The Ingenuity Gap, Thomas Homer Dixon, Nottawasaga Inn, October 19, 2002

Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Board of Governors' Fall 2002 Retreat, Saturday, October 19, 2002, 10:20 a.m.

These participant's notes were created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker's presentation(s) and comments from the audience. These should not be viewed as official transcripts of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. These notes have been contributed by David Ing ( at the IBM Advanced Business Institute ( ).

Special note: This is not the complete digest for the session. Comments and questions particularly related to the Durham College / UOIT context have been omitted. Please contact David Ing ( if you have a reason to see the full digest.

Introduction by Denise

Research focuses on social adaptation to complex stress

Aim today to put the Durham College challenge into the context

Talk in two parts

Basic questions:

Challenges at:  national, societal, and daily life.


At societal level

In our daily lives

Broad range of challenges, what are the links?

Contrast two paradigms

Dominant:  the economic paradigm

People seen as pragmatic problem-solving

Ingenuity == sets of instructions that tell us how to arrange the constituent parts of physical and social worlds in ways that help us achieve our goals.

Distinguish between social and technical ingenuity.

Requirement for ingenuity:

Sometimes the supply of ingenuity won't keep up with the requirement for ingenuity

Basic questions:

Factor boosting our ingenuity requirement

Together, the above 3 sharply raise the density, intensity and pace of our interactions with each other an our environment.

We need a new way to look at the world - not complex.

These changes mean that we must deal with more complex interactions

Then complexity is further increased when we try to boost the performance of our social and technological systems, within tight resource, political and value constraints.

Complex systems exhibit feedbacks, synergies, nonlinearities, unknown unknowns

Two types of complexity

e.g. Atmosphere temperature rising over time

Lake Vostok, Anarctica

Challenge:  Can we supply the ingenuity we need?

There's a chapter on each in the book

What does the ingenuity gap do for our future?

How is ingenuity theory relevant to Durham College and UOIT?

It helps us recognize the importance of what's being done

Building human capital

Adjusting the content of the educational experience

Need to encourage in young Canadians certain habits of mind.

Special note: Recommendations and question/answer period pruned off


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