PROCLAMATION: The School of Thinking proclaims 2011 to be The Year of Dual Consequences. For the next 12 months the School of Thinking will elevate the topic of DUAL CONSEQUENCES to its Official Theme of 2011 and propagate this meme around the world in order to draw attention,Â raise consciousness and create awareness of this topic.
“2011 is the Year of Dual Consequences“, proclaimed the Principal of the School of Thinking, Dr Michael Hewitt-Gleeson, in Melbourne today. “For the next 12 months the School of Thinking will elevate the topic of DUAL CONSEQUENCES to its Official Theme of 2011 and propagate this meme around the world“.
Dr Hewitt-Gleeson says:
30 years ago I had an idea.
That idea was to start a Learn-To-Think Project to train 300,000 ‘teachers of thinking’ around the world. I shared this idea with Edward de Bono who suggested we call this project the Edward de Bono School of Thinking and so we kicked it off in New York on 17 November, 1979.
This project was so successful that it has led to the largest program in the world for the teaching of thinking skills. Even in China they are now training ‘teachers of thinking’ because they are beginning to realise that China’s greatest asset may be the potential brainpower of ALL of its people.
SOT is now focusing attention on Africa for the next five years and our goal is to train 10,000 ‘teachers of thinking’ for the one billion people on that great mother of all continents.
In business in the 80s, CEOs like Jack Welch of GE were among the first to see the value of innovation which could come from the brainpower of GE’s knowledge-workers. Since then, other companies like Apple and Google have followed suit and developed employee brainpower to deliver extra value to their shareholders.
Over the years, this Learn-To-Think Project has sourced, created, developed and published an evolving range of cognitive technologies including CoRT thinking skills, School of Thinking caps, universal brain software (cvs2bvs) and the XIO memeplex. In 1995 I put the School of Thinking (SOT) on the internet. This was the first school on the internet and it began to send out millions of pro bono thinking lessons by email to students in over 50 countries worldwide and it still does this every day. These technologies have reached over 100 million people worldwide since 1979.
But, here’s the thing.
Everything has consequences. Dual consequences. These consequences are always a mixed bag. There are good consequences and there are bad consequences. There are now consequences and there are later consequences. There are even unintended consequences and many of these consequences are very difficult to foresee. And, these consequences go on for a long time in time scales beyond normal human short term thinking.
It is so difficult to see these consequences that SOT has been teaching this as a thinking skill for 30 years yet most of our students find thinking about consequences to be one of the most difficult of all the skills that we teach. It’s hard for adults to see not only the immediate consequences of their actions or decisions but also the consequences that come after a year, five years or 25 years and beyond. It’s almost impossible for children to comprehend such consequences at all!
For example, after 30 years, what are the consequences of my Learn-To-Think idea? Now that there ARE hundreds of thousands of ‘teachers of thinking’ around the world who are teaching thinking every day to millions of children what are the consequences of this? I have given a lot of thought to this problem over the years and I still really don’t feel satisfied that we have the answer. We ask for and get feedback every day from our students online. Overwhelmingly the feedback is positive–better health, increased productivity, better relationships, business growth etc etc. We rarely get any negative feedback from individual students at all.
In business, companies like GE say that their business has flourished from using SOT brain software for their workers. In the early 80s I initiated a program for Jack Welch who was CEO of GE called GE XIO: How to multiply GE by ten. GE subsequently did multiply its business by ten from $35 billion to over $300 billion in the 80s and 90s.
Jack Welch has written in his books about how he has used these ideas as part of his business strategy. Apart from making everything from light bulbs to locomotives, GE also makes nuclear weapons. Is the growth of this part of their business a good consequence or a bad one? I once had discussions with their top scientists at a conference in Acapulco about this. Their view was that they think a lot about dual-use technology and that they have used their innovations to design weapons, so powerful, that the weapons can never be used. So far so good.
Another way to use XIO thinking is to divide by ten. Around the same time I was invited by the Pacem in Terris Society at the United Nations in Manhattan to give an address entitled Lateral Thinking for World Peace. My main point was that the US and Russia could start a reverse arms race: to divide their nuclear weapons by ten.
Since 2005 I’ve been mentoring a global NGO devoted to women’s health and family planning. They provide education programs and have quite heroically, in the face of much church and state opposition, established family planning clinics in 42 countries serving millions of women who do not have access to basic sexual and reproductive health services. I have been a patron for nearly ten years. These services also include safe abortion and post-abortion care. Recently they have used my XIO strategy to multiply these services by ten. What are the dual consequences of this? I have given this a lot of thought.
Here’s another example. 40 years ago the US Defence Department made a fateful decision in human evolution. It had no way of seeing the consequences of this decision. The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency known as DARPA had an idea! They realised that it was possible to take a quantum leap in communications between their scientists and researchers based at different geographical locations. They networked (joined by telephone) four of their large computers and established DARPANET.
By 1972, this had grown to 37 networked computers and the name had evolved to ARPANET. One of the consequences, they now realised, was that the information in all these computers did not only reside in the computers but now also existed in a kind of cloud above the computers which became known as cyberspace. They also realised that this would provide a defence solution to information that was vulnerable to nuclear attack (remember the Cold War with Russia). So if San Francisco was blown off the map all the critical data in the great Livermore computers would still be safe in cyberspace etc etc.
In addition to exchanging boring (but no doubt important) defence information the users on ARPANET began sending each other personal messages by electronic mail — email — and that’s when the communications big bang really took off. By 1987, any educational facility–academic, military or government–could use the network in any country allied to the US. Scientists could now exchange scientific papers in milliseconds. By 1990 the ARPANET had become the INTERNET, the network of networks, with the subsequent arrival of ecommerce 24/7 and the World Wide Web.
By 2011, cyberspace as we know it has evolved into YouTube and Facebook with new developments arriving at the speed of light. This has all happened in 40 years and who could have foreseen these consequences?
At that same time, 40 years ago, when the US Defence scientists in Washington were giving birth to the internet something else quite unrelated happened in a place called Townsville in Australia. Mrs Assange was giving birth to a boy she named Julian.
And so, in retrospect, we can see how the mixed bag of consequences have unfolded. If DARPA could not have foreseen the internet it certainly could not have foreseen wikileaks. When defence people did see how the internet could be a protection of information against Russian bombs they didn’t see how it would be so vulnerable to leaks by hackers and internet activists.
In the early days of the internet (which, remember, was essentially a scientific and academic community) the culture of the net was information wants to be free. This was the mantra of the net and it was in this spirit that SOT, as an online school, remained pro bono and distributed its lessons for free around the world. It is an important academic principle and tradition that scientists and other academics should share their information with one another. Censorship is deeply anticultural to scientists. Seeking patents and the protection of IP for commercial purposes is de rigeur but censorship is another matter.
So what about wikileaks? The debate is raging across the world. If information wants to be free then what role, if any, should censorship play in the discussion about wikileaks?Â This is the Wikileaks Dilemma.
The WikiLeaks Dilemma is useful because it brings to the surface a very important discussion that the world needs to face up to today more than ever before. This lack of this discussion is a big elephant in the boardroom of every company. It’s an elephant in every science lab. It’s an elephant in every pulpit. It’s an elephant in every livingroom. It’s the Dual ConsequencesÂ Discussion.
DFQ: We are planning to offer advanced training in thinking about CONSEQUENCES. It will be a one month interactive course of daily lessons. Do you think there would be value in this training? What would you most like to see included in this training?
Please post your comments: