In 1968 Andy Warhol said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” I had hoped to achieve my fame in a fifteen minute TEDx talk in Seattle. I learned of the opportunity two days before the deadline and submitted the talk below. The theme of the event was The TALL ORDER. Mine was to improve the brain power of everyone in the world to achieve world peace. I wasn’t chosen but decided to share my submission with you. It would have been rewritten three times with their guidance and might have been fantastic.
Three Software Upgrades for the
Severely Outdated Human Brain
Robert Brown, Ph.D.
The bad news is, you are living your life with a brain that is 12,000 years out of date. 12,000 years ago, our ancestors were hunter/gatherers. Their brains were well suited for survival. Reflexes were quick to attack or run from danger. What was unknown or different instilled fear and distrust. Speed to respond improved survival chances, as did caution and defensiveness. We have kept that brain. Researchers at Cal Tech and elsewhere have found neural networks in the brain that monitor of environmental uncertainty. The greater the uncertainty, the greater the fear and anxiety.
Beginning 12,000 years ago, the development of agrarian societies created stability; campsites grew into villages, then towns and cities. Our species moved away from direct interaction with Mother Nature into what we have today; most of our daily interactions are with people, not the land or the sea. The problem is our brains have not kept up with the demands of our new environment. We fear people who look different. We fear people who talk different. We fear people who act differently. We fear people who disagree. The goal is for our brains to be an asset and not a liability in this people-centric environment. Our solution is for everyone in the world to upgrade his or her brain so we can interact with each other in the most positive and effective ways.
The first upgrade is something we already know but forget. It is called “The Seven Billion Rule,” named for the number of people that share this world we live in. We know that everyone is different. Everyone is unique. But we forget that when someone disagrees with our opinion or point of view. We become angry or afraid. This is the brain’s outdated reaction to the threatening or unknown.
The new software is simple but powerful. It is this: “At first, everyone, will always, see everything, differently.” People may agree with us sometimes, but our upgraded brains should expect and welcome diversity. Our new software says that different is not bad, but something that is real and beneficial. It is not a reason to take a defensive or aggressive stance. It is only part of our new human interaction environment. We’ll get back to this in a few minutes.
The second upgrade is a bit more complicated so I will explain it with a story about me.
In the middle seventies, I wasn’t married; this meant I had money and the freedom to spend it. I decided to drive from my Southern California home north to the Monterey Peninsula for a long weekend of luxury. I wanted to play the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Course and stay at the almost equally world-famous lodge. To ensure everything went well, I had a travel agent set up the trip. After passing Los Angeles, the drive was spectacular, especially through Big Sur. Upon arriving at Pebble Beach, I parked my Ford Fairmont next to a black Rolls Royce. The walk from the parking lot to the lodge lobby was through a covered walkway ringed with hanging flowers.
I reached the check-in desk and said, “Hi, I’m Bob Brown and have a reservation.” The guy looked up his bookings, looked at me, looked at the bookings again and said, “I’m sorry Mr. Brown. I don’t seem to have a reservation for you.”
“Maybe it’s under Dr. Robert Brown,” I said hopefully.
The guy shook his head, “I’m sorry Dr. Brown. I just don’t see anything.”
“Okay, Well, is there a room available?”
“I’m sorry; we’re booked for the weekend.”
The same was true in the pro-shop. No tee time had been reserved.
I found a phone booth (remember those?) and called the travel agent. She was horrified and apologetic. I was livid and unkind. I learned that the reservation had been made for the Del Monte Lodge and the tee time at the Del Monte Golf Course. My fantastic weekend had been ruined.
I slept at the stupid Del Monte Lodge, played the stupid golf course the next day and the day after that played the stupid Spyglass Hill Golf Course and the day after that drove down the stupid Pacific Coast Highway back to my stupid house. I didn’t handle my disappointment well.
I realized I was doing myself no good and decided to figure out how I could get out of my funk. After some pondering, I came up with this: on one hand I was in fantastic Monterey seeking a great time and on the other hand I was in fantastic Monterey having a terrible time. The constant was fantastic Monterey, the variable was me and is the second brain upgrade.
WHAT I wanted was a fantastic golf weekend on the Monterey Peninsula.
HOW I was going to do that was by playing golf on Pebble Beach and staying at the lodge.
I intertwined what and how. It turns out that the Del Monte Golf Course is the oldest golf course west of the Mississippi. An old style design I just loved. I also finally played Pebble Beach, and actually enjoy playing Spyglass Hill more. To our detriment, our fast brains tend to cement together what we want with how to get it.
So, software upgrade number two; keep what and how separate. We’ll also take a deeper look at this is a few minutes.
The third upgrade requires a story, one with you in the starring role.
Imagine you’re driving along a two-lane road on a glorious weekend morning. Suns out, music playing, you’re feeling good. Cars and trucks are whizzing by on your left. There is a ditch to the right. In front of you, maybe 100 feet or so is a pickup truck filled with empty steel oil drums, held down by a fraying yellow nylon rope. Every time the truck hits a bump, the oil drums bounce around.
The truck hits another bump, suddenly, an oil drum falls out and lands upright in the middle of your lane. What’s the first thing you do?
Ninety-five percent of people say, “Slam on the brakes.” Others say “swerve, swear, pray, jump in the back seat” and a few other things.
You do five things to solve a problem. Let’s see if slamming on the brakes is number one.
(slideshows five numbers and eventually braking is number five)
You see the problem with our outdated brain. We don’t know how it works; and it doesn’t work well anyway. But we can make it work very well with the third upgrade. It’s called Harnessing the Speed of Thought, and it slows the thought process so that problems and conflicts can be solved like never before, and like we should have been doing for the last 12,000 years.
Back to the road. Suns out, music playing. Traffic on the left. Ditch on the right. Instead of an oil drum, however, a clod of dirt falls off the trunk then explodes into a dust ball when it hits the pavement. What do we do then? Right. Nothing, we keep on cruising.
So, the first step of harnessing the speed of thought is to identify what requires our attention, either a problem or opportunity. Right now there is an oil drum in our lane.
Number two is to define the goal. Unless you have defined a goal, you won’t know what the solution must accomplish. Yogi Berra, the hall of fame catcher for the New York Yankees once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up someplace else.” And you enrich the goal by adding AMB, as measured by. In this case, the goal is to avoid an accident.
Third, you list hurdles and concerns: What you have to take into account in choosing a solution. We note that impact will occur in 1.9 seconds. Choosing a solution that takes 2.1 seconds may not be wise. Vehicles are racing by on our left, that may be important. And there is the ditch on the right.
Next, we list possible solutions: brake, swerve, pray and so on.
Then, noting our hurdles and concerns and keeping our goal in mind, we choose and implement the best solution. Slam on the brakes. We’re safe.
Let’s take a closer look at harnessing the speed of thought.
In the real world, identifying the issue is not easy, especially if “at first, everyone will always, see everything differently.” We don’t leave this step until everyone agrees we have identified the issue that must be addressed.
And remember keeping what and how separate? That comes in handy in the goal and solution steps. Most people with 12,000-year out-of-date brains will combine what and how in the form of, “We need to figure out how to build more homes for the homeless.” See the solution, “build more homes?”
By slowing the problem-solving process, we can make the effort transparent, include everyone in the right way at the right time and ensure the best solution rises to the top. With harnessing the speed of thought, we don’t have our old brains debating each other, we have our new brains working together to assemble the best solution.
CALL TO ACTION:
If each of you would teach on average one person a day for a week or so, and they would do the same and so on, we could update the brains of Seattle in less than a month; and if we continued we could improve the brains of everyone in the United States in less than two months and, if we continue on, we could improve the brains of the entire world in a year. In two years we could end hunger, achieve world peace and finally end some terrible diseases.
And then we can ask every soul what they want; all will respond with a form of: “A place in the sun,” and we can find 1001 “how’s” to provide it We can do it.
Welcome, improved brain, finally, to the glorious and unstoppable 21st century. Thank you.