Deception is one of nature’s long-standing survival strategies. All of the unfolding darwinian extravaganza of life uses deception to survive — even at the level of microorganisms.

And, as any ten-year-old already knows, when it comes to human behaviour, things are rarely as they seem.

There are deceptions. There are hidden motives and hidden agendas. There are people ‘behind the scenes’. There are manipulators. There are scapegoats. There are turncoats. There are the actively disengaged. There are traps and ambushes. There are willing or paid agents. There are big investments and potential payoffs. There are opportunists and there are traitors.

Little wonder that situations are rarely how they seem. Rarely how they are portrayed. Nor are they what they seem to be on the surface. So what can you do? What can you use to find out what’s really happening in complex situations? What investigative tools can anyone use?

One ancient and clever tool is called cui bono.

The power of the cui bono is the most likely answer to the question: who benefits?

This is always a very useful question to ask. However, because of the very nature of deception there is not always a very obvious answer to that question.

Investigative journalism and criminal investigations may invest considerable resources in trying to construct comprehensive answers to the cui bono. They are trying to find out: who benefits most from the crime or situation that we are investigating?

The Cui Bono Test

When you are trying to uncover a much better understanding of the truth you can use the Cui Bono test. Whenever you find yourself looking to allocate suspicion or blame to agents involved in a situation ask yourself if they have passed the Cui Bono Test.

To apply the Cui Bono Test you carefully ask the questions: How did that agent benefit? Who else benefited? Who benefited more? Who benefited the most?

Of course, some situations can be very complex and they may require answers to many more questions than this but cui bono is always a useful place to start.

On the Fourth of July I was at an America Australia celebration event. Over a glass of wine a friendly discussion arose at our table about the relative merits of our two constitutions. I said if you move from theory to actual product then I believe Australia wins. I argued that …

The Trump Family occupies the White House. The Windsor Family occupies Buckingham Palace. Compare the families!

The American Constitution delivered the Trumps. The Australian Constitution delivered the Windsors. Compare the constitutions!

So, the evidence shows that the Australian Constitution works better than the American Constitution.

We all laughed and agreed, however, that none of this makes any difference to the excellence of the Australia America alliance over the last century.

The Science Symposium of the School of Thinking is a world class panel of science, innovation and R&D thought leaders. They meet quarterly to review the SOT strategic initiatives for 2017/2018. The seven members of the Science Symposium are Sir Gus Nossal, Professor David Penington, Dr Graham Mitchell, Dr John Stocker, Mr Michael Taylor, Mr Peter Turvey and Ms Maria Deveson Crabbe.

Sir Gustav Nossal AC CBE, FAA, FRS

Gustav Nossal took his Ph.D. at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. Sir Gus has been President of the Australian Academy of Science (1994-1998); a member of the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (1989-1998); and Chairman of the Strategic Advisory Council of the Bill and Melinda Gates Children’s Vaccine Program (1998-2003). Nossal was knighted in 1977, made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1989 and appointed Australian of the Year in 2000. Since 2010, Nossal has been Chairman of the Gates Foundation’s Discovery Expert Group, charged with developing longer-term research strategies.

Professor David Penington AC, DM, MA(Oxon), FRCP, FRACP, FRCPA

After graduating in medicine at Oxford David Penington returned to Melbourne as Professor of Medicine at the University of Melbourne then Dean of the Faculty of Medicine then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne for eight years from 1988. He was Chairman of the National AIDS Task Force (1983-87). He was Chairman of the Board of Cochlear Ltd from 1995 to 2002. His autobiography “Making Waves: Medicine, Public Health, Universities and Beyond” published by Melbourne University Press July 2010.

Dr John Stocker AO MB BS BMedSc PhD FRACP FTSE

John Stocker has a distinguished career in pharmaceutical research and extensive experience in management of research and development and in its commercialisation. Dr Stocker is Chairman of the Science and Engineering Advisory Committee, Environment Protection Authority of Victoria. Recently he was a Director of Telstra and a Board member of Wine Victoria. Before that he was Chief Executive of CSIRO and the Australian Government’s Chief Scientist and a member of the Board of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research. He was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia in June 1999 and was awarded the Centenary Medal in 2003.

Dr Graham Mitchell AO RDA BVSc FACVSc PhD FTSE FAA

At The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) Graham Mitchell made discoveries in immunology obtaining his PhD in 1969. In 1990 he was appointed Director of the prestigious Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens. Recognised as one of Australia’s leading biological scientists Mitchell was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia. He has been an advisor on innovation to the Victorian, Commonwealth, Tasmanian and Northern Territory Governments.

Michael John Taylor AO BAgSC DipAgEcon FTSE

Mike Taylor is currently a Director of the Public Transport Development Authority and the Country Fire Authority. Formerly the Secretary to Australia’s Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Services and Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry. As a result he has been extensively involved in negotiating International, Commonwealth, State and industry agreements on a wide range of transport, security, regional development, water, energy, minerals, agricultural, food, forestry, fisheries, environmental and sustainable natural resource management issues. Mike has chaired international negotiations, meetings, delegations, projects, policy and trade development work in Asia, North America and Europe.

Peter R Turvey BA/LLB, MAICD

Former Executive Vice President Licensing and Company Secretary of CSL Limited Peter Turvey had responsibility for the protection and licensing of CSL’s intellectual property. Among the many licensing deals he was involved with, the most significant included the Gardasil license to Merck & Co., the licensing of the Iscomatrix® adjuvant platform technology to the world’s leading vaccine manufacturers, and establishment of the P.gingivalis vaccine technology collaboration between the CRC for Oral Health and Sanofi-Pasteur.

Maimage1-2ria Deveson Crabbe

Maria is an experienced CEO with over 20 years of expertise spanning across the corporate, private industry and social enterprise sectors. Maria has achievements in business start-ups, new business development and in driving innovation and organisational growth in well-established organisations; with strengths in marketing and brand strategy, operations, service delivery, FMCG and supply chain improvement.

 Maria was the Founding CEO of Aussie Bodies. Under her leadership, Aussie Bodies achieved its number one status within the sports nutrition FMCG category. As CEO of Marie Stopes International Australia, she launched the not for profit pharmaceutical company, MS Health and was the driving force behind the successful registration of RU486 by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. 

As CEO of MSI’s Australian operations, Maria led a change management process to integrate Australian clinic and pharmaceutical operations. She designed a corporate social responsibility model that ensures a percentage of operational profits are donated to program activities, with donations scaling up substantially over the past few years. As Regional Director Maria is accountable for operations in the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, PNG, Timor Leste, Cambodia, China and Mongolia.

 Maria won the 2014 Telstra Business Women Award for Community and Government (Victoria) and the 2014 Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence. In 2016 Maria was appointed an Honorary Fellow, Nossal Institute for Global Health, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, The University of Melbourne.


I sometimes think of the ways we respond emotionally to situations and how we can use our cvs2bvs thinking to manipulate or change our emotional responses in our mammal brain. I call these ways to change, The Limbic Games.

For example, the 4 following limbic games can involve switching from one emotion to another:

from Anger to Surprise … cvs2bvs

From Sadness to Trust … cvs2bvs

From Fear to Anger … cvs2bvs

From Trust to Joy … cvs2bvs

To get a list of human emotions we can refer to Darwin’s book, The expressions of the emotions in man and animals

Suffering and weeping
Low spirits, anxiety, grief, dejection, despair
Joy, high spirits, love, tender feelings, devotion
Reflection, meditation, ill-temper, sulkiness, determination
Hatred and anger
Disdain, contempt, disgust, guilt, pride, helplessness, patience, affirmation and negation
Surprise, astonishment, fear, horror
Self-attention, shame, shyness, modesty, blushing.

Or, to Plutchik‘s list of 8 …