Four Ways of Thinking: Statistical, Interactive, Chaotic and Complex

Professor David Sumpter

This is a recording of a past event
10 October 2023


What is the best way to think about the world? How often do we consider how our own thinking might impact the way we approach our daily decisions? Could it help or hinder our relationships, our careers or even our health?

Acclaimed mathematician David Sumpter has spent decades studying what we could all learn from the mindsets of scientists. His book Four Ways of Thinking (published August 2023) is the result.

Thinking about thinking is something we rarely do, yet it is something science questions all the time. Rather than being about facts, scientific and mathematic disciplines are, in large part, about finding better ways of reasoning. Our primary mission is to shape our own minds in a way that gets us closer to the truth.

In this recording of a Manchester Lit & Phil talk, David illustrates four ways of thinking (Statistical, Interactive, Chaotic and Complex) through the lives of four mathematical scientists — Ronald Fisher, Alfred Lotka, Margaret Hamilton and Andrej Kolmogorov. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a mathematician to enjoy David’s presentation!

He combines personal experience with practical advice, showing how these tried and tested methods can help us with every conundrum. From how to bicker less with our partners, to pitching to a tough crowd.

professor david sumpter

Professor David Sumpter

Professor David Sumpter is author of Collective Animal Behaviour (2010), Soccermatics (2016), Outnumbered (2018), The Ten Equations that Rule the World (2020) and Four Ways of Thinking (2023). His research work, including more than 100 scientific articles, covers everything from the inner workings of fish schools and ant colonies, through social psychology and segregation in society, to machine learning and artificial intelligence.

He has consulted for leading football clubs and national teams, including England, and Barcelona. He works actively with outreach to schools, industry and the social sector. His talks at Google, TedX, the Oxford Mathematics Public Lecture and The Royal Institution are available online. He has featured in documentaries for Amazon Prime and written for numerous publications including The Economist 1843, The Telegraph and The Guardian.

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