What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?

great question.

The World Questions Centre made this their questions of 2011

James Flynn has defined “shorthand abstractions” (or “SHA’s”) as concepts drawn from science that have become part of the language and make people smarter by providing widely applicable templates (“market”, “placebo”, “random sample,” “naturalistic fallacy,” are a few of his examples). His idea is that the abstraction is available as a single cognitive chunk which can be used as an element in thinking and debate.

The Edge Question 2011


The term ‘scientific”is to be understood in a broad sense as the most reliable way of gaining knowledge about anything, whether it be the human spirit, the role of great people in history, or the structure of DNA. A “scientific concept” may come from philosophy, logic, economics, jurisprudence, or other analytic enterprises, as long as it is a rigorous conceptual tool that may be summed up succinctly (or “in a phrase”) but has broad application to understanding the world.

The list of people who answer the questions are quite staggering.
The list of concepts runs to 17 pages and also are quite staggering.

the ones which i particularly liked were
Terrance Sejnowski – Powers of 10 also see Carl Page – Powers of 10
Gerd Gigerenzer – Risk literacy
Carlo Rovelli – The Uselessness of Certainty
Evgeny Morozov – Einstellung Effect

an entertaining and thought provoking way to spend an evening!
you should visit