Distributed Thinking Symposium V

New year, good news. An abstract that I co-wrote with my colleague and friend Davide Secchi has been accepted for presentation at Distributed Thinking Symposium V “The Time-scales of Language Dynamics in Systemic Thinking” that will take place in London in the end of January.

Here’s the text.

Towards a Model of Chance-Seeking Behaviour

When individuals have to solve a problem or make a decision, sooner or later they face the very experience of our ignorance. What can people do in a world they don’t quite understand? In this paper our main goal is to sketch a distributed cognitive model of chance-seeking (CS) behaviour (Bardone, 2011). Chance is defined as an event or situation – novel or not – conveying both an opportunity and a risk in the future (Ohsawa & McBurney, 2003). CS is that particular kind of behaviour or cognitive attitude in which a person explores and/or examines his/her proximal environment so as to tentatively make the best out of the opportunities it offers. We are interested in (a) understanding why chance-seeking is widespread, and (b) what makes it successful. As a cognitive behaviour, chance-seeking can be described by five features. Seeking chances is an adaptive process in the sense that it involves change, creativity, innovation. It is also open-ended because it is not possible to draw a clear distinction between means and ends (Kay, 2011). Problems are solved by successive approximations and incremental modifications projecting the problem-solving process onto subsequent chances and opportunities for action. Also, it is distributed because the chance-seeker doesn’t only rely on internal resources, but mostly on external resources (Clark, 2008). CS is anti-fragile, meaning that one is not actually harmed by random occurrences, but he or she actually benefits from them (Taleb, 2012). The process is situated in the sense that the chance-seeker cannot make an inventory of cognitive skills and knowledge needed, but can only rely on whatever may come in handy. The model intends to provide a solid basis for empirical testing of these characteristics of the successful CS process.


Bardone, E. (2011). Seeking chances. From biased rationality to distributed cognition, volume 13 of Cognitive Systems Monographs. New York: Springer.

Clark, A. (2008). Supersizing the Mind. Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension. New York: Oxford University Press, 3rd edition.

Kay, J. (2011). Obliquity: Why our goals are best achieved indirectly, London: Profile Books.

Ohsawa, Y. and McBurney, P. eds (2003). Chance Discovery: Foundations and Applications. Heidelberg: Springer.

Taleb, N.N. (2012). Antifragile. How to Live in a World We Don’t Understand. London: Penguin.

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