Game Theory, Intution and the Butterfly Effect

Intuition and Cause and Effect

Q. The concept of cause and effect seems pretty obvious?

LEWIS: This chapter is not about just “cause and effect” alone but about exploring the ways that events in the past or present may influence actions in the future.

All a discussion about cause and effect can be on the most basic level; the fact that things move and in that movement they induce some things to happen. But it gets a bit more complex than this.

Q:  How would an understanding of cause and effect enable one to see the possible in the impossible?
LEWIS: The concept of cause and effect is central to most of what we do in life. History, anthropology, memory, the choices we make in the present and the choices we make for the future are all based on some level on the concept of cause and effect. Change drives Life; the actions and responses of life to those actions drives the path that change takes.


Q:   Is there a system for determining the effect in response to a specific cause?
LEWIS:   There’s not an exact system but there is some very interesting mathematical work being done in this area.  Much of it is based on the research of MIT meteorologist Edward Lorenz. In 1960 Lorenz tried to create a model for predicting the weather. He wrote simplified equations that represented changes in wind velocity, pressure, temperature, and eight other variables. He then fed this information into a primitive computer. Just as he expected, his predictions of the weather were fairly accurate for the first few days.  However, as three, five or even seven days passed, the predictions were less and less accurate. Dr. Lorenz realized that the further an effect was from the cause the less easy it would be to predict what the effect might be.  He realized that eventually every long-term prediction would at some point depart from reality.

Q:  This seems obvious to me?

LEWIS:  It may seem obvious now, but back in 1960 the implications were staggering. Until Lorenz made his discovery, scientists assumed that a slight change in a cause would result in an equally small change in the responding effect. Linear modeling, the type of modeling most commonly used I stastics demonstrated this fact. However, Lorenz’s research dealt with non-linear equations. His equations proved that the previous assumptions were incorrect and a small shift in a single variable could over time create a much larger effect.  You can see this effect by simply throwing a pebble into a pond and observing the effect.

Q:   What is the application in practical terms of Lorenzo’s discovery?
LEWIS:  In spiritual terms it is an important demonstration of the value of surrender in certain circumstances. Lorenzo’s discovery shows us why long-term weather reports can be so unpredictable and why life may be equally unpredictable.  Consider weather as a metaphor for life. Both obey physical laws.  Like the weather, life is filled with many variables. A small change in the initial condition in a system can cause a chain of events leading to large-scale phenomena.  Any change in the system, even on a microscopic level, can affect the trajectory of the system and lead to a completely different sequence of events. Likewise any unexpected event in our life can lead to completely diverse results.  There is a unique and elegant orderliness even in this seemingly chaotic system – a system that may be affected by microscopic changes. The longer the time from the cause to the effect, the larger number of changes that will take place and the further the results will be from what was originally expected.

Q:  Is there a name for Lorenzo’s specific theory of how changes in a cause will result in a larger affect?
LEWIS: Lorenzo named his discovery “sensitive dependence on initial conditions.” Meteorologists began calling it the Butterfly Effect (technically, disambiguation).  The concept was that if a butterfly were to flap its wings in Manila in April, by the following August the extreme affect of this one small action, this pebble in the pond,  might affect hurricane patterns in Miami in September.

Q:  Does this mean that every action results in an extreme reaction?
LEWIS: No. The microscopic changes in the atmosphere that take place from a Butterfly flapping its wings may also produce the opposite result, preventing a hurricane from appearing.

Q:  How would this discovery affect our ability to transcend obstacles and solve problems?
LEWIS: Many scientists began to rethink the way they solved problems. They realized that many problems that could not be solved seemed unsolvable because the questions were either inappropriate or too general.

Q:   What are the other effects of Lorenzo’s theory?
LEWIS: For one, he showed us that the laws of nature are more complex than we ever realized and that the world is more chaotic than we ever thought.

Q:   I have heard the term “Chaos Theory.” Does the Butterfly Effect relate to this in any way?
LEWIS: Yes. The butterfly effect is a “short hand” for the more complex, detailed and technical idea known as “sensitive dependence on initial conditions” which is part of chaos theory.

Q:  What are some of the other implications of Lorenzo’s Theory?
LEWIS: His work also led to the understanding among scientists that small changes in the initial condition of a dynamic system can result in much larger variations in the long-term behavior of the same system. This is sometimes presented in extreme ways such as the Butterfly/Hurricane illustration. It can, however, be exhibited by very simple systems. For example, you are sitting in the driver’s seat of your car and your wallet falls out of your pocket onto the car floor. Where it will land will depend on slight differences in the wallet’s initial position when it left your pocket.

Q:  Can the Butterfly Effect be used in predicting results?
LEWIS: Yes. As an assessment process becomes more intense and the questions asked about a problem more specific and accurate, there is a greater chance of tracking effects of a particular action.

Q:   So the Butterfly Effect helps us to solve problems more easily by understanding more effectively the patterns in cause-and-effect reactions?
LEWIS: Yes.  And it also enables us to see possibilities where the impossible existred before. For generations researchers, scientists and engineers of every variety have used different algorithms to predict events. However they were only capable of predicting those things that seemed predictable. How many miles will a car travel on a gallon of gas, or how deep and large a foundation will you need to support a sixty-story building? With this new information and the tools associated with it researchers could more easily predict, even extrapolate, what might happen given a set of variables.

Q:  This theory will not help them to solve every problem. Won’t there always be some butterfly whose wing flapping may change the course of history?
LEWIS:  Yes. And yet we also know that when that butterfly flaps its wings in Manila, something larger will happen besides another butterfly flapping its wings in Miami.


Q:  Do you have any final thought on the concept of cause and effect?

LEWIS: Remember that cause and effect must be tested quantitatively in order to get an accurate picture of what is going on. It is also important to stay aware of when a process has reached the point of diminishing returns.


Q. Define The Law of Diminishing Return?

LEWIS: The Law of Diminishing Returns is a term common in economics and problem solving but applicable to any aspect of life that describes a point at which you have achieved the maximum that you can from some fixed factor or variable and no matter how much more of this factor you use in the future, the benefit will decrease.

Q:   What is the background behind the Law of Diminishing Returns?
LEWIS: This concept has been recognized in one form or another since ancient times, Dr. William R. Corcoran first wrote about The Law of Diminishing Returns as it relates to hierarchal group behavior. Dr. Corcoran researched Corrective Action Programs at nuclear power plants. He observed that the principle of diminishing returns could be applied to technology of virtually every type including vacuum cleaners and the evaluation tools used to manage change.

Q. Can the Law of Diminishing Returns be understood completely with a mastery of mathematics?

LEWIS: Hardly. Intuition is essential for seeing the gems of possibility within the impossible.


Q. Please define intuition?

LEWIS: Intuition is the ability to immediately access and apprehend knowledge without the use of reason.


Q. If we were in a situation where we had all the information we might need to make an effective decision, why would intuition be important?

LEWIS: At times we may find, for any number of reasons that we cannot act on the information that is available to us.  Intuition is especially valuable in such situations.


Q. Are there logical solutions to most problems?

LEWIS: I would imagine that given enough time one might eventually determine the most rational, logical, and desirable choice in virtually any situation.  Yet, we may use every logical skill and resource available to us and there will be situations where still no one choice stands out among the various options.  There are also times in life when we are presented with a number of choices where no one choice seems superior to the others. And then there is the time factor.  There are situations where the time is simply not available to look at all of the variables at hand to make a logical choice and yet the moment is here and a choice must be made immediately.


Q. What is one to do in such a situation?

LEWIS: A person must go with their gut feeling.  They must trust their intuition.


Q. The definition of intuition seems somewhat general.  Have researchers ever been able to isolate where it resides in the body or area of the brain?

LEWIS: Intuition is not one thing.  As hard as it is to define intuition specifically, it is something that almost all people agree exists, and yet its existence is little more than an object of faith and belief that we cannot necessarily justify.


Q. Is intuition always there or do we develop it as we might develop any other skill?

LEWIS: Intuition is the result of many different linear and non-linear factors coming together.  Intuition is what appears between the lines of what seems logical and what seems obvious to most individuals (called surface reality).  These elements are then combined with historical and empirical information, heightened observation skills, and an intention to experience fully what is going on internally and externally in our world.


Q. Is intuition connected to the subconscious mind?

LEWIS: Yes.  One of the strongest elements of the subconscious mind is the ability to sense or know something immediately and without reasoning.  As an individual focuses on the process of Self-Actualization they will find that that they are constantly developing ever-greater sensitivity, both consciously and subconsciously, to what intuition communicates.


Q. Please describe what happens when an individual’s intuition is in a heightened state?

LEWIS: Some people have an uncanny ability to see that which most of us do not see.  It is not some psychic ability that they possess yet it is an ability that transcends ordinary knowledge.  It is as if they, the highly intuitive man or woman, sees essential data in slow motion and somehow knows and senses what is going on in a way that is far beyond ordinary conscious understanding.  Over time they will increasingly learn to trust these messages.  More often than not, this intuitive information doesn’t come in verbal or logical form.  In fact, in the beginning they will usually be unaware that they are developing this level of intuitive sensitivity.


Q. Are we all capable of doing this?

LEWIS: We are all intuitive on some level.  We often make wise choices and yet if asked to articulate how we made this one choice rather than another we could not say so.


Q. In what disciplines does the study of intuition play an important role?

LEWIS: Intuition is of interest to philosophers, theologians, mystics, law enforcement officers, psychologists, and many other professions where intellect alone will not suffice to get to key information.


Q. How is intuition used in psychology?

LEWIS: It depends on the psychological system being applied.  Some of the earliest exploration of intuition in psychiatry was by Carl Jung, one of the pioneers in the field.  Over the years many other important mental health pioneers have addressed and integrated intuition into their work.


Q. How can one use intuition as a tool for healing physical or emotional problems?

LEWIS: One of the strongest elements of the emotional healing process is an expansion of intuitive sensibilities.  If one engages in self assessment, introspection and emotional balancing activities consistently, one is likely to discover that one has also developed greater intuitive sensibility and sensitivity.  In time, one also begins to trust these intuitive messages more and more.


Q. How does intuition speak to us?

LEWIS: This intuitive information doesn’t come in verbal or logical form.  In fact, in the beginning one is not even aware that he or she is developing this level of intuitive sensitivity. Intuition will generally be experienced differently for each individual.  Researchers in this area find that these unique experiences can be categorized as:

LEWIS:  Physical sensations (kinesthetic)

b.  Emotions and feelings (emotive)

c.  Symbols and images (mental)


Q. Please explain each of the above categories.


Physical Sensations – Kinesthetic intuitives experience physical sensations that communicate information. They feel physically “comfortable” or “uncomfortable” about something.  This may appear as a gut sense, a physical pain, or something that excites their heart.

b. Emotions and Feelings – This is usually experienced as a vague or specific feeling that has no explanation, but is usually right. You might feel slightly depressed because you know something is wrong.  You actually become sensitive to the emotional states of others who are around you.  You see their posture or you automatically have a feeling arise when they say something.  It is not intellectual.  It happens right there in that moment.  Emotional intuitives often say the words “I like” and “I don’t like”, or “This feels good or bad to me.”  They respond to requests from others and make decisions based on how they feel.  If they are not conscious of this quality they may experience a feeling, without realizing that they are picking up thoughts and feelings from another person.

c. Symbols and Images – Can a mental picture resemble a thought?  It may simply be an internal conversation you are having with yourself about a solution to a problem.  It could be a brainstorm in the shower, a hunch and/or a nagging thought that will not go away in the mind of a person who is not normally obsessive about thoughts.  Intuition is not logical but you can initially experience it as if it is. These thoughts are about common sense and what seems obvious.  It is a more goal-oriented sensibility than the other two forms of intuition.


Q. Is one of these forms more common than the others?

LEWIS: According to my friend Nancy Rosanoff, a respected writer and speaker on intuition, “Most often people have a combination of the above three, though one form may be dominant.  Rarely is someone totally one type. We categorize them only to indicate that there is more than one way to perceive intuitive information.


Hello Friend,


Some of you have requested that I post the entire Q & A part of my classes rather than just short segments. Let’s compromise. I am posting short segments in this e-mail but you can read the Q & A from the entire class in a blog post at my website at

This is an extract of a class I taught on Initiation.  Initiation is any formal rite of passage, often a ceremony, marking entrance or acceptance into adulthood or into a group or society.  If you are part of a religious organization, a mystic path or a membership based club you have probably experienced some form of initation.


I hope you enjoy this excerpt.


Lewis Harrison



Lewis Harrison, the author of this blog is a speaker, consultant, and Contemporary Spiritual Teacher. He is a  pioneer in the personal development movement  The author of nine  self help books on human potential he offers seminar, workshops, retreats and phone based coaching. He is creating a series of ebooks entitled “Ask Lewis…” which will be available on line


Lewis offers phone-based and on-line life coaching services and created the course on Life Strategies  –  a simple system for decision making based on Game Theory, the idea expanded on by John Nash, the Nobel prize winning subject of the biopick “A Beautiful Mind”.






Lewis hosts a weekly radio show “What Up” that explore game theory. The show broadcasts Wednesdays and Thursday on WIOX 91.3 FM  – 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM (EST).  The show is also available as an internet stream at the same time period at


To read the Q & A from the entire class in a blog post at my website at