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Lateral Thinking and the Polymath


Abstract: "Lateral Thinking" is a concept described by Edward De Bono in 1967 as ideal for creative thinking.  By its nature lateral thinking would potentially be a powerful technique when used by the broadly knowledgeable polymath.

Essay: "Lateral Thinking" is a concept described by Edward De Bono in 1967.  As opposed to "critical" or "vertical" thinking focused on finding errors in a predictable, logical fashion, "lateral thinking" is a potentially more creative process.  A short description is here, and there are many other references online and in print.  The topic can be researched more rigorously in De Bono's book Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step among others.

Critical thinking, which has served us beautifully and powerfully in science for decades and centuries, is reflected and respected by scientists and academics as a fundamental error checking tool.  Excess use of critical or vertical thinking may naturally lead to rigidity and narrowness while an excess of lateral thinking may lead a problem solver to be narrow, rigid, and unmindful of productive and useful ideas that might at first seem completely unrelated.   Critical and lateral thinking are thus complementary.

It seems clear that the broader the mind, i.e. expanded Temporal Aperture, of a person, the more the potential "horizontal" connections that are possible.  In creative problem solving or study where the drive is to generate a fresh new working concept, a polymath - "Renaissance person" - would have a much broader choice than average from which to merge seemingly unrelated ideas into a productive reasonable conclusion.

The proposal may become even more interesting if that polymath also has a proven capability for mystical or other meta-physical insight.  The practice of sliding ideation among ostensibly unrelated knowledge takes on new meaning when that process can possibly engage transcendent elements.  Here you have the basis of the person who may successfully intertwine meta-physical insight with everyday experience.   Some percentage of lateral thinking connections in a broad intrapersonal environment may have psi implications.

In a highly diverse society such as North America, can't the society itself experience lateral thinking interpersonally among disparate interests?  I'm certainly sure hard examples of this can be generated and actually may be the core of the grand unprecedented success of contemporary Western societies.  However, one main advantage to such powerful highly diverse societies is that they create the opportunities for a number of individuals to have the insight directing them to internalize this diversity within themselves, i.e., to develop a broad Temporal Aperture (hyper Renaissance person). I propose that the intrapersonal interaction space is fundamentally different from interpersonal scenarios in the matter of lateral thinking.  In other words, for the best, most complete possibilities, all the knowledge vectors need to be "self contained" and thus continuously in contact.

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