In those early years following the 1981 release of our original BrainMap, it was more a novelty than a commercial success. Back then, the idea of piggybacking a thinking skills model on the back of actual brain research findings was a hot topic. So “hot,” in fact, that it had the national news media flocking to our modest offices, then located in Richardson, Texas.
Well, “flocking” may be a bit grandiose. But one of the top science editors for Newsweek showed up for a long chat about what our new brain-based model might suggest about how humans behave. In the end, Newsweek never mentioned The BrainMap, but The Washington Post certainly did. On August 26, 1986, the “Style” section of the Post ran a half-page article about our brain-studies-based learning tool called “What’s Your Quadrant?” You can read it here (although the paper’s large depiction of the BrainMap’s basic quadrant diagram isn’t reproduced.)
The Post article had all kinds of repercussions. Before long, I was back in D.C. as the guest of the local CBS station, speaking about brain usage and aging on one of its late-night talk shows. (The guest that followed me was actor Donald Sutherland; the handsome dude was walking onto the set as I was exiting, and I got to shake his hand and say, “Howdy, nice to meet you.”) Next, it was an invitation (all expenses paid) to a major business management event in Nantes, France. But probably, my speaking appearances for years at sectional sessions of the annual meeting of The American Society for Training and Development did more to popularize The BrainMap than my occasional headliner appearances.
But in any event, The BrainMap took off. We soon had numerous distributors, and not only in the U.S. There was soon a Dutch language BrainMap and a German one and a French one. In the early 2000s, we issued an online version of The BrainMap, and this further expanded the worldwide user base for the tool.
As most visitors to this website probably know, Brain Technologies didn’t stop with The BrainMap. We went on to create and publish a number of other self-development and/or teambuilding models and tools and facilitation guides and (often book-length) explanations. But the lodestar of our self-assessment lineup remains The BrainMap. This is why, In its honor—and to assist potential new users and hopefully reignite the excitement of old users—we have created a new BrainMap-only website.
It is up on the Net here. We hope you’ll drop by. If you haven’t already taken The BrainMap, we invite you to. If you have, you can revisit your results and view all the many dimensions of your thinking skills and potentials that your BrainMap document is as ready as ever to explain to you. If you are simply curious about our concept and about the “product” package that has endured as one of the most respected assessment and learning tools of practical post-modern psychology, well, our new website is the place to start.
By the way, as a metaphor for the brain, we have chosen the violin (that’s our new website’s home page illustration above). The violin has four strings, you know. And our BrainMap has four quadrants. This made it natural for us to suggest, “You already play the world’s most exquisite instrument. What’s next? Become a virtuoso at it. Take The BrainMap online. Now!”
NO TIME BEING LOST BY OUR MONTREAL ASSOCIATES. (Although with All
the Travel, There is a Risk of Their Losing their Luggage!)
Our “high-concept, high-touch” friends at Groupe Metafor International are involved in an all-dolphins-on-deck promotional push that straddles the Atlantic Ocean. Here are activities that Michèle Carrier and Charles Boulos are offering for Canada, France and Mexico (they are fluent in Spanish, too):
A 3-day intensive public seminar, “La Stratégie du Dauphin™,” in Montreal June 8-10 and in Paris June 22-24.
A 5-day public seminar, “L’Élan du Dauphin ! ™”, in Côte d’Azur, in southern France, June 13-17. Our GMI colleagues say this is a “new formula being tested in a more relaxed environment” than their usual big-city Paris seminar locations.
Discussions are underway with long-time colleagues in Mexico to gauge their interest in co-sponsoring a 5-day in-depth public seminar, “La Estrategia del Delfin en el Caribe,” in Cancún and a 3-day seminar, “La Estrategia del Delfin,” in Mexico City. Response from former associates in both locations was immediate and favorable, they report. Hopefully, dates and details will be available soon.
Michèle Carrier and Charles Boulos
Another major GMI outreach is underway to promote in-house seminars in the Telecom, Cloud, IT, ITT, Software and other high-tech industries by the consulting, speaking and coaching professionals who are members of the Metafor Transnational Network. All shared an interest in helping clients achieve sustained productivity and profitability using BTC’s English and French language assessment and thinking skills development tools and models.
I know that Michèle and Charles have spent countless hours planning this ambitious outreach. They are being counseled by their own management coach to connect with prospective clients by the phone, FaceTime and Skype instead of e-mail. “We are moved by the response of our clients,” says Michèle.
More info on their website. E-mails are email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
We sometimes say at BTC that if you don’t give the universe a reason to notice you, it usually doesn’t. No chance of that happening for Montreal’s imaginative GMIers!
THANKS TO OUR NEW SWISS COLLEAGUE, LITHUANIA, HERE WE COME!
(Or As Our mCircle Tool Says, ‘Take This Dilemma and Shove It!’)
Our guidance-for-handling-dilemmas tool, The mCircle Instrument®, has intrigued one of our newest BTC distributors. Swiss-based communication consultant and management coach Amy Carroll is preparing to introduce our dilemma-handling guidance tool, The mCircle Instrument, into her Lithuanian training events.
She is promoting an open program, “High Performing Teams & Individuals,” in the Lithuania capital of Vilnius in June.
Circle Instrument will also provide a major focus in November, when Amy conducts a three-day intensive course on “Executive Presence” at the Baltic Management Institute, near Vilnius. This is the fifth year she has facilitated this course.
“It involves approximately 50 leaders and senior leaders from a variety of multinational companies with offices in and near Vilnius, Lithuania. They are mostly Lithuania with an occasional Belarusian or Russian student. They tend to be extremely open, eager and clever and are an absolute delight to work with.
“The course focuses on power, status, conflict style, influence, presentation and communication challenges. I will be replacing the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode with The mCircle to make a richer connection to the consequences of our choices and a sales pitch for the breakthrough approach to lead to more transformational communication.”
Amy’s company, Carroll Communication Coaching Sàrl, is headquartered in Vevey, Switzerland. She specializes in leadership, communication and effectiveness training for multinational clients. Her book, The Ego Tango, illustrates “the 7 Partner mindset techniques” and uses real-life stories, to suggest how readers can get “more of what you want, more often with less hassle!”
Her website is here. Her e-mail is email@example.com.
Is it possible that the next new language for The mCircle Instrument is Lithuanian? With a go-getter like Amy on the case, we can be excused for thinking so!
WE DON’T THINK ASSETREPORT® IS DESTINED FOR THE XBOX ONE, But Isn’t What Carlos Salum Is Doing With Our BTC Tool Interesting!
Our intrepid distributor in Charlotte, NC, Carlos Salum, has stepped outside the box once again and put our most complex BTC assessment tool, AssetReport®, to work in an unusual way.
He was approached for help by the parents of a 13-year-old middle schooler. The child has been taking such an unregimented approach to lesson-preparation, homework submission and other learning activities that his grades were suffering.
Based on his experience teaching peak performance skills to adults, Carlos could have been expected to introduce his young charge to MindMaps and Concept Fans, as well as the “fish” structure for making Presentations (Focus, Audience, Approach, Hook, 1-2-3 points and details and Closing) and to Edward de Bono’s Six Hats concept and others that would teach him how to “chunk” information, especially in subjects he doesn’t like (social studies, for example).
And this is what Carlos eventually did. But first, he asked me about having the youngster work through BTC’s AssetReport questionnaire. I told him taking the assessment inquiry wouldn’t be a problem for his unusual client. But he was going to need to use drawings and charts to convey a lot of the information and not the AR’s standard intrepretations, which are mostly prose.
“This young man is very bright, so he understood his AR position and the implications. But neither he nor his mother are ‘readers,’ so I’m using bullet points and drawing a lot these days and mapping everything in one-page mindmaps or visual summaries.
“And the parents are the kind of bright procrastinators who explore many options, take time to learn, find pros and cons, and only then act on the material. Their son sometimes forgets to submit his homework because of his style, so I’m showing him how to use simple project management approaches. I also have to text him every week to check on his progress, otherwise he’ll stick to his routines.”
Quite a change from the days when Carlos was contributing to the careers of world-class tennis players such as Gabriela Sabatini (U.S. Open champion, 1990) and Sergi Bruguera (French Open champion, 1993-94) as well as collaborating in the training of the Argentine and Italian Davis Cup Teams, among many others.
But not a departure from the reminder he has at the top of his newly redesigned website: “A peak performer is a flexible, versatile, creative and situational thinker who gets results.” Email for Carlos is firstname.lastname@example.org.
And I can’t resist adding, while again saluting Carlos’ virtuoso skills as a thinking skills coach, “Game, set, match, AssetReport!”
CLAUDIA LINDBY IS TAKING IT ONE BRAIN AT A TIME IN DENMARK—and Here Comes Another Thirty of Those Three-Pounders to Be Mapped
This just in from Claudia Lindby, our go-to person in Forandringsleder (that’s Danish for “Change Leadership”):
“On 16 June, we are starting up the 3rd High Performance Leadership network in Denmark.
“Approximately thirty leaders will attend the first meeting and, as we did the first two times we started such a network, we will start by focusing on personal leadership, mindset and using The BrainMap®. So, close to one hundred leaders have been introduced to the thinking and have done their BrainMaps over the past year or so.
“I have also coached some of them 1:1 in understanding the BrainMap better and thinking about how to develop their position.”
Check out Claudia’s website
for an introduction to her extensive career. This is her email address: email@example.com. (Claudia’ C.V. is so extensive that Google refuses to translate it. Score one for Forandringsleder!)
At Brain Technologies, we are so, so proud of our imaginative colleagues—pioneers in the new thinking skills era, one and all!
[If you have comments, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
That’s the plan! Michael Roth’s plan. This Portland, Oregon-based distributor for Brain Technologies is working diligently to take his love and appreciation for the “dolphin strategy” models, tools and techniques to the next level. When he’s done, his goal is have “a dynamic new resource for community organizing” in place to improve the success rate of people seeking to empower societal change.
Michael Roth walking across Spain last fall
In the past year, the owner of NW Resources
has immersed himself in the newest BTC products, including our latest book
, LEAP! How to Think Like a Dolphin & Do the Next Right, Smart Thing Come Hell or High Water
, and our 59 Minute Team Building™ facilitation guide
. At the same time, he was serving as administrative officer for a small foundation. This led him to reflect on (1) an increasing number of individuals wanting to be community change-makers, (2) the reality that many of their efforts and organizations are not successful and (3) his conclusion that his knowledge of the “dolphin strategy” and his experience in working with non-profit organizations (NPOs) could be combined in highly effective new ways.
Target audiences and intended content. His target audiences are these: “activists” of all ages in environmental causes, aging in place communities, neighborhood associations, P.T.A.s, church groups, emergency preparedness endeavors, service clubs, political actions, community centers, co-ops and traditional groups with declining memberships.
His intent is to offer them strategies and training in successful techniques for catalytic leadership, team building, volunteer recruitment-retention-acknowledgement, organizational development, change management, social media, creative fund raising and other essentials for generating and maintaining momentum.
Central to his plans are his website, which he is redesigning. He hopes to generate 200 subscribers within six months and at least 500 connections and downloads within a year. He plans to use it to provide such features, resources and interactive learning opportunities as these:
A 52-week course in community organizing built around modules that he is now writing. Participants will be asked to pay a fee of $97 for a year’s supply of once-a-week walkthroughs of activities critical for putting an enduring and productive community-based organization in place.
A blog, regular articles, a store with webinars and products for sale with member discounts and ways to instantly connect with affiliates with expertise in a variety of fields related to the user’s particular passion, issue and need. “Special links to one-on-one coaching, creative problem solving and leading edge innovation expertise would be a few clicks away and affordable with on-line payment or often free,” Roth explains.
Free quarterly webinars offering a preview and sampling of offerings, products and resources.
A special webinar offering based on BTC’s 59 Minute Team Building approach. “I’m thinking about two-hour once-a-month sessions for four months or similar format, one that might be flexible to participant response, and the first 100 subscribers to the community organizing modules would qualify for a discount webinar ticket,” he says.
59 Minutes of Team Climbing Per Week
Michael has been heavily involved the past ten years working with municipal bond projects that have financed more than $4.7 billion in civic support and improvements. At the same time, he has been involved in producing books, grant proposals, newsletters, brochures and multimedia presentations. More lately, he has represented entertainment acts, especially musicians and magicians. In high school and college, he earned his living as a percussionist and keyboard player. Then came several years as a carpenter and builder.
“My goal is to have the redesigned website working in early June, with the first dozen modules ready, and to produce a free webinar in mid-June to give a preview and sampling of offerings, products and resources,” he says. “I am currently in production, writing a mélange of modules, articles and tips. I’ve been highly encouraged by the positive response I’ve gotten from potential affiliates.”
You can reach Michael at email@example.com or by phone at 503-493-8316.
(I plan to feature current or upcoming adventurous activities of other BTC distributors in upcoming editions of LEAP!psych.)
[If you have comments, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
The title you see for this LEAP!psych item is the one I used for an article that appeared in the January, 2016 (Vol. 3, No. 1), edition of Assumption University of Thailand (Bangkok) business school’s ODI Journal.
I used the much appreciated invitation by the journal’s editors to talk about how new ways of tracking changes in human thinking perceptual, belief-forming and decision-making skills began to emerge in the 1950s.
In the abstract I wrote to accompany the article, I noted that Dr. Paul Kordis and I took a look at those changes in the late 1980s and concluded that the work of the late Clare W. Graves, a pioneering American evolutionary psychologist, towered above the field.
Dr. Graves’ model of a stair-step path to mental, emotional and spiritual maturity that is closely tied to how a person’s brain develops became a major basis for our best-selling book, Strategy of the Dolphin: Scoring a Win in a Chaotic World. (See cover at right. The book is now available as an ebook.) What has not been widely understood is how—or why—we created our model of the carp, shark, pseudo-enlightened carp and dolphin mindsets or belief/value systems. That’s what this article helps to explain.
Here are a few highlights from the article:
Metaphors are shortcuts, quick ways to get people’s imaginations and understandings across bridges that—as a cartoon I saw depicted it—“can only be accessed from the other side.” I invented my metaphor of the dolphin for just this reason. To help my fellow and sister participants on the planet grasp something important and do it in a hurry. That “something” is the idea that human thinking and consciousness are in play, and evolving—along with their technologies—rapidly. That people and organizations failing to notice this, and act on it—who failed to do something different—could be seriously at risk.
At its most basic, [the dolphin mindset] is a consequence of your brain having wired itself in a new way so that it is less, much less, of a Rube Goldberg when it comes to representing the “outside” world to itself and deciding what it means. And that’s a justifiable way of characterizing all our perceptions and interactions with “reality” in the outer world: Rube Goldberg-type outcomes cobbled together by a process that one learned observer, confining himself merely to the process that we call sight, has called “the end product of chopping, coding, long-distance transmission, neural guesswork and editable cut and paste.”
Users of the dolphin mindset have either taken
THIS IS ONE OF A NUMBER OF SEQUELS I'VE WRITTEN TO THAT FIRST DOLPHIN BOOK
a goodly amount of guesswork out of deciding what is happening in the outer world or else have an advantage in being able to ascertain what kind of guessing is going on and how much faith to put in what the brain concludes. What difference does this make? Well, think of attempting to climb a ladder in total, continuous darkness and then having the advantage of at least occasional illumination.
How does your brain manage to find itself rewired so that it is entitled to call itself a dolphin’s brain? That topic is worthy of several chapters—or books!—in itself. [That's the cover to one of those books at left. You can read more about all of them here.] But for now, perhaps the most succinct answer I can give is that the brain of a dolphin-in-training achieves the payoff we are describing because somewhere along the way it succeeded in putting itself squarely in the widest available path of advancing life.
Users of the dolphin mindset are by no means totally shielded from bad consequences, or even poor judgment. But where the dolphin swims, the odds of an outcome that is positive or at least little threat to the user of the dolphin mindset substantially exceed the odds for participants whose dolphin “headware” has not been activated.
The mindset of the dolphin first announced itself to a few astute observers in the 1950s. Over the decades, it began to qualify as a paradigm. The dolphin’s openness to new perspectives and the interrelatedness of things has, in a very short time, begun to revamp our understanding of our world and ourselves on a breathtaking scale. But even in the 21st Century, it is still unfamiliar to most individuals, no matter how high their I.Q., how well pedigreed or educated or how savvy and ambitious.
[For the moment] you are probably best advised to be cautious with whom you speak about what it is like to be in your very own shiny, efficient, options-filled cockpit of new personal controls, decision-making skills and people-analyzing proficiencies. But you are well within your rights and the evidence that there is something fresh and exciting afoot in the human experience.
[You can view the entire article here (you will need to register as a user, but it only takes a moment to do that). If you have comments, write me at email@example.com.]
There’s a new sheriff in town, and he’s the leading character of a new kind of book for me—a work of fiction, and a murder mystery at that. Major ebook sellers, including Amazon.com, began taking pre-orders for my 89,000-word detective-thriller this week. The book’s official release date is April 29.
COVER FOR MY NEW EBOOK DETECTIVE THRILLER
The novel’s lead character, Sheriff Luke McWhorter, is America’s only sheriff with a Yale divinity school degree. He knows guns, he knows church, he knows book learning and he knows the local folks’ habits and history. One horrendous week in autumn, he needs all these skills and more. Four religion professors at Flagler, Texas’ three small church colleges are murdered. If Abbot County’s erudite head lawman can’t put an end to the killing and chaos being triggered by one of America’s richest men, Armenian cyber-revolutionaries and Flagler’s own homegrown provocateurs, the whole town may be in jeopardy.
BELIEFS CAN BE MURDER has received highly positive reviews from advance readers:
—Jay Brandon, whose legal thriller, Fade the Heat, was short-listed by the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award for best novel, calls the book “an outstanding mystery debut.”
—Joe Holley, writer of The Houston Chronicle’s weekly “Native Texan” column and author of The Purse Bearer: A Novel of Love, Lust and Texas Politics, says the work is the product of a “clever and quirky” author who has pulled off a “unlikely” plot “with panache.”
—Stephanie Jaye Evans, author of the Sugar Land Mystery Series, says, “Caper fans will find much to enjoy in Lynch’s rousing debut mystery.”
—Victor L. Hunter, co-author of The New York Times-reviewed novel, Living Dogs and Dead Lions, calls the author “a superb writer” [who in this book] deftly guides you through apocalyptic terrorism, academic over-reach, religion as entertainment, the chances of fate, the sustenance of friendship and the hunger for love, all out in the sunbaked badlands of West Texas.”
—Robert M. Randolph, Chaplain to the Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), says the author of BELIEFS CAN BE MURDER “has done the almost impossible. He has turned the Raiders of the Lost Ark into a Sunday School lesson. Those who remember Sunday School will be forever grateful and those who have a few hours to spend escaping the mundane will find that those hours fly by in the company of McWhorter. There is a film there!”
Thank you very much, lady and gentlemen. I appreciate the supportive words.
I created a new imprint, Red Sea Mysteries (logo at right), to publish BELIEFS CAN BE MURDER so I could closely supervise how the book is packaged and marketed. I’m thinking that the accolades being received by the book’s cover design (at left above) have already vindicated my decision to be a “hands on” publisher of the work as well as its author. (While I contributed ideas, I didn’t create that cover design. A talented young illustrator in Oregon, Heidi Sutherlin, did that.)
BELIEFS CAN BE MURDER can be pre-ordered now for $3.99 from most major ebook sellers (although not from Nook until April 29). In addition to Amazon.com, I’ve set up pages that feature this book and others of my authorship on Goodreads, Smashwords and LibraryThing so far. And I’ve created a website for our new Red Bulldog Mysteries imprint here.
I’m hoping all visitors to those sites will 1) Buy the BELIEFS CAN BE MURDER ebook 2) Read it soon. 3) Praise the work to the rafters on Amazon.com and the other above-mentioned sites and anywhere else they can think of. In today’s frenetic book-seller world, we poor story-telling stiffs can never have too many friends helping us spread the word about our latest work.
Choosing which human brain to install in the Oval Office for the next four years is a daunting and demanding task. Some would even say it is scary.
For sure, it is a serious enough task that we should take a look at what we know about how our brains consistently deal with this messy, unpredictable soap opera we call life.
I have a personality testing tool that I developed years ago to help individuals and organizations do just that. What I’ve done below is use my BrainMap® assessment model to take a look at seven of the presidential candidates who have received substantial media attention. Here are some of their thinking characteristics that interest me:
The most advanced thinking capabilities. The winner is Bernie Sanders. It’s because he depends so heavily on his prefrontal lobs, both right and left. He speaks frequently of the interconnectedness of things, and that’s why. Many younger voters (under 40) sense that he’s the candidate most likely to be attracted to the new, the novel and the complex (even if he’s 74). This jives with their hunch that the world ahead is going to be vastly different from the world we’re leaving behind. Can Sanders win it all? Probably not. But he may be a bellwether for the kind of minds that will seek the presidency in the 2020s. We can expect to see more brains like his in the next few presidential election campaigns.
The nicest brains in the crowd. Those belonging to Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. Both gents prefer operating from their right-brain hemisphere. This renders them loyal to traditions, values and groups from their past (Floridians from the right side of the tracks for Bush; Floridians from the other side of the Straits for Rubio). Both think you should trust their brains because they’re basically good guys, even when they have mean things to say. Why isn’t either of them doing better with the voters? Rubio may be beginning to make strides in the toughness area. But because of how their brains work, it is always going to be stretch for them to find their “ugly groove” and say there.
A lamb’s brain waiting to be sacrificed. Dr. Carson’s. This talented brain surgeon depends heavily on his upper left-brain hemisphere. We can be thankful for that. This is where we want our brain surgeons, airline pilots, actuarial experts and the like to spend most of their thinking moments. But when you are running for the presidency, there is a price to be paid for too much specialized thinking. Eventually your supply of theories and techniques runs dry on the political hustings, then you have to strike out on your own. What does a brain surgeon do when he shouts “Code Blue” and nobody comes? As we’ve seen with the good doctor, plummet in the polls.
The two most interesting and most dangerous brains. Ted Cruz gets slotted here because he knows exactly what he wants (“forever and ever, amen!”) and Donald Trump because he wants exactly what he knows (until he comes across something else). Both these candidates are in thrall to the bottom quadrants of their brains. Cruz favors the right side, Trump, the left side. No matter. With these brain areas calling the shots, it assures both men of copious supplies of psychological energy. Cruz devotes his brain electricity to delivering his “truths,” whatever the cost; Trump devotes his to searching for truths he can sell to someone, hopefully on the margin. Putting either one of these guys in the Oval Office is going to mean that this campaign never ends.
The brain you don’t want to go at head-on. Ms. Clinton’s. This isn’t the Hillary Clinton of yore (’92, ’96, ‘00, ‘04, ‘08), only more so. Hillary’s brain is a role model for what can be done when you effectively marry the front and back areas of the left brain hemisphere. You get someone capable of learning quickly, then exhibiting a Cobra’s patience for explaining something like Benghazi or the emails for the umpteenth time. The upside: this is a brain unlikely to go off the rails. The down side: you get someone who has wanted to be in charge for so long she’s incapable of envisioning a world where she wouldn’t be.
So which of these brains can we expect your brain to favor when it comes time to vote for our next President?
We thinking skills researchers know it will most likely be the one whose brain seems to behave closest to the way you think your brain behaves.
The run-up to the U.S. presidential election is one of the soap opera’s great “look in the mirror” moments, and that’s the rub. If things don’t work out, we have no one but ourselves to blame.
If you’d like to read this commentary in The Gainesville Sun, go here. If you have comments, please forward comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll post them.
I had originally intended this blog item to be about “the future of the brain.” That phrase has such a smart, in-the-know, forward-thinking ring to it. I thought I’d google a few smart, in-the-know, forward-thinking terms and see what the cognoscenti of the AI, transhuman, futurist and other intellectually inclined “crystal ball” movements are saying on the topic. Then I’d wrap it all up tidily for the half-dozen or so of my readers interested in this kind of gazing-at-the-navel-of-a-neuron-style discussion. But a hour or so into my internet spelunking, my vision of where I was headed disappeared down the rabbit hole.
Here’s what I realized when I emerged on the other side: There is nothing much scientifically that you can say about the future of the brain once you get more than, say, five minutes out. This is why everyone who bothers to pontificate about the topic quickly ends up sounding like they are talking about religion, not about good science, or even likely science at all. There’s simply too much we still don’t know about how the brain works and how it changes. Plus there’s this: The possibilities that could be ahead for “the brain” are enormous, much too gauzy for our limited 2016 speculating.
If, however, you insist on speculating on the future of the brain anyway, I can recommend someone entertaining enough to listen to. That would be Professor Nick Bostrom, founding director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University and author of Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies.
Bostrom protects himself from sounding like a theologian by viewing the whole topic as “a riddle wrapped in an enigma.” That’s to say, he views everything you can say about the brain’s future with extreme pessimism, and that, of course, makes him a philosopher. And truly good philosophers, of which Bostrom is one, are the most fun for the rest of us when they deign to speak in reasonably non-technical terms, which Bostrom usually does.
Looking at the brain in a far, far future in Superintelligence, he can envision such things as a massive cognitive cyber-soup, composed of trillions of digital minds operating connectedly. That could lead, he speculates, to brains as big as planets, with billion-year life spans. But he’s not expecting such brains, if they appear, to necessarily produce a blueprint for utopia. For context, he offers this analogy:
”What if the great apes had asked whether they should evolve into Homo sapiens—pros and cons—and they had listed, on the pro side, ‘Oh, we could have a lot of bananas if we became human’? Well, we can have unlimited bananas now, but there is more to the human condition than that.”
What, then, can I report after my afternoon’s inquiry into where we are on our understanding of the brain and where it might take us? Five observations:
1) The brain remains the best example so far of the methods with which the universe is developing itself. To use neuroscientist Anthony Zador’s term, the standard building block is a makeshift “bag of tricks.”
2) Most of the folks speculating on the future of the brain foresee a radical amplification of human abilities ahead (one of these is the extraordinarily readable Israeli historian, Yuval Noah Harari).
3) Some observers think AI (artificial intelligence) will quickly outstrip our Homo sapiens brain’s capabilities, beginning as soon as the year 2045.
4) When we get careless, those of us who have sought to use “brain studies” in HRD, OD, creativity enhancement and the like are forever sounding like metaphysicists or—heaven forfend!—religion’s homespun, Bible-thumping eschatologists.
5) Making any statement about the brain, including its future, should be done with fear and trembling. We just don’t know very much about how all this works—and we may never know very much.
Vaclav Smil, the Czech-Canadian scientist and policy analyst, has reminded us just how difficult it is for this brain of ours to draw a good bead on what’s already happened to us technologically, much less what may happen. For certain, very few of us would suggest that the 1880s were the most inventive time in history.
Yet Smil writes, “The 1880s were miraculous: They gave us such disparate contributions as antiperspirants, inexpensive lights, reliable elevators, and the theory of electromagnetism—although most people lost in their ephemeral tweets and in Facebook gossip are not even remotely aware of the true scope of this quotidian debt.”
So far, how does history suggest we best proceed with the study of the brain and all else?
Pick a tiny corner of the universe. Explore it to the best of your ability. See if you can spot connections. If you can, try them. If you can’t, don’t assume they aren’t there.
Please forward comments to me at email@example.com and I’ll post them.
When I first met Alan Brunacini, I had no idea that he was a prototype of what I would come to call “the dolphin thinker.” He was simply a super-nice guy, who was already being steadily promoted by his employer, the Phoenix (Ariz.) Fire Department. I was a reporter for the local newspaper. A few minutes after shaking his hand for the first time, I scurried with him to his battalion chief’s car and we headed off to a reported fire at the head of a column of fire vehicles, sirens and horns blaring. It turned out to be a false alarm, but Alan Brunacini didn’t. (As you’ve no doubt already surmised, that’s him pictured above, courtesy of firefightertoolbox.com.)
Alan was not only destined to become chief of the Phoenix department a few years after I met him but also one of the most respected figures in firefighting management world-wide. I featured him in Chapter Seven of LEAP! How to Think Like a Dolphin & Do the Next Right, Smart Thing Come Hell or High Water as—you guessed it—one of my prototypical dolphin thinkers.
He’s retired from the fire service now but busier than ever urging the profession’s participants—in particular, those in command positions—to do exactly what the sub-title of LEAP! encourages everyone to do. He did that a few issues ago in Fire Engineering, the industry trade journal, with a rift on what he called “power goofs” by people in authority in the fire service. His way of calling the power goof-ers out was to list their power-abusing behaviors in vivid language. As I read through it, I realized that I’d never seen a better job done of pinpointing what it is that users of the mindset we call “the shark” at BTC does to foster scarcity in organizations where they exercise control.
Without further ado, here are Chief Brunacini’s descriptions of what power goofers do that proves so debilitating to organizations. Unfortunately, these behaviors aren’t limited to the fire service.
• They are abusive in ways that cause results that range from hurt feelings to disrupted careers.
• They threaten talented subordinates.
• They kiss up/kick down.
• They like the limelight: “front and centeritus.”
• They are given to continuous self-aggrandizement: status seeking (letters behind the name, pictures/name/title on everything, and so on).
• They regard everyone as rivals; they are excessively competitive.
• They make the job and the boss bigger than they are.
• They exert themselves in the wrong way/at the wrong time.
• They steal, hoard, and mismanage credit, continually inflating their own performance/status.
• They assault, murder, or kidnap ideas for personal attention and credit.
• They are preoccupied with how they look instead of how they are doing (appearance freak).
• They play someone else’s role, do someone else’s job instead of their own, operate outside of their assigned “lane.”
• They possess the uncontrollable urge to unnecessarily “fix,” change, or alter things by adding their “fingerprints” on them.
• They strategically create problems (generally “slow balls”) so they can solve them and then take credit.
• They cannot take “yes” for an answer.
• They act as bullies.
• They automatically say, “I”/”me”/”mine” in every statement about anything positive (the “I” person).
• They use careless, inappropriate, and untruthful language.
• They brag about hitting a triple when they were actually born on third base.
• They believe that being “nice” is a weakness.
• They create a reward for others to (competitively) bring news to them before anyone else gets the news (reporting race to the boss).
• They give inordinate credit to those who shower attention, flattery on them.
• They use their position to always put (and then dominate) subordinates and others at a disadvantage.
• They act in a way that always shows others that they are in charge.
• They confuse monologue (me lecturing) with dialogue (us conversing).
• They play goofy information games (information is power) and manipulate information in a self-serving way.
• They irritate others, are abrasive, and aggravate people (because they can) to keep them off balance (just plain poor manners).
• They lack social radar (close their eyes when they open their mouth).
• They keep self-made, unnecessary secrets to keep others in suspense and off balance; divulge confidential information.
• They operate with a double standard and continually play favorites.
• They withhold approval until the other person complies or behaves in a boss-approved way.
• They overcomplicate a simple process and then hide in the confusion.
• They practice cronyism: allocate resources, assignments, and projects based on politically motivated friend/enemy, insider/outsider, okay/not okay relationships.
• They are preoccupied with being shown respect and their reputation and act out in revenge.
• They create and then patrol overdefined and unnecessary organizational levels.
• They are rude/mean/uncivil to keep people off balance.
• They continually lose their temper; they are chronically angry and yelling (”rageaholic”).
• They overreact (tantrum) when they don’t get their way or what they want.
• They are personally disloyal, backstabbers.
• They employ excessive/hurtful verbal sarcasm.
• They are disruptively impatient.
• They are dishonest (will end up in jail eventually).
• They are aloof and unapproachable.
• They are organizational hermits-they hide out to avoid contact, controversy, or anything or anybody “messy.”
• They have a messed up sense of timing: They take too long to decide or decide too quickly.
• They always demand an excessive level of detail that confuses, frustrates, and kills action (paralysis by analysis).
• They are excessively risk adverse: They always play it safe, never take a smart chance, and think the sky is falling (yellow light is always on).
• They create organizational fear as a control measure.
• They do not understand the dynamics of feelings; they are emotionally illiterate.
• They are poor listeners.
• They have a closed mind to progress that involves change, discomfort, or additional effort- anything that disrupts the status quo.
• They never ever forgive/forget; they continually bring up past mistakes, missteps, or misjudgments.
• They fail to recognize that or behave as if they have a boss.
• They are excessively preoccupied with the prerogatives of their position (they continually patrol the perimeter of their job description).
• They make others wrong so they can be “right.”
• They are untrainable/unteachable/impossible to help.
• They are artificially expanding the importance of their role/job/performance to look good (occupational narcissism).
• Their ego has partially or completely eaten their brain.
If you’d like to read Chief Brunacini’s article, go here. If you’d like to invite him to tell your managers how to avoid thinking like a power goofer (and think like a dolphin), you can reach him here.
Please forward comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll post them.
If you’ve never scouted up a copy of my book, The Mother of All Minds: Leaping Free of an Outdated Human Nature, here is how it begins:
Without the ”I,” there would be few books. And certainly not this book. The ”I,” of course, is all about the ego. As you are about to discover, I couldn’t have written this work without an outrageously healthy ego, because an outrageously healthy ego is pretty much the whole point of The Mother of All Minds.
Getting right to the point, there is a new kind of audacious, self-affirming yet outward-looking, forward-thinking and all-encompassing attitude in town. Mine, yes. But the new flavor of ego I’m speaking of has significant implications and important uses that extend far beyond this one mortal’s enthusiasm at discovering himself to be a guinea pig rooting around the frontiers of human thinking skills.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that terms like ”outrageously healthy ego” may not settle well with the scholarly types who have been doing most of the thinking aloud about this newly emergent development in our human nature. But that’s because they’ve become so accustomed to commenting about this topic in a strictly bookish, externally focused, mostly hands-off fashion. Of course, this helps them avoid having to attempt a substantially hands-on, experiential, internally focused look at the matter.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not dumping on the scholarly crowd. Their contributions continue to be too valuable for that. But if I have no real qualms with the professor types sounding professorial, I have no intention of trying to sound like them, either. It doesn’t serve anyone’s best interest to wait any longer for a more interior view of something extraordinary that is happening at the cutting edge of our human thinking capabilities. All this to explain that one of the driving motivations behind my writing of The Mother of All Minds has been to provide, for the most part, a hands-on, ”experienced from the inside” view of this outrageously healthy new ego’s arrival and prospects.
I know this is happening because it has happened to me. I know that it has happened to others. And as I observe what is happening to humanity and other living things on the planet because this kind of knowing is still only an embryonic force in the human tool kit of thinking qualities, I know it is important and needs to be encouraged. However, there was something I didn’t realize until I began working on this book. And that’s the extent to which this outrageously healthy ego phenomenon is proving to be a ”third rail”-like episode for some of the very people who should know how important this development is. Important, first, for the individual’s psychological growth. And, second, for the hope of speeding up the maturation of our species and the injection of greater degrees of sanity and progress for the general picture-at-large on our increasingly beleaguered planet.
I call this a third-rail phenomenon because of the qualities it shares with the third rail on the subway line. The topic is charged, electrified, off-putting! Scary! I really had no idea how off-putting and scary until I began to interact more with people about the experiences I discuss in this book.
There were individuals who have undergone an impressive psychological shift of this nature. Anyone who has been around them for any duration and knows what to look for can see that they have. But after agreeing to talk with me about changes in their life and thinking and how they came about, when the time came to chat, they got cold feet and withdrew. Others claimed to have experienced such a transition—but really couldn’t point to the kind of sustained, next-level-up results in their thinking and behavior that I found persuasive. And some individuals adamantly insisted that they couldn’t think this way and yet, by my observation, they can and they do.
One possible explanation is that these individuals are simply shy or inordinately private. But I don’t think that is the whole explanation or even the most likely one. I encountered this uncertainty and reticience so many times that I have this robust hunch: much more than we have previously suspected, taking the wraps off an outrageously healthy ego is a serious gut-check-and-soul-searching assignment for anyone who might be a candidate for it. In fact, it wasn’t until personal hindsight became available—that is, when I could look back at my own third-rail encounter—that this realization fully struck home.
As the outrageously healthy ego I now freely and cheerfully acknowledge to being, let me say it flat out: there is a force field that a person must push through to get to where this new version of the ego takes on its character and its competence. And this force field is formidable. If a person becomes aware of this obstacle, what so often happens is that the psyche then tosses one weighty counter-resistance after another in any path that would put the individual beyond this antagonistic force, even if the opportunity is begging to be acted on. I can’t speak for you, of course, but it is surprising to me to discover counter-progressive forces of such strength and tenacity in our psyche at such a late stage in our human development.
And away we go from there for 285 more pages! Even used copies of the paperback edition are rare and expensive, and new ones even more so (although you can, if you wish, still acquire such copies here. The ebook version is a beaucoup bargain by comparison and available from several of the major ebook suppliers here.
Our dolphin strategy book (Strategy of the Dolphin: Scoring a Win in a Chaotic World; details here) attracted far greater readership and exposure, but I’ve always thought that The Mother of all Minds is a much more exciting and instructive introduction to the thinking, deciding and valuing life of the mind available beyond the late Clare W. Graves’ “monumental leap.”
If you have comments on this or any other posting on this blog, please email them to me at email@example.com
Why would the president of the University of Missouri system say the issue of racist behaviors against the system’s students was going to be taken up next April when one of his students was on a hungry strike that would kill him much earlier?
Why would the same tone-deaf administrator react lukewarmly—to put it generously—to a claim by the “Mizzou” student body president (who is black and gay) that he was being verbally abused (repeatedly) by someone riding in a pickup truck?
Why would this same gent refuse to get out of his car and have a conversation with students protesting racial behavior on campus at a homecoming parade?
Why would someone take feces and draw a swastika on a university dormitory wall?
Why did it take a strike by 30 (of the team’s 84 scholarship holders, 58 of whom are African-American) of UM’s variety football players that would cost the school $1 million in default fees if this weekend’s BYU game was cancelled to get anyone in power to take notice much of any of this?
Why . . .why . . . why? Good questions to put to the human brain, so let’s do so. Here are key discoveries we’ve made about the brain and racism, most of them quite recently:
Biologically, racism seems to stem from the brain’s built-in tendency to warn us to stay away from parts of the environment that are threatening. The culprit is an almond-shaped cluster of neurons called the amygdala. It is located close to the center of our brain. It mediates fear conditioning by controlling a lot of the brain’s emotional processes. We run into problems—such as racism—because the amygdala works very fast, far more rapidly that our conscious thinking.
We like to think that our brains are born as “blank slates.” This would mean none of us are racists or sexists or homophobic at birth. But even if we are not, prejudice is lurking not far behind. Infants as young as three months are already showing preferences for faces from the same racial background. If for no other reason, this is because the people around them lose no time in “programming” their newborns with their own biases and preferences when it comes to people.
Fortunately, what the brain gives, the brain can also take away. This gets a bit tricky, so follow closely. How the brain is going to respond to a racially excited amygdala that has been programmed by its environment is a two-step dance. A part of the brain called the anterior cingulated cortex (ACC) is first to detect a person is reacting negatively to an out-group member. The ACC passes along the issue to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Good results can follow if, for example, a person has been made aware of their racial bias toward people who aren’t like them because this can change how the DLPFC reacts.
There’s a strong case to be made that the University of Missouri’s two top administrators ignored the grievances of their African-American students because the executives were unaware of their prejudices. Rinku Sin, author of The Accidental American: Immigration and Citizenship in the Age of Globalization, explains, “Our judgments about people don’t qualify as prejudices because our brains are happy enough to have a coherent story about ‘those people’.” Social psychologists call this brain failing “implicit prejudice.” Its impact can be stunning. For example, one survey a week after George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin, 30 percent of white respondents were unhappy with the verdict compared to 86 percent of African-Americans. (It only takes about ten minutes to measure your own implicit biases on race. Go here.)
Will millions of brains in America use the events at the University of Missouri to a challenge their own (implicit) racially tinged brain biases? It would be nice to think so but almost certainly not. Because—let’s say it again—they (we!) won’t do this because we (they) don’t think they are racially biased. One more time: what makes this such a difficult thing to change at a fundamental level is that the amygdala-activated part of our brain is lightning quick, intuitive and, often, arrogant. And let it be said, entrenched in power, in a lot more places than the executive suite at the University of Missouri. We shouldn’t give up trying to strengthen, educate and pressure our dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) to be more “moral.” And we can acknowledge that we’ve made some progress. But our brain can be a pesky critter. It can easily use a self-perceived and self-congratulatory “arc of improvement” on racial issues as just another implicit bias to keep it from responding to the injustices around it.