Tag Archive | Meta-Thinking

Explorers of Meaning

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What do you make of Austin Kleon’s idea ‘Steal like an artist’?”

“‘Stealing’ is a metaphor. Implicit to the concept of stealing is the concept of ownership. So implicit to ‘steal like an artist’ is the idea that ideas can be owned.

I reject this notion. We are part of a vast collective process [<link; short read], a form of collective play.

We are all playing in the same universe of meaning. We are all playing with the same building-blocks of meaning. We combine building-blocks to form new blocks, like children playing with Legos. (I call the underlying principle, Modularity.)

Some of the blocks we combine have emergent properties. An emergent block of meaning represents a higher-order level of organization [<link; short read]. Think how atoms combine to form cells, which combine to form emergent higher and higher-order living structures – the same process applies to meaning. (I call the underlying principle, Chunking.)

We are explorers of meaning.

Over the course of a lifetime, every human being can explore a tiny possibility space within the universe of meaning. Taken as a whole however, at the level of humanity, we can explore a vast possibility space – and the more interconnected the world becomes, the vaster this space.”

The Art of Perception 13

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the essence of the Art of Perception?”

Attention and Meaning. 

By Attention I mean two processes: Directing Attention and Pattern-Recognition. These are two fundamental operations of the human mind.

By Meaning I mean three processes: Decoding Meaning (which is essentially a kind of pattern-recognition), Encoding Meaning (imbuing things with meaning), and Creating Meaning (Sense-Making).

Attention and Meaning form the heart of Perception. Together they create your subjective reality. The Art of Perception is the art of optimizing Attention and Meaning to shape your subjective reality.

The Art of Perception is the Art of Reality Design.”


The words you use to map reality will affect your experience of reality. Words do not just describe, words are generative. (Jason Silva)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is meta-thinking?”

“Language creates our reality.

Through objectification [<link; short read], we turn abstractions into mental pseudo-objects modeled after physical objects.
Through reification, we confuse our pseudo-objects with reality.

When you hear someone hatefully say things about a religion for instance, in their mind the abstraction has become reality. For them, this fantasy takes up mental space, and influences their behavior in the world, thus using up energy.

Language is the proverbial water to the fish. 

Meta-Thinking is seeing the water. 

Meta-Thinking means operating on a higher-order level of meaning.

In a sense, Meta-Thinking is Magic.”

Counting Metaphors

Always look out for the use of adjectives in a press piece.

Adjectives are almost never objective. They reflect the personal opinion and attitude of the writer. Count the ‘adjective score’ to see how reliable that source may be. Facts can stand for themselves but adjectives cannot.

(Edward de Bono)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“One of my favorite pastimes is what I call meaning analysis.”

“What is it?”

“I take a random text and start deconstructing its meaning. I identify mental models, metaphors, mental operations, abstractions and ambiguities, cognitive distortions, biases, fallacies, assumptions, etc.

I love Edward de Bono’s idea of counting adjectives. I’ve extended it to metaphors as well.”

“The adjective score reveals the reliability of the source. What does the ‘metaphor score’ represent?”

“Often, someone’s level of confusion.”


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is meta-magic?”

“It’s a concept from my gaming past. More specifically from D&D (Dungeons&Dragons). 

In the D&D multiverse, magic is a reality, which allows its practitioners to shape physical-reality through the casting of spells. Meta-magic is a higher-order level of magic that allows one to modify the properties of a spell. 

For instance, some spells in D&D have a somatic component, they require some kind of body movement to be cast. Meta-magic allows one to ‘still’ a spell, that is, to cast it without its somatic component.

In the same way magic shapes physical-reality in D&D, language shapes our mental-reality. 

Words have power. In a profound sense, language is magic.

Mental models are a higher-order level of meaning, a meta-language.

If language is magic, Models Thinking is the meta-magic.


Un invatat are doua datorii: sa invete el necontenit si sa invete necontenit pe altii. (Nicolae Iorga)

A learner has two duties: to learn endlessly and to endlessly teach others.

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is concept-stacking?”

“The word ‘invatat‘, which I translated as ‘learner’ is actually untranslatable.

In the English language, ‘to teach’ and to ‘to learn’ are two distinct concepts.
In Romanian, we only have one concept that incorporates both. The verb ‘a invata‘ means both ‘to learn’ and ‘to teach’.

There’s a powerful principle here, which can be used to practical ends:

Deliberately fusing concepts together to achieve a desired end.

I call this process concept-stacking.

As a notation for concept-stacking, I use a slash line (/).”

“So ‘x/y/z’ means that the concepts x, y, and z are fused/stacked together.”


Using the notation, ‘Invatat‘ in the initial quote can be translated as ‘Learner/Teacher‘.”