I’ve been thinking about the power of language and the metaphors we use to describe ourselves. When Henry Ford coined the term “cogs” in the early 20th century to describe workers, he was describing the increased efficiency and cost reduction of industrialization. Little did he know that his metaphor would transition from describing components to data, from man-as-machine to man-as-computer, and unwittingly usher in an era of existential risk for humans unless we update the mental framework yet again. Peter Drucker’s optimized worker theories to Elon Musk’s Twitter musings on our being a part of a computer simulation kind-of worked to roughly describe the way our brains’ problem solve and make decisions — until they didn’t — because now the real machines have arrived and they are better than we ever were at being cogs. Where does that leave us humans? We better get good at being human because our old niche will soon be taken. Luckily, there’s an entire body of neuroscience called embodied and extended cognition where — put simply — your intelligence extends beyond your brain into your body, environment, network and tools. Embodied and extended cognition research documents the full range of human intelligences that we ignored in our race to industrialize. Further, technology has provided a new twist, the ability to confirm that our biology presents an underutilized resource. I believe the path to human thriving, counterintuitively, is more about using technology to rewild ourselves as quickly as we can than adding RAM to our brains. Backed by over thirty years of research that has been accelerating across the last decade, due in no small part to the advent of exponential technologies like AI, networking and sensors, wearables and more, updating our “Human-as-X” metaphor holds the key. What do you think our new metaphor should be? Human-as-_______________ Love, Nichol
I just finished reading Rick Rubin’s new book, The Creative Act: A Way of Being. It’s a book as much about the philosophy of consciousness as a guide to creativity. In an interview with Anderson Cooper, Rubin said barely plays any instruments and has no technical ability. He just knows what he likes and dislikes and is decisive about it. He just knows what he likes and doesn’t like. He said, “”[I’m paid for] the confidence that I have in my taste, and my ability to express what I feel has proven helpful for artists.” This got me thinking about how we develop our tastes. Rubin’s book mentions learning from the best, but it also made me think about the danger of recommendation engines. Recommendation engines suggest things we might like based on what we’ve liked before, or what similar people like. But, we also develop our tastes from things we don’t like. Making choices about what we don’t like is part of growing up. By only showing us things we already like, recommendation engines can keep us from growing up fully. If we’re only exposed to things we’re expected to like, our tastes will just be the same as everyone else’s, which could be a big problem in the future. Why do our individual tastes matter in the age of AI? As AI starts doing more tasks, what’s left for us is to have our own point of view, or taste, in what we do. If our taste is the same as everyone else’s, then 1) Chat GPT will make it common to everyone (the great same-i-fication), and 2) we won’t be paid for it. So, what can we do to keep and develop our own taste? Try a bunch of different things, read a lot, ask questions, and put yourself in new situations. The more recommendation engines suggest what we should like, the more we need to push ourselves to experience different things.
I recently interviewed leadership coach Joe Hudson about how to be a Transformative Tech founder in the Age of AI. I wanted to share this for two reasons: 1) I’m hearing and feeling fear about AI and Joe does great work on fear. 2) We didn’t have a live event where you could work with Joe so this is an alternative. You may recall, Joe kicked off every Transformative Tech Conference. I always brought him in to teach a workshop at the start of all my events. We did connection, fear, vulnerability… All emotions and behaviors that impact founders’ success. I loved the way starting the conference with Joe set the tone for the rest of the weekend and activated our courage, open heartedness, and community. Joe has a free podcast series on fear, decision-making, and my favorite – the golden algorithm about how we create what we avoid. (Goodness, have I done that!). He is doing a free live coaching session where you can watch him work with someone (maybe you) on May 16th. Love, Nichol Watch my interview with Joe here.
We often use the words “perceive” and “sense” interchangeably. But understanding how they differ is key to building transformative technologies that can improve our quality of life. Our senses detect stimuli from the external world and contribute to our wellness and health. Tasting a delicious meal, listening to relaxing music, hugging someone we love… sensing allows us to connect, feel, empathize, support, care, rest, and live well. Perception, on the other hand, happens in the brain and is influenced by our mindset. Our perception shapes how we view and interpret the world, and it is often biased by our expectations. If I have a crush on someone, I will pay close attention to whether they laugh at my jokes, or if they keep their gaze on me while I speak, or if they give me a compliment. All of which are also signs of an innocent friendship. We see what we want to see. 😉 Ashley Ward, in his book Sensational: A New Story of Our Senses, dives deep into the full potential of each sense – even some that we may not be aware yet – to unlock unlimited possibilities in the wellness realm. But how do we intentionally use our ability to sense for collaboration and community building? How can transformative technologies expand our senses to support our wellbeing? Alice Ray, Troy Haines, Stephanie Dupont, Brit Estep, and I have studied Ward’s book and are excited to share what we think matters for Transformative Tech. We use our senses to navigate the world and our perception to understand it. The human eye has over 200 million receptors that process visible light, making it the most essential sense for our brain. But Ward alerts that the interpretation of sight is subjective and influenced by genetics, culture, and individual meaning. Since Artificial intelligence (AI) can mimic the intricate biological networks in our brain to generate visual content, what are the ethical processes in place to ensure AI algorithms will not be biased by their developers’ perception? What are the implications for human diversity? Sound has the power to trigger emotions such as fear, anxiety, happiness, and relaxation. Different species and individuals react differently to various sound waves. Our perception of what we hear, Ward argues, is even more important than our instinctive reaction to sound. Speed, cadence, volume, and wave frequency of sound are imbued with cultural meaning. Can we intentionally use sound, vision, and the other senses for positive outcomes? Big Ramifications for Transformative Tech We can expand our senses beyond their natural limitations with transformative technologies. And because we can intentionally cross senses to create new neural pathways, we can enhance our ability to interpret the world. For example, using light and sound together can help create a more immersive experience. Ward’s Sensational: A New Story of our Senses allows us to dream of enhancing our biology to achieve higher, happier levels of the human psychological state. Technology can – and is already – creating its own system of sight, sound, touch, and smell. Transformative technologies, however, can go beyond. They can notice how a particular intonation changes the context of a speech. They can identify harmful features in a picture and improve on it. They can add texture to an otherwise boring object. They can generate smells that will positively impact our nervous system. They can essentially act as our perception, enhancing the meaning and interpretation of our sensory experience. But they can also enhance our biases. Big Ethical Considerations for Transformative Tech By now, it is quite obvious that designing and building transformative technology to enhance our senses and augment our perception is subject to ethical conflicts. The implications of Ward’s vision as to how we can experience the world differently through our senses are enormous. And so is the potential of designing technologies to aid in this process with perception biases embedded in them. If we are to recreate our perception, we might end up recreating our biases too. Transformative technologies must be built on diverse perspectives and with cultural and personal nuances to fully succeed in our mission towards longer, healthier, and happier lives. Below you will find a summary of each team member’s take-away for our Transformative Tech community within the chapters of Sensational: A New Story of Our Senses. Needless to say, I am excited about your reflections on how this new understanding of our senses changes the way you perceive, utilize, or design transformative technologies. Love, Nichol, and Alice Ray, Troy Haines, Stephanie DuPont, Brit Estep P.S. The next book club is Ivy and Susan’s Your Brain on Art to discuss with me on Friday, May 5th 12-1:30 PM PST. Hit Reply and let us know if you want to join that discussion.
The world’s focus has been on GenAI, but there are breakthroughs everywhere that I believe will come together. I’d like to highlight another this week — based on science: Your Brain on Art At a recent book launch event, authors Susan Magsamen, founder, and director of the International Arts + Mind Lab, and Ivy Ross discussed their extraordinary book Your Brain on Art, which explores the profound impact of art on the human mind and body. The book delves into the power of artistic expression, whether through dance, writing, or digital creations and how it can reshape our internal landscapes as both creators and observers. They also see society’s fixation on productivity causing us to neglect our innate sensory capabilities. For example, humans possess far more than the traditional five senses – 51, to be precise – and our fingertips alone contain 3,000 nerve endings. Our brains even demonstrate a preference for curves over angles, which may influence our attraction to various forms of art and design. They see the emerging trend towards experiential art, as a shift that signifies a greater appreciation for sensory engagement. Ross cites meditation expert Sharon Salzberg, who has proposed that art can serve as an effective form of meditation. Furthermore, there’s compelling research that suggests engaging in artistic creation for just 45 minutes a month can extend our lives by an impressive ten years! When asked what the future might look like, the authors envision teaching children about their nervous, emotional, and sensory systems, and beginning our days with personalized songs instead of pills or vitamins. A world where “nature pills” are prescribed and art exploration is encouraged as medicine for the soul. By reclaiming our inherent human qualities and embracing the transformative power of art, Ross and Magsamen believe we can rewrite the operating system for humanity and create a brighter, more connected future. I think art will be one of the keys to enter the Slipstream. Love, Nichol — P.S. Here’s the rest of the series: Enter the Slipstream: How to Thrive in the Age of AI Unlocking Human Potential: Embracing Ancient Wisdom and Technology for a Generative Future Predictions 2023 Your Time is Now GenAI and the Deep Human Tech Stack The Future of Human Intelligence is… Governments and Consciousness The 5 Human Essentials in the Age of AI Witnessing and Other Proof-of-Human Things in the Era of GenAI ChatGPT and the Human Soul Wellbeing and Generative AI The Extended Mind and Transformative Tech: Why it matters Gratitude and Longevity? Love and Tech, Tech and Love The New Science of Emotion and Transformative Tech: Why it matters Experiences as validated Mental Health Treatments? Evolution Favors Fitness, Not Reality 😯 Augmented Imagination Human Syncing and Group Flow Humanizing the Singularity Six Takeaways From My Day-to-day Work Overview: Deep Human – Warm Up Build while Being My Core Premise Growth Triangle The Choice The Growth 🔼 – The Metaverse — a Growth Triangle for Billions? Design Principles – The Metaverse as Human Potential Tech The Stack My Origin Story — And Why We Need Human Embodiment AND Technology The Metaverse (and the Future of Human Intelligence) A New Oath to Take? Defining Modern Neurorights Blockchain for Transformation? Collaborative Capacity How are Paradigm Shifts a Growth Tool?