUE?

How to choose Your Teacher. Ask: Is It True?

Is what the teacher is teaching a TRUTH or a LIE? The answer to this question is what sorts out the frauds from the professors. If this test is passed then the teacher can be a great teacher if not then the teacher will always be a failure … in my view.

Making Claims

Anyone can make a claim. All sorts of claims are made in business, in science, in religion, in families, in governments, in education, in politics, on blogs and in the media. But is it a true claim? How closely does it correspond to reality? Or, is the claim a lie? How do we know? Does it even matter?

Yes. It does matter whether a claim is a truth or a lie. For example, many people believe things which are dangerous lies. These lies may have been protected from thinking for hundreds of years. These lies all have consequences which may range from deception to dementia to death.

Like a brainvirus, these lies can infect the brains of very young children. This is happening right now to millions of children as you read this article. I do believe that the global epidemic spread of lies may one of the most serious challenges facing long-term human survival.

ACTION STEP: If you feel this is important (please don’t spam lists of people) but send this article on to a selected friend, colleague or family member who may find it useful.

Greyscale Thinking

To help meet this challenge I am introducing the idea of greyscale thinking (US grayscale). Greyscale thinking is simple, fast and scientific. Anyone, anywhere and anytime can use greyscale thinking to help sort out a truth from a lie.

Any child can learn to use it. Greyscale thinking can be taught to kids by parents and by teachers. Any employee can learn to use it. Greyscale thinking can be taught to employees by managers and business leaders.

The idea of greyscale thinking is: claim divided by questions equals truth or lie. This idea can be expressed as the formula c÷q=t>l.

This means that once a ‘claim’ is made it can then be subjected to ‘questioning’. Questioning reveals whether the claim is closer to being either a ‘truth’ or a ‘lie’.

Six True Questions
SIX TRUE QUESTIONS: The methodology of greyscale thinking is the cognitive skill or habit of putting a CLAIM to the SIX TRUE QUESTIONS: What and Where and When and Why and How and Who – (Click here for more on the questions).

The answers to each of the 6 questions moves the CLAIM to and fro along the greyscale continuum: | TRUTH – w? w? w? w? h? w? – LIE |

 

| TRUTH • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • LIE |

 

The answers to each of the 6 questions indicate, on the balance of the evidence, whether the CLAIM is more likely to be a TRUTH or more likely to be a LIE.

MAIN POINT: You will have noticed we are saying “a truth” rather than “The Truth”. Searching for truth is a journey and not a destination. We are more concerned with being right than being righteous. No individual brain can ever contain perfect knowledge of all possible facts. No brain can ever know the contents of the other people’s brains who are also involved in the situation. No brain can ever have perfect ownership of The Truth. And, that’s the point.

The rule of science is that you can have a good idea today, a better idea tomorrow, and the best idea … never! Why? Because there are always more facts to uncover–more opinions, more priorities, more options, more consequences, more positives, more negatives, more objectives, more measurements, and more experiments that can be tested. History has shown this to be a truth.

It is the deliberate effort one makes to move closer to a truth and to move further away from a lie that produces all the benefits of greyscale thinking. No claim should ever be protected from questioning

Any claim that has ever been made in all of history and any claim that ever will be made can be illuminated, examined, investigated and accepted or rejected using the 6 true questions of greyscale thinking: What and Where and When and Why and How and Who – (Click here for more on the questions).

What is greyscale thinking?

Greyscale (or grayscale) thinking is a tool for sorting out truths from lies.

What is Truth?
Truth is that which, on the balance of evidence, corresponds to reality.

There are two serious cognitive problems we need to solve to survive and prosper. Greyscale thinking is a powerful tool anyone can use for solving both these problems.

Problem One: How to know if a truth is really a lie (or a half-truth)?
Problem Two: How to know if a lie is really a truth?

What difference does it make?

The difference is an immediate increase in:
• your survival intelligence: your skills to survive and prosper in a rapidly changing environment, and
• your speed of thought: the speed with which you can escape from your current view of the situation in order to find a much better view.

How long does it take to learn?

It takes ten minutes a day, for ten days, to learn greyscale thinking. 10 x 10.

 

The Grey Thinking Hat is for Wisdom.

In 2007, at a youth leadership convention in Melbourne I was asked by a VCE student leader to add one more 7th cap (or hat) to the original 6 thinking caps developed by School of Thinking in 1983.

I added the Grey Hat for Wisdom. Or, Gray Hat in the US.

Of all the Thinking Hats–White, Black, Yellow, Red, Green, Blue–the Grey Hat is also the Senior Hat.

 

(Master Vincent van Gogh’s Self Portrait with Grey Hat, Paris, 1887)

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EXPERIENCE + KNOWLEDGE = WISDOM

wisdom n. experience and knowledge together
with the power of applying them critically or practically
Oxford English Dictionary

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The White Thinking Hat is for Knowledge

The Gray/Grey Thinking Hat is for Wisdom

The Black Thinking Hat is for Judgement

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My mentor, Professor George Gallup, was acknowledged worldwide as one of the greatest leaders of change. George was also a wonderful American gentleman and a very nice man. He was 84 when he died at his place in Switzerland in 1984. He encouraged me personally and generously supported SOT by saying that he thought our work in teaching people to think, “may be the most important thing going on in the world”.

He was the inventor of the Gallup Poll at Princeton and the designer of market research. He was the first to map what today we might call ‘the Human Meme Pool’. George Gallup’s great personal wisdom was supported by his long experience of measuring, in scientific detail, the opinions of more people around the world than anyone else in history. In The Miracle Ahead he wrote that:

Change cannot be brought about easily by leaders, except in those situations in which the changes advocated do not disturb present relationships. In fact, it is the leaders who typically become the most bitter and the most effective foes of change. The public, therefore, must take the initiative and assume responsibility for progress in the affairs of man. The public must force change upon its leaders (who) command more respect today than perhaps they deserve… The leader is expert in his small world as it presently exists, not expert in the world as it might be. Although he plays an important role in modern society, it is not realistic to expect him to advocate change. This is the surest way for him to lose his status … The hope of the future rests with the citizen. To be effective, he must be well informed, and he must discover ways of making better use of his own great capacities and those of his fellow man. He cannot expect his leaders to give him much help in his upward march.

Grey Hat Thinking also means the wisdom to see other points of view. It includes the sagacity of patience to see beyond one’s own immediate viewpoint and the wisdom to see the viewpoints of others involved in situations: your partner’s viewpoint, your children’s, your children’s children, your neighbour’s, your customer’s, your enemy’s.

The wisdom of Grey Hat Thinking comes from long term survival.

Elizabeth II is the Queen of Australia. She says: “One of the features of growing old is a heightened awareness of change. To remember what happened 50 years ago means that it is possible to appreciate what has changed in the meantime. It also makes you aware of what has remained constant. In my experience, the positive value of a happy family is one of the factors of human existence that hasn’t changed. The immediate family of grandparents, parents and children together with their extended family is still the core of a thriving community. When Prince Philip and I celebrated our Diamond Wedding Anniversary last month we were much aware of the affection and support of our own family as they gathered around us for the occasion.”

In The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb shares his personal insight:

The other day, looking at my gray beard that makes me look ten years older than my true age, and the pleasure I derived from exhibiting it, I realized the following. Effectively, the respect for the elder in many societies might be compensation for our short-term memory. Senate come from senatus, aging in Latin; sheikh in Arabic means both member of the ruling elite and “elder”.

These people had to be repositories of more complicated inductive learning that included information about rare events –in a narrow evolutionary sense they can be deemed be useless since they are past their procreative age, so they have to offer some antidote to the turkey problem and prevent the less experienced members of the tribe from being suckers. In fact the elders can scare us with a story – which is why we become overexcited when we think of a specific Black Swan.

I was excited to find out that this also held in the animal domain: a paper in Science shows that elephant matriarch fill the role of super-advisors on rare events.

In the US a person who is often admired for both her philanthropy and her own brand of wisdom is Oprah Gail Winfrey. She has claimed, “Books were my pass to personal freedom. I learned to read at age three, and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in Mississippi”.

Oprah’s Angel Network has raised more than $51,000,000 for the underprivileged around the world. Behind the scenes Winfrey personally donates more of her own money to charity than any other show-business celebrity in America. In 2005 she became the first black person listed by Business Week as one of America’s top 50 most generous philanthropists, having given an estimated $303 million.

Winfrey has also invested $40 million establishing the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls near Johannesburg, South Africa. The school opened in January 2007. Nelson Mandela praised Winfrey for overcoming her own disadvantaged youth to become a benefactor for others and for investing in the future of South Africa.

A Guardian article entitled The Wisdom of Oprah says: The beauty of Oprah’s story is that it is simple, inexpensive things – being taught to read by her grandmother and, later, her father’s discipline and his emphasis on her education – which gave her the tools she needed to become much more than just another statistic. That in itself is inspiring.

One of the well-known paradoxes of wisdom is expressed by Mark Twain’s admission: “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years”.

Even though we may not be able to teach children to do Grey Hat Thinking we can still raise their consciousnes and teach them to understand what it is–to recognise it–to appreciate it, to consult it, and to seek it our wherever it can be found.

Albert-Einstein-genius

 

“Wisdom, wrote Albert Einstein, “is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it … The attempt to combine wisdom and power has only rarely been successful and then only for a short while … How I wish that somewhere there existed an island for those who are wise and of goodwill! In such a place even I would be an ardent patriot.

 

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All cultures have their unique perspective and Australia is no exception.

While humans all share the same gene pool there are many different human meme pools and many different human cultures.

Australia’s unique history and isolation has sometimes been a source of fascination for others around the world. Soviet Russia’s Vladimir Lenin once observed: “What sort of peculiar capitalist country is this in which the workers’ representatives predominate in the upper house….and yet the capitalist system is in no danger?”

Those Australians who have been clever enough and lucky enough to survive 50 years or more (400,000+ hours) of life have learned a thing or two. Here are some examples of their Grey Hat Thinking … from Australians who achieved 50 years old and older:


Professor Elizabeth Blackburn – Nobel Laureate: I got it for curiosity.

Kerry Packer – billionaire: Never complain, never explain.

Australian proverb: The bigger the hat, the smaller the property.

General D.M. Mueller: As a leader you must celebrate life, you must celebrate success and paradoxically, you must celebrate heroic failures.

Baron May of Oxford – President of The Royal Society: The existence of a supernatural being in the form of a god who can dish out punishment in the afterlife may have been an important force in the past that helped to keep societies together as co-operative entities – but not so in the future.

Henry Lawson – poet: I’ve never seen anyone rehabilitated by punishment.

Rt Hon Paul Keating – Prime Minister: No choice we can make as a nation lies between our history and our geography. We can hardly change either of them. They are immutable. The only choice we can make as a nation is the choice about our future.

Jack Lang – Labor premier: Always back the horse named self-interest, son. It’ll be the only one trying.

Ann Daniel – Emeritus Professor of Sociology: Be gentle, become creative.

Douglas Mawson – scientist and polar survivor: It’s dead easy to die; it’s the keeping on living that’s hard.

Dame Nellie Melba – opera singer: The first rule in opera is the first rule in life: see to everything yourself.

General Sir John Monash – WW I military strategist: Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs … the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline.

Australian Aboriginal saying: May as well be here we are as where we are.

Paul Hogan – entertainer: Cricket needs brightening up a bit. My solution is to let the players drink at the beginning of the game, not after. It always works in our picnic matches.

Danielle Wood – Author: My grandfather, the remarkable man who inspired my first novel, The Alphabet of Light and Dark, once said to me: “There’s no such thing as biting off more than you can chew–you just take a big bite, and then chew like buggary”.

Sir Gustav Nossal – medical scientist: The thrill of medical research is amazing. Prising out of nature her jealously guarded secrets combines with the humanitarian goal of better health to provide powerful twin motivations. The challenge of competing with the world’s best is fantastic. I shall forever be grateful that The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research has given me the chance of spending forty years in this world. I can think of no better life.

Rt Hon Bob Hawke - Prime Minister: Do you know why I have credibility? Because I don’t exude morality.

Ian Kiernan – organiser of Clean up Australia Day: Ordinary people need to lead and not sit there and think that governments are going to spoon feed them.

Saint Mary McKillop: Never see a need without doing something about it.

Harry (Breaker) Morant - executed soldier and poet: Shoot straight you bastards. Don’t make a mess of it.

Joan Kirner - Labor premier: There is no such thing as being non-political. Just by making a decision to stay out of politics you are making the decision to allow others to shape politics and exert power over you.

Convict saying: The law locks up the man who steals the goose from the common, but leaves the greater criminal loose who steals the common from the goose.

Ned Kelly – bushranger: If my lips teach the public that men are made mad by bad treatment, and if the police are taught that they may exasperate to madness men they persecute and ill treat, my life will not be entirely thrown away.

Errol Flynn – Hollywood star: Flynn is not always in.

Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser – Prime Minister: If there were six Mandelas around today, a couple in Europe, one in America and in a couple of other places, there wouldn’t be any wars.

Sandra Cabot – physician and author: Real women don’t have flushes, they have power surges.

Hon Arthur Calwell – politician: It is better to be defeated on principle than to win on lies.

Oenone Wood – Champion cyclist: As a child my mum told me I could do anything. I believed her.

Australian observation: If the guy next to you is swearing like a wharfie he’s probably a billionaire. Or, just conceivably, a wharfie.

Australian observation: There is nothing more Australian than spending time in somebody else’s country.

Anon: It may be that your sole purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others.

Dame Edna Everage: Never be afraid to laugh at yourself, after all, you could be missing out on the joke of the century.

Rt Hon Sir Robert Menzies – Prime Minister: A man may be a tough, concentrated, successful money-maker and never contribute to his country anything more than a horrible example.

Hon Anna Bligh – Premier of Queensland: As we weep for what we have lost, and as we grieve for family and friends and we confront the challenge that is before us, I want us to remember who we are. We are Queenslanders. We’re the people that they breed tough, north of the border. We’re the ones that they knock down, and we get up again.

Professor David Pennington – Vice Chancellor: The role and style of a leader depends very much on the character and nature of those led.

Tom Dystra – Aboriginal man: We cultivated our land, but in a way different from the white man. We endeavoured to live with the land; they seemed to live off it.

Emeritus Professor Nancy Millis – microbiologist: We are really in a serious difficulty with the amount of land available. I don’t mean just Australia wide, I mean worldwide. So how we can support another doubling of population, I find just extraordinary.

Rt Hon Gough Whitlam – Prime Minister: I was profoundly embarrassed by it (the White Australia Policy) and did all I could to change it.

Phillip Adams – journalist: The most intense hatreds are not between political parties but within them.

Australian Aboriginal proverb: Those who lose dreaming are lost.

Australian proverb: Its like the axe that’s had two new blades and three new handles but otherwise is just as it was when grandfather bought it.

Professor Geoffrey Blainey – historian: Nationalism is both a vital medicine and a dangerous drug.

Sir Don Bradman – cricket Captain of Australia: When you play test cricket, you don’t give the Englishmen an inch. Play it tough, all the way. Grind them into the dust.

Janet Holmes à Court - CEO: The company was quite hierarchical. I often think it was like a pyramid with Robert (husband Robert Holmes à Court) at the top and lots of us paying homage to him. I try to turn the pyramid upside down so that I’m at the bottom and bubbling away and encouraging people and energising them so that they are all empowered so that they can do what they need to do, now that’s the dream.

Rt Hon Julia Gillard – Prime Minister of Australia: The concept of social inclusion in essence means replacing a welfarist approach to helping the underprivileged with one of investing in them and their communities to bring them into the mainstream market economy. It’s a modern and fresh approach that views everyone as a potential wealth creator and invests in their human capital.


DFQ:

What is your favourite example of Grey Hat Thinking?

You can post your comment below …