Losing the ability to alalogize. 

Humans have allways been able to analogize, they found themselves in a hard world, where the ability to assume some common behaviors in amimals and to gernerate posibilities that one object is like or unlike another in some respect was essential to their survival. One of the most important ways they could do this was to create analogies between concepts thereby illuminating hidden properties in one of the concepts. In the modern world such information comes mostly in the form of communication from others. Like many of these suppressed or ignored tools/inate abilities this one is socially or culturally suppressed as being a childish activity (of seeing not how things are, but how they could be) and one not not sufficiently dignified for adults to perform. It is also inhibited by its lack of necessity in the modern world. Because of this predudice against childishness and the lack of need, it is not encouraged by adults. It is however by far the easiest method for generating new, startling and unique ideas and the most common method used by people to achieve genius status.

radiation Analogizing. analogy

Analogizing is not only one of the essential ingredients in genius, but is also the basis for any kind of connectivity in thinking. It is that, by which we are able to think of one thing in terms of something else. As in the illustrations above we can use the analogy of a head as a house, where the mouth is a door and the eyes are windows. In order to give a car a personality we may use the analogy of the headlights are eyes and the grill is a mouth. The moment we do this we find that there is usually an actual relation there. Windows for instance not only look like eyes but their function is to let in light. Likewise the function of a door is to allow or disallow things into a house just as a mouth allows or disallows things to enter the body. The point is that an analogy is a bridge between one thing and another, it enables us to connect the otherwise unconnectable and discover hidden similarities in form and process.

Analogy plays a significant role in problem solving, decision making, perception, memory, creativity, emotion, explanation and communication. It lies behind basic tasks such as the identification of places, objects and people, for example, in face perception and facial recognition systems. It has been argued that analogy is "the core of cognition". Without analogies to connect ideas together we are left without explanation, where the simple can appear weird or magical.


Analogy and change in people.

Analogy is also a good way of making information understandable and thus make people more motivated to act. Take for example a medical institution was having trouble with interdepartmental feuds and bureaucracy. In response the head of the departments drew an analogy between the way, various organs and other parts of the body and the various departments in the facility. She stressed the integrated way each part has to work with all the other parts for a body to be healthy, and the way various departments of the medical facility similarly needed to work together for the organization to be healthy. Because the department heads were all doctors this information caused an immediate change in the doctors attitudes and behavior.   

Helen Keller.

Helen Keller was both blind and deaf but she was able to explore the world of sight and sound by analogy. How could a woman relying on solely on on touch, taste and smell learn anything about the world of seeing and hearing, much less contribute to it? Even as scientists contemplate the subatomic world of atoms so was Helen Keller able to contemplate the world of color and sound. She learned to speak without hearing herself, she learned to write and type without being able to see the words and she learned to read half a dozen languages through the intermediary of Braille. Through her words we begin to understand how important analogy is in translation from one sense to another. She explains how she was able to approach and to some extent appreciate and understand the worlds of sight and sound through analogy as follows:

"The freshness of the flower in my hand is analogous to the freshness I taste in an apple newly picked. I make make use of analogies like these to enlarge my conception of colors. Some analogies which I draw between qualities in surface and vibration, taste and smell are draw by others between sight hearing and touch This fact encourages me to persevere, to try to bridge the gap between the eye and the hand."

"For example, I observed the kinds of and degrees of fragrance that gave me pleasure, and that enabled me to imagine how the seeing eye is charmed by different colors and their shades. Then I traced the analogies between the illumination of thought and the light of day, and perceived more clearly than I ever had the preciousness of light in the life of the human being"

Teach and learn by analogy.

In their book "Sparks of Genius" Robert and Michelle Root Bernstein quote a character in an ancient Chinese play who has been ordered to stop using analogies. "A man who explains necessarily makes intelligible that which is not known by comparing it with what is known...[to abandon analogies] would make the task impossible." they then go on to say, "Start with what you know or what the person you are teaching already knows then find the functional analogy that bridges the known thing with the unknown one that needs to be understood." Analogy is not just a way of explaining something in terms of something else, but also a way of making a discovery. The formula below provides a verbal way of generating analogies. But most good analogies are well hidden and require chaos and randomness for their generation.

equation analogy 

When a scientist looks at one thing and sees something else he is in the process of discovering how one can function in a similar manner to another. Bad analogies do not lead to discoveries but rather lead to the known, the ordinary the dull and the mundane. 


Analogies as used for explanation or discovery in science.

Leonardo da Vinci who is perhaps the almost the archetype of a genius provided masterful analogies in his notebooks not just in writing but also in illustrations because he was also a great artist. To quote from the Bernsteins, "The swirling of water in the pool around a water wheel is juxtaposed with the swirling of the blood as it courses through the heart - not quite Harvey's pump analogy but almost. Leonardo compares the process by which light, heat and odors are dispersed with distance - analogies that we now know are inaccurate. But his analogies between between water wind and sounds carried on the air are still recognized as valid in modern physics." By simultaneously connecting by analogy the circles made in a pond by a stone with the sound made by a bell he was able to to suggest that sound traveled in waves.

In science the whole process of explaining something we cannot observe directly is done through analogy with something we can observe directly. This is, so often, the cause for much confusion among scientists, who forget that they are using an analogy and start to believe that the thing described must have all the properties of the analogous thing and not any other properties. They forget it is just an analogy. For instance electricity was one thought of as a fluid that passed along a wire and while we now recognize that this is not correct. It is true that it was a useful way of thinking about electricity. Is light a particle or a wave? Well clearly it is neither but there are clearly properties of light that are the same as a wave, and properties of light that are the same as a particle. It is important in science to be aware that that we are using an analogy to understand something but the thing is not the analogy. In fact light is light it is not a wave nor is it particles and these are simply analogies we can use to help understand it.

When we think about the stuff that matter is composed of such as protons neutron and electrons it is very easy to think of them as being particles of matter which should have the same properties as matter but of course they are not. Max Planck and Louis de Broglie used the analogy of a vibrating string to explain the movement and energy of electrons. When we call electrons particles we are making an analogy just as surely as if we call them a vibrating string. I remember in science at school we were first taught Niels Bohr's model for the atom which used the analogy of planets revolving round a sun. Later we were told this was wrong and that we should consider electrons a cloud about a nucleolus. In fact both analogies have their uses, but neither is entirely accurate. It's like getting the map confused with the territory.

Darwin's whole science of evolution was arrived at through a number of analogies. His most famous analogy is that of realizing that what the economist Thomas Malthus was saying about human populations applied equally to all living creatures. Malthus had noted that populations are limited by resources and that reproduction beyond those resources must result in starvation. Because the poor and the weak are most likely to starve the result is non random. Darwin realized that the same sort of process must exist in nature.          

Analogies as a means to invention.

George de Mestral, a Swiss inventor went hunting one day toward the end of the 1940s. During this hunt he and his dog brushed up against a bush that left them covered with burrs. When de Mestral tried to remove the burrs, the clung stubbornly to his clothes. To most people this would be a minor annoyance but de Mestral became curious as to why they were so difficult to remove. When he got home he put them under the microscope and discovered that each burr had hundreds of tiny hooks that had snagged the threads in his pants. Looking at these hooks he suddenly saw how like they were to the hooks used in a fastener. A burr is a fastener he realized and formed the analogy. After several years of work he finally produced what we now know as Velcro. Velcro is now used on blood pressure cuffs, tennis shoes, and millions of other items especially of clothing. Inventors use analogies all the time in coming up with inventions.

The invention of barbed wire came about because Joseph Glidden in 1843 was looking for a way of stopping cattle breaking through fences and he saw a rail with sharp nails sticking out. Thinking about damaging the cattle a bit less probably saw the analogy with thorn plants like roses and this eventually resulted in barbed wire. In the early 1800s a doctor named Rene Laennec needed to listen to the heart of a woman that was so obese that he could not hear her heart. He remembered however listening to a pin being scratched on the end of a piece of wood and made an analogy with a tube of paper which he quickly fashioned. He said later in writing, "I was gratified at being able to hear the beating of the heart with much greater clearness and distinctness than I had ever done before". The result, the first stethoscope. The fact that the analogy was not really correct is immaterial as the device worked. Modern vacuum forceps and breast pumps are derive from 19th century analogues of blood sucking leeches. 

Samuel Morse who invented the telegraph came up with the way to send a signal over a long distance. On noticing tired horses being exchanged for fresh ones at a relay station he produced an analogy with his signal. It too would have relay stations to periodically boost the signal. The team at DuPont who had invented a fire resistant fabric called Nomex were having trouble selling it to customers because it did not come in different colors. The fiber would not absorb dye. The problem was was solved when one of the chemists came up the analogy that the fiber could be considered to be a mine shaft. Seems strange, but miners dig a hole into the earth and use props to keep the hole from collapsing. The chemists found a way to prop open holes in Nomex as it was being manufactured that could later be filled with dyes.  

Analogies and idea generating.

Ideas, in this sense, are simply the first stage of invention and William J. J. Gordon created a company with the express purpose of generating such ideas. Gordon started a brain trust group to come up with these ideas, ideas for inventions, ideas to solve problems, ideas to be creative. He called his group or the idea behind it and his company Synectics. The word “synectics” means “bringing different things together to create a unified connection”, which is what’s done using the synectics process. While Gordon was alive this group was very successful at coming up with creative ideas. What seemed to be different about this group was that they used analogies in order to come up with ideas. Al Capp who was Gordon's good friend did the following drawings for fortune magazine. While the drawings send Gordon and his group up, they also manage to capture the spirit of what the group was about.

This was based on an actual session at the Synectics headquarters. The eventual result was not quite what Capp envisioned but rather a design for a wheelchair that propels itself upstairs on long rotating screws.

Analogizing and metaphors.

A metaphor is when you call something, something other than what it is. You do this in order to draw attention to some of the less obvious qualities in the original thing that are more obvious in the thing you have substituted for it. An analogy by contrast is brought into existence not to amplify and clarify discernable qualities, but rather to find hidden similar qualities. This does not mean that a metaphor cannot be used to find hidden qualities, but simply that this is not its main purpose. The moment you begin to use it to find hidden qualities, you are making an analogy. This finding of hidden qualities or making connections between otherwise unconnectable things, is not only essential to the function of creativity and is also the the most essential of the thirteen tools in the production of a genius.

understanding analogies

Analogies in art.

A metaphor is also the way analogies function in literature. Although the main function of an metaphor is to highlight some aspect of something it also functions in the same way as an analogy in that it brings to the object or process enhanced by the metaphor all the qualities of the metaphorical image. We use the metaphor to highlight one aspect of something, but the metaphor brings with it all kinds of connotations some of which will be useful and appropriate and some will not. Of those connotations some will be surprising and will reveal to us information about the original something that we did not have before. In other words through the use of metaphor the novelist or the poet can enable us to see things in new ways or in richer, deeper ways. In works of fantasy we can use analogy to personalize abstract ideas in order to make them clear in an interesting way. The Norse and Greek gods for instance were anthropomorphic ways of personalizing various aspects of nature and human social conventions. So there is a god of thunder and a god of war, a goddess of the moon and a goddess of love. The stories of these abstract creatures reveal both art and examples for our ideals and values.

Many painters and sculptors use use analogies in their art and also to inform their art. For instance it is well known that Henry Moore used the natural wearing away and and rubbing of natural objects as a metaphor for sculpture. Buckminster Fuller created architectural works that used analogies from the shapes and structures of crystals. M. C. Escher used analogies from the music of Bach to create his tessellations.         

foot in mouth Arguing by analogy.

Although analogy is very useful in coming up with new ideas, one has to be careful not to use analogies in logical argument as they prove nothing. One does not have to be logical in coming up with ideas, but that is just the beginning. From there the ideas must be translated into hypotheses and tested to see if they are valid or not. There was an old argument in philosophy that because the universe run so beautifully like clockwork and thus the universe is like a clock there must be a clockmaker i.e. God. The philosopher David Hume pointed out that this is a very slippery argument because nothing is perfectly analogous to the universe. The fundamental problem with the argument is the assumption that just because some aspects of A are similar to B, other aspects of A must be similar to B. It just does not follow. The brightest of minds can be mislead by analogy. Hume pointed out that we could just as easily say the universe was analogous to a kangaroo. They are both organically interconnected systems. The kangaroo analogy would lead to a very different conclusion about the origin of the universe: namely that, it was born of another universe after that universe had sex with a third universe. The clock analogy has been resurrected recently as evidence for intelligent design. The fact that this argument is not logical does not however disprove the existence of God although it obviously does not prove it.

Children and Analogizing.

Children are of course always analogizing and do it effortlessly. Children are always taking some object and calling it something else. A stick may become an airplane or a gun or a sword or a light saber. This is essential to child play and the backbone of child creativity. The writer Geraldine Brooks attributes her facility for analogizing to the play she experienced with her mother. Her most memorable playthings were the creations of her mother's spontaneous inventions. "'Let's tour the estate,' she would say, and we would linger to learn stories that each plant and rock had to tell..." It has been argued by Brooks that children's toys these days are too well executed, too like the objects the represent. This she explains may cause the children to use their imagination less as there would be less need for the production of analogies. While this site is not quite convinced of this, it is certainly an idea worth investigating. As with many of the abilities of children, this ability to make analogies does tend to disappear as they get older. This may partly happen because of toys but it probably decreases fairly fast anyway. As we become concerned with how things are in the world more and more pressure is put on us to see and deal with things as they are. But in doing this we lose one of the most vital tools of creativity and genius. 

Practice as iterative improvement is a necessity for life long creativity.

Like imaging, observing and abstracting, analogizing needs to be practiced with improvement throughout life if it is to harnessed in the service of creation and probability of becoming a genius. At the moment analogizing in the home and school are generally thought to be unimportant especially early in life and thus discouraged. If, however, we were to continually try to analogize the world around us we will find this ability does not fade, but rather becomes stronger. In the hands of a creative genius it is used to see invisible connections, between things and processes, that are at the heart of new and novel knowledge. It was Newton's analogy between the the falling apple and the falling moon that gave us the concept of gravity and the understanding of planetary and all celestial motion. This changed the world of knowledge as has few other discoveries. 

Needs Interest Method Reality Keys How to Help Creative Genius Future What is Wrong Theories Plus
Prodigies Genius Creativity Social Creativity Thin Slicing Observing Imaging Abstracting Recognizing Patterns
Forming Patterns Enaction Empathizing Dimensional Modeling Playing Transforming Synthesizing