KEEP REMEMBERING THAT ONE OF YOUR MIND’S GREAT STRENGTHS IS THAT IT IS A VERITABLE KNOWING MACHINE

So what do you know?

If you are a fan of my “how to think like a dolphin” approach, you know carps, you know sharks and you know NoQuiffs (Not Quite Flying Fish). In a world that technological revolutions have sent reeling, this knowledge is going to be increasingly needed, if not always welcomed.

The world’s main carp problem is that this mind is so infernally, eternally susceptible to destructive myths, be they tribal, national, creation, savior or bogey-bear myths.

Myths are stories, and we humans are endlessly at the telling them. But stories can never include everything, not even the best stories of science or philosophy or religion or public policy. Vital facts get omitted. When what gets left out is what people need to know to choose, respond, survive and thrive, problems crop up, and they are often severe.

Most anything you can get carpthinkers to listen that will help them deal with the more destructive mythical shoals is almost certain to benefit them and, in turn, the world.

What you know best about sharkthinkers is that they pile hidden agenda upon hidden agenda. Given their winner-take-most instincts, they can’t resist (hello, Lance Armstrong!). Seeing that their main technique is “gaming the system” —cheating—it is to their advantage to keep knowledge about their power, money and influence restricted and under wraps. And they do, tenaciously.

But you know enough to watch out for the sharkthinkers’ manipulations, self-serving propaganda and strings-pulling. This doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to learn the full story every time your nose tells you to suspect that something is rotten down there or out there in the dark. Nor does it mean that every shark conspiracy story you hear will be true. Or that you are likely to ever know about the sharkthinkers’ worst abuses and most outrageous conniving.

The good news is that dolphin mind has appeared in the midst one of the most shark-resistent times in history, thanks to such such inventions as markets, science, democracy, fair courts and mass education.

The bad news is that this “edifice that the Enlightenment built” is under fierce assault every day —sharkthinker assault. In every case, the dolphinthinker’s sacred duty is to what works to reduce the cover-ups, the cheating and the unfairness. To encourage transparency and positive-sum marketcraft and statecraft that enforces responsibility and reciprocal accountability: that is, a level playing field. And, whether the venue is social structures, corporate structures or government structures, to foster sanity and rationality between neurons. The flowering of human potential between generations. And the flow of better, fuller truths between all participants of any generation, thus encouraging more quality and innovative interconnectivy between people. And urge others and help others do the same.

And the NoQuiffs?

Just a few paragraphs back, I hinted at the danger posed to the not-quite-flying-fish mind by the raw novelty and variety of our new times, new technologies and all.

It’s the danger that its users will be content merely to play around with new scenario after new scenario after new scenario, most of which never amounts to a hill of beans. Sometimes, it may be because their pipedreams-from-the-clouds focus on things that, in actuality, they can do nothing about (perhaps none of us can). Other times it may be because they are expecting near-miraculous self-organizing to result from enabling humongous amounts of information to mate electronically (the “ideas can have sex” idea). Or they aren’t taking seriously the darker aspects of turning the human species into civilization’s largest ant colony via social networking and other Internet-benefacted schemes.

There is little danger of your dolphin mind finding itself unduly influenced by NoQuiff excesses of idealism and imagination. The challenge will probably come from the other direction: Keeping your natural, “what sounds to good to be true probably is” skepticism and pragmatism from causing you to ignore talented NoQuiff thinkers whose ideas are beginning to gain a toehold in promising soils.

One thing no dolphinthinker wants to overlook about the NoQuiff mind is just how agile and combinatorial and original it can be. There is frequently something to be learned from it, and if you are listening on a good day, it may be something you have just the use for, even if they are clueless. Something else not to overlook: When your own brain and spirit needs a freshening is a great time to seek out NoQuiff company. These folks do know how to play.

And then, you know the pod —the dolphin pod. And you revel in the pleasure, the reassurance and the rejuvenation you draw from being in its company. The conversation is always lively, but without the constant, calculated, often sophisticated hazing or jockeying for advantage or pinball points that makes so many human gatherings feel like you are tiptoeing around cherry bombs or dog poop. It can make you feel like every meeting of dolphinthinkers is for the august purpose of revisiting the throwing of the bones. And you like the feeling.

Throwing the bones was what our forbears did before leaving for the hunt. They tossed their gnawed-on bones into the fire. They they watched to see which way the cracks ran. It was a smart, “what works” thing to do. This was because the cracks served as a compass heading. Whichever way they pointed, that’s the direction the tribe’s hunters trooped off to next. Consequently, our ancestors’ meat supplies didn’t run nearly the risk of being rapidly depleted from over-hunting that they would have otherwise. The hunters seldom went the same way twice in a row.

Dolphinthinkers have no predictions—or at least none any better than anyone else’s —about how all this (“this” meaning “the human experiment”) is all going to end. But, thanks to how their mind works, they harbor more than a few deep-neuron-based feelings about what might be going on. What may need to happen. And, how things possibly might be nudged in the right direction. And they love to talk about their hunches and their heuristics with people whose minds work much like theirs.

So, whether it’s only a few dolphinthinkers in the lagoon or a whole congress of them, ceremonially throwing the bones is something that every meeting of the pod eventually gets around to, You probably won’t realize how important the company of minds uncommonly comfortable with the idea that progress doesn’t have to be explained, just benefited from, is until you’ve not thrown the bones for a while.

And finally, you know the winds of history and how they can blow. The trick has been to keep these winds at our back. For most of our human-trending past, it has required pulling the oars straight into a howling gale as we have struggled repeatedly for the longest time to avoid ending up as just another one of Mother Nature’s alpha-male-plagued ape societies.

We continue to struggle. The alpha actors—my sharks—remain a big problem. We still don’t know how to consistently neutralize their urge to cheat and contain the damage that it does. But we have been making important inroads, especially in the past three centuries or so. The winds of technological prowess, of learning, of experimentation, of guestimating and then proving or disproving something, of cooperating—of Enlightenment and Renaissance thinking—have steadily pushed the center of gravity of our species, our civilization and our history away from extreme certainty and more toward the orbit of openness . . . toward the unknown.

Thus the growing appreciation of dolphinthinkers for the extreme value of the pragmatic. For an unblinking, unrelenting open-minded empirical search for what works. For what makes sense. What is functional. What proves to have been worth experimenting with, arguing over, competing with, perfecting, remembering, collaborating on and passing along. If any of this is striking a responsive chord with your “audacity of hope” neurons, you might want to take a closer look at my newest work, LEAP! How to Think Like a Dolphin & Do the Next Right, Smart Thing Come Hell or High Water. It is a result of my spending two years seeking to put answers to this question into words: “Okay, what do we really know about how we think, and what do we need to learn next?”

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