As I explored in Prelude to a prediction language, our minds constantly rely on predictions. Without them, we would be bewildered, disoriented and unresponsive to others. Most formulate and utilize predictions in way where minds function as "mental mechanisms", not as living, growing organisms. The predictions in use are conclusive. People cling to these predictions out of desperation fueled by idealism, perfectionism and avoiding previous embarrassments. It feels like a crisis when a prediction gets proven wrong. These predictions spawn countless excuses, justifications and defensive rationalizations.
Some minds formulate and utilize predictions to function as "complex adaptive systems". The predictions in use are tentative and exploratory. They predict what may prove a fruitful avenue to explore, a valuable interpretation to apply or a useful experiment to conduct. These minds can let go of predictions easily as they remain a "work in progress". The system is not merely complicated or mechanistic. The complexity of the mind yields emergent outcomes that cannot be forced, contrived or derived exclusively from previous outcomes. The system in not already "adapted". It's continually adaptive and evolving from contradictions like living organisims. The complex adaptive system is actively incorporating whatever is disproving its tentative predictions.
When minds function as "mental mechanisms", they cannot support collaboration with others. They do not generate a concept of what others are intending and trying to accomplish. They do not relate to other outlooks besides their own. They do not resolve functional disconnects or discover what works better than what's been tried before. These minds cannot come up with new solutions, insights or revised diagnoses that others would characterize as creative, innovative or inspired. Their use of conclusive predictions necessitates foregone conclusions, previous assumptions and routines that worked before. They value quantity instead of quality, novelty over nuance and thrills instead of depth of significance.
This poses as significant obstacle to every transformation I've previously explored like personal learning environments, disrupting higher ed, mentoring others, reflective practice or the next economy. However, minds that function as "mental mechanisms" are extremely beneficial for industrialized mass production and consumption. People relying on conclusive predictions have very little going for them. What little works for them is highly repetitive and boring. They cannot fix what is not working in their relationships or own minds. They do not experience variety from really learning, creating, changing themselves or relating to others. They seem reliable and compliant as employees, customers or audience members. They are eager to fill seats in huge arenas, consume the same broadcasts as sixteen million others and follow trusted news sources. They keep the industrialized, materialistic, meaningless economy going great guns.
Of course this obstacle calls for disruptive innovations that better serve the job the dis-served customer is already getting done. Mental mechanisms are inherently "people pleasing" and "approval seeking". A transition process designed for replacing mental mechanisms can give approval to these patterns in use. The transformation can emerge from the complexity of speaking a living language of inconclusive predictions.
[Note: I have revised the term: "complicated adapted system" to "mental mechanism" 6/17/09]