We observe the world around us and learn its structure by abstracting cause and effect, and by documenting recurring solutions obtained under different conditions. Such empirical rules, representing regularities of behavior, are called "patterns." Visual patterns are the simplest expression of the pattern concept (Salingaros, 1999). Many patterns are hard-wired into our mind: we inherit actions and reactions that guarantee our survival. Other patterns have to be learned, and form an artificial extension of the human mind. The ability to observe patterns gives us the human advantage of both adapting to, and changing our environment. Of course, the complexity enveloping a pattern in each specific setting has to be partially cleared so as to get at its basic mechanism.
The language of a group of patterns forms the groundwork for any discipline. Learned pattern languages -- not intrinsic to the human mind -- were carefully preserved in the past. Many patterns of human relations are codified into religions, myths, and literary epics. A collective intelligence develops from pooling discoveries accumulated over generations. This process is entirely general. The sciences rely on mathematics for the ability to organize data and explain phenomena by means of regularities, or logical patterns (Steen, 1988). Breakthroughs occur when patterns in one area link to patterns in other areas.