What is Noticing?
As mentioned before, cognetics comes from the words 'cognitive cybernetics'. Cognitive, of course, means to do with 'thinking' and cybernetics means to do with 'feedback'. In other words, cognetics is thinking based on feedback. The reason you think is so that you can notice the feedback created by your thinking and action. This feedback then becomes the stimulus for further thinking. Thinking ... Feedback .. Thinking etc.
The basis of all science is observation and measurement - noticing things. A clever brainuser is a clever noticer and a clever noticer is objective. The skill of noticing is objectivity. Detachment is also important in noticing things. With detachment you can have a broader, clearer view of the situation.
For example, when pouring a glass of champagne you notice feedback. You notice when the champagne level is nearing the top of the glass and so you begin to stop pouring the wine. If you didn't notice this then you might continue pouring the wine and the whole system runs out of control.
In fact, noticing things is the basis of controlling things. This champagne situation is an example of a "feedback system". Noticing and measuring feedback in systems in order to control those systems is what cybernetics is all about. Noticing the feedback created by your thinking, in order to control it, is what cognitive cybernetics or cognetics is all about.
During WWII, Dr. Norbert Weiner (Professor of Mathematics at MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology) invented cybernetics, as a body of mathematics to help anti-aircraft technology and also to help our understanding of mental acts via formal systems analysis.
The main problem with an airplane as a target was that it moved. Cybernetics worked by noticing the "degree of miss" between an ack-ack shell and the airplane target and feeding back that information to the weapon so that an immediate adjustment could be made and then firing another shell.
This loop would be quickly repeated many times allowing the weapon to "educate-itself" and close in on its target. This gave the weapon its characteristic ack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack firing sequence. Fire …… feedback …… fire …… feedback …… fire …… feedback…… fire …… feedback…… fire …… feedback…… fire …… feedback etc etc until it closed in on its target.
This kind of technology, as with many other advances, has been largely developed by the military scientists. Missiles work the same way, wiggling to their target by using heat sensors to locate the target's engine and noticing the feedback in order to make a rudder or rocket adjustment. Noticing the feedback is the central activity that allows the missile to reach its goal.
The Patriot missiles used in Iraq show how this technology has been developed to such an extraordinary degree by the USA's Star Wars project. The Patriot's ability to catch Scud missiles in the air is roughly equivalent to you driving along at 100kph and plucking a single blade of grass, previously painted red, as you go by.
This kind of advanced Star Wars cybernetic technology may be used in the future to shield planet Earth from meteors which are an increasing worry to scientists. Meteors remain just as serious a threat to life on the planet today as they were to our Jurassic ancestors.
Cybernetics is all about servo-mechanisms, goal-seeking behaviour, feedback loops, positive and negative feedback systems, self-stabilising systems, homeostasis and the control of systems, and how they might apply to biological or mechanical systems.
THINKING ... FEEDBACK ... THINKING ... FEEDBACK ... THINKING .. FEEDBACK ... THINKING ... FEEDBACK ... THINKING ... FEEDBACK ...THINKING ... FEEDBACK ... THINKING ... FEEDBACK ... THINKING ...FEEDBACK ... THINKING ... FEEDBACK ... THINKING ... FEEDBACK ...THINKING ... FEEDBACK ... THINKING
Edward de Bono
Although popularly known for his invention of the term lateral thinking, now in the Oxford Dictionary, Dr Edward de Bono's greatest contribution is that written up in his book The Mechanism of Mind.
De Bono follows on from MIT Professor Norbert Wiener's idea that the brain must be an information-processing machine and the way it "minds" should be capable of being expressed in informational terms.
Cognetics The Brain as a Body System
Dr. de Bono, was Professor of Investigative Medicine at Cambridge in England. He was an expert in body systems. In The Mechanism of Mind, which he wrote twenty-five years ago, Edward de Bono builds a model of how the brain, as an organ of the body, is very likely to operate as mind.
This model shows how the brain system, by operating along the lines of other body systems like the liver system or lung system can produce a mind, a biological system to process information. By showing how the brain operates as a self-organising, patterning system de Bono saw the need to promote lateral thinking as a compensation mechanism for some of the limitations of the brain/mind patterning system.
Cognitive cybernetics - cognetics - is about the practical application of cybernetics in cognitive science which is the science of information processing, in animals and machines.
In the Western world we are historically more concerned with judgement than with movement. We are more concerned with "rightness" than with effectiveness. Other cultures, like Japan, are more concerned with the PROCESS than the result.
This often gives them a big advantage over us. Effectiveness is reaching an alternating balance between thought-based action and action-based thought. Thinking …… Feedback …… Thinking …… Feedback …… Thinking …… Feedback …… Thinking …… Feedback …… Thinking …… etc.
As an experiment try pouring a glass of wine without getting any feedback, with your eyes closed? What happened? How else can you get feedback even with your eyes closed?
Who was a Noticer?
George Gallup founded the Gallup Poll at Princeton, New Jersey, which became the world's first system to objectively and scientifically measure - that is, to notice - public and customer opinion. He was also the inventor of market research and the ultimate saviour of the customer.
The very existence of the Gallup Poll has changed forever the future of the human race. The Gallup Poll makes it increasingly difficult for individuals to claim "I-am-right", to claim they alone "know what's best" for the public now that accurate scientific measurement of the public/customer viewpoint is possible.
Power to the People, Power to the Customer As inventor of market research and the Gallup Poll, Professor George Gallup has so empowered the public viewpoint that I believe his invention may be the greatest act of democracy ever performed by any scientist.
His research covered the fields of: Health; Religion; Politics; Journalism; Advertising; Entertainment; Business; Education and Human Thinking. It can be said that no other person in history has ever had the opportunity to notice and record the views of so many humans on so many aspects of their existence, and in so many parts of their world!
A lesser known side of Dr Gallup was his interest in humans and the factors which influence their opinions, attitudes, thinking and aspirations. He told me "teaching people to think for themselves was the most important thing in the world to do."
Born in Jefferson, Iowa, in 1900, he attended the University of Iowa and spent ten years as a teacher there and at Drake, Northwestern, and Columbia universities. He had a strong interest in education and what could be done to improve it. He had more than ten honorary Doctorate Degrees from colleges and universities around the world. George died at his Switzerland home in 1984.
Notice the CVS
As my mentor, Professor Gallup helped with the design of cognetics by impressing upon me the need to measure or notice the CVS (Current View of the Situation) as a basis for moving to the BVS (Better View of the Situation). We will explore this further in coming chapters.
Dr Gallup's work, along with that of Weiner, de Bono and others, stands as one of the first great examples of the practical application of the new field of cognitive science.
Your Own Gallup Poll Question
It can cost around $US 20,000 to have a Gallup Poll conducted on just one question. If you could have a Gallup Poll conducted, what one question would you ask? Why would you ask this question?
How to Notice Things
The main point about noticing is this: try to notice those things that you have NOT YET noticed.
It's easy to notice the information that supports our CVS, our Current View of the Situation. It's difficult to notice the information that falls outside our CVS and so that's exactly why and where we must make a deliberate attempt to notice things.
Suppose you're looking north. Once you become aware of the fact, once you notice it, then you can deliberately choose to look south. Looking in the opposite direction is one place to notice things. Try looking in directions that you are not yet looking in. Where are you looking now? Where could you be looking now?
Mistakes are a useful thing to notice. Mistake-phobics are so afraid of mistakes that they can't bear to notice them. They can't see that a mistake is an opportunity to make an appropriate adjustment. They can't cope with mistakes. Mistake-phobics are always "right".
"Nothing is more dangerous than the certainty that one is right." writes Franççois Jacob, winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, "Nothing is potentially so destructive as the obsession with a truth one considers absolute. All crimes in history have been the result of fanaticism of one type or another. All massacres have been carried out in the name of virtue, of true religion, of legitimate nationalism, of proper policy, of right ideology: in short, in the name of the fight against somebody else's truth." - The Logic of Life, Penguin 1989.
It's important to be able to notice mistakes in order to be able to correct them and move on. (OK, move on.) To do this effectively one needs to be objective rather than destructive, to be creative rather than judgmental. Try noticing mistakes that you have not yet noticed. Correct them and move on. "Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again," said Henry Ford.
Future consequences can be the most difficult things to notice especially in advance, which is one of the best times to notice them. This is a bit of a paradox. How can we notice a consequence that has not yet happened? How can we notice the future?
Actually we do it every time we ride a skateboard, apply make-up or use a chain saw. By noticing potential consequences we can avoid them in advance, if we wish. The most difficult consequences to notice in advance are the long-term ones. If I do such-and-such what will happen in ten years? In twenty years?
As the many possible futures hurtle towards us at an ever-increasing rate we will have to get better and better at noticing long-term consequences so that we can choose the futures we want to be in.
Last Chance to Choose a Safe Future
We are currently destroying the world's forests at the rate of an acre per second. In ten years, most of the earth's oxygen producing forests will be gone if we don't notice the long-term consequences and make some big changes.
We have already destroyed three-quarters of Australia's tropical rain forests and about two-thirds of the rest of our forests. We have made a hole in our protective ozone layer already the size of Mount Everest.
Canadian scientist David Suzuki, Professor of Genetics at the University of British Columbia, says "We are the last generation who will have any say on the future of our planet, because after our lifetime it will all be gone." If we are to make the necessary adjustments to our current behaviour, to ensure a safe future, we will have to get much better at noticing the future consequences of our current behaviour. Try noticing future consequences that you have not yet noticed.
Why notice things?
What would happen if you didn't notice things? Usually when we don't notice something we make a mistake. When we don't notice the mistake, we make another mistake. And so on. However when we do notice the mistake, then we can adapt or adjust in some way and then proceed. START - DO - NOTICE - THINK - SDNT - SDNT.
You have two ears and one mouth so use them in that proportion - so the saying goes. And yes, ears are certainly good for input, for noticing. Eyes come in handy. The tongue and the nose work well together. And, an assortment of fingers and toes play their part. We do have around five input senses, we are told, and these are all useful for noticing. Our experience, patterns built up over the years, can help us to notice things and, of course, they can also hinder us in noticing things.
Habits of Noticing
We can use repetition to develop special habits of noticing. In a room, a carpenter habitually notices wooden things and how poorly they are made. A businessman notices business opportunities in a situation. A lawyer notices loopholes, a soldier notices ... what does a soldier notice?
Skill and Training
Actually, the first time I was formally taught to expand my noticing skills was in my army infantry training. In those Vietnam days, we were taught how to notice things in the jungle that we hadn't yet noticed.
Shape, shine, silhouette, size, sound (I still remember). Through practice drills and field exercises we were taught to notice booby traps, thin wires, panji pits and the other hidden delights of jungle warfare not noticeable to the untrained civilian eye. We were taught to expand our range of vision from around 90 degrees to 180 degrees. We were taught to notice things at night - night vision.
How many input ports does your necktop have? How well do you notice things? How well could you notice things? What did you do today to increase your noticing skills? What will you do tomorrow to increase your noticing skills? Does it matter? Why?
Sometimes we don't notice things because we become distracted. Magicians use this principle so you won't notice how they do their magic trick. But sometimes we become distracted for other reasons.
Ten ways you can deal with distractions:
We all have blind spots - those areas that we habitually have difficulty in seeing or noticing.
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