Mental Convergence I

In the 90s I developed a concept, a “road map” that would show how technology and the skills of the brain can evolve and improve one-another. Even today, I am convinced that these issues are converging more and more, hence the idea for a name I coined for my plan and “road map”: Mental Convergence. Since a lot has happened on the way, this time I would like to offer a small retrospect and dedicate the next blog post to discussing the Road Map’s future.

So far in the cultural history of mankind the expansion of the human mind has been pursued through approaches such as meditation and new-fangled techniques of mental training. Already so, amazing things are indeed possible, which have the power to remove us far from the everyday consciousness and enable us to experience new forms of awareness and adventures. The core issue of Mental Convergence has been thus far, how can we enhance the human spirit through the use of technology, or even eventually merging with technology at some point.

You see, we know that we can only evolve as humans by either developing the human individual or by being more skillful at connecting humans, or letting themselves be connected,. Or both. Mental Convergence is now about the first possibility, the human spirit and what results the mix of brain research, knowledge of the human spirit and digitization can lead us to.

My first interest was aimed at learning. And not just learning in the sense of numbers, dates, facts, but also what we would consider the personality development that takes place during coaching. The ideal model for such a learning was shown to me in the movie “The Game”, in which the main character – played by Michael Douglas – is given the chance to take part in a game that changes his life. The game in the movie is “real”, in the sense that the participant plunges into it with his full experience and senses; therefore, it also causes profound changes in him. And the game is tailored to his personality, his perception and to the problems lying deep under his conscience.

So “full immersion”, tailored to the individual, should be a reasonable Mental Convergence System for adventurous learning. At this time I had already largely completed my training in NLP, Hypnosis and Design Human Engineering. That provided me with “material” for my journey. In NLP we learn, for example, that the way people represent certain perceptions, thoughts, ideas in their head is unique to each person. It makes a difference whether I see certain ideas as images, or “hear” them in an inner dialogue. And in order to achieve specific effects, these images must be presented in a certain way, which in the NLP is called “submodalities”. Therefore learning content is presented to me, specifically tailored for my mind, and thus making it more likely that I remember it, as if it were a “Standard-Show”.

That is what I wanted to display – at least rudimentary – in technology. In the experimental and future oriented 90s I have since tried weird things with the emerging 3D worlds. A classic was my VRML Submodalizer from 1997, a web-based 3D application, which was supposed to help with mental training. The application was based on the VRML programming language and used the freshly developped 3D-sound and MPEG-video. The user could adjust directly the size of the central image, at which distance it appears and the direction from which it comes. Likewise, he could adjust the direction and the volume of the “hypnotic voice” in his headset. Even the color of the background would be individually controllable. So each user could adjust the display as he himself would represent it “in his mind”. And it is exactly such a representation that he will be likely to believe.

submodalizer

We remember that this was well before the Internet and multimedia and in an era before smartphones existed. To program something like this today in an app with 3D glasses would obviously be too easy. Amazingly, nobody does it. The zeitgeist is absolutely not experimental when it comes to such topics. People will rather program apps that create a merciless submission to some diet guru (more details on positive exceptions in the second part).

My approach to binding mind and technology went on to computer games with biofeedback, in which the computer was controlled through body measurements or where one’s own feelings had an impact on the gameplay (yes, this kind of things already existed about 20 years ago!). Even such a thing could be used in the future for computer-assisted learning.

The experiments of that time led me to learning with games, also online games, and to the fact that I am working on a daily, pragmatic basis in the e-learning and mobile learning area ever since. But I have never forgotten the futuristic agenda behind it.

At the same time I was working on the “VRML Submodalizer” I also worked intensively on another “cool” area: lucid dreaming, which is the ability to become aware during a dream that you are dreaming, but to remain in that dream. In addition to the fun you can experience in such dreams, it’s relevance to my topic is obvious. Do we have a better game machine so far than our brain? Where do we get more “full immersion” with all your senses than in our dreams? It would seem pretty obvious to use this for learning purposes or for personal development as long as our 3D technology is not advanced enough, right? Pioneers like Paul Tholey also tried accordingly to experiment with sports training within lucid dreaming.

On my Mental Convergence path, I approached the topic of lucidity along with the mental training, technologically. I tried all tools, such as the NovaDreamer or the DreamSpeaker, etc., when they came on the market, supported by self-made hypnosis tapes.

What I noticed back then already – that fits perfectly into my concept – was the similarity of perception in dream worlds and virtual worlds. Oneironauts (as the lucid dreamers are called) have to learn, for example, how to control their attention, in order to stay in the dream. They need to realize what exactly is caused by the fact of “being there”. Experiments on perception in virtual worlds at HitLab – Washington University, showed excitingly enough the exact same criteria that made people in cyberspace feel the illusion was real and from their point of view that they were “there”. So could it be possible at some point, to merge our mental landscapes and virtual landscapes in order to develop our mind?

Continue with Mental Convergence in the next blog post!

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Six rules of Forecasting

My new show deals with better Forecasting.

In an article in the Harvard Business Review Paul Saffo brilliantly summarizes lots of insights about Forecasting. He gives us six rules at hand to forcast more effectively:

1 – Define a Cone of uncertainty

You see this cone in my chart on the right side:

It contains all possible roads into the future, the more probable in the center and the more fantastic close to the edge. It perfectly visualizes the open future, the realm of possibilities.

2 – Look for the S-Curve

Seasoned tool in marketing and strategy, the S-Curve has some tricky features, especially that we normally forget the “long nose”: It takes longer for an idea to  have impact than we think, but when things take off that runs faster than we thought it would.

3 – Embrace the Things that don’t fit

Because the things which doesn’t fit into an established category may be weak signals for the things to come.

4 – Hold strong opinions weakly

Because if you don’t, you are to sure of yourself.

5 – Look back twice as far as you look forward

If things repeat you have to look for patterns. And you only see patterns if your time horizon goes back long enough.

6 – Know when not to make a forecast

Sometimes the times are not good for forecasts, important prerequisites are lacking. But . . . you may be creative then. Change the time horizon. Or the rules of the game.

Want to know more? Then hear the show . . .

On iTunes or at our portal.

The Prospect of Immortality

New Show from the The-Adventure-Future-Podcast!

 

 

What it’s about?

The chances for a long, even a very long life are good. We grow old and die, not because it’s a law of nature, but because our bodies are optimized by evolution only for the time of reproductive maturity. For the time after that, there is no plan. Opportunity for us to change the rules of the game.

There will be various ways to endow our lives with greater margins: better nutrition, advanced molecular biology and the “upload” into the high-performance computer systems of the future.

The boundaries do not lie in the possibilities, but in our head,  telling us that something like this cannot exist, is not thought out by nature this way, that it would be boring, and that such a society of older people would be rigid and not innovative any longer.

Some things indicate that the opposite might be the case. A society of longevity may be able to afford greater diversity and openness, at the same time look for stable, long-term structures, for many people will experience the results of any of their decisions and actions for a while.

Good preparation is therefore to consider for what you would like to be immortal. And then doing it. Today.

You want to know more?

Hear the Show!

Exploratory or normative – New show

On this picture you see the whole field for future studies:

Ranging from the past where you can get resources to a multitude of futures. How can you endeavor the cone of possibilities? Use exploratory and normative research methods.

The first choice in general are exploratory methods, methods which forecast foreward into the future. Exploratory procedures are the ones emanating from an existing situation, and which prolong things under certain assumptions into the future. Scenarios that result from it are therefore extensions of the present into the future.

No wonder then that exploratory methods are foremost quantitative approaches, therefore things ideally adapted to calculations, producing countless numbers, like projections, trend calculations, probability analysis.

You can add other methods such as trend impact analysis and cross impact analysis, which describe what new trends would change in this steady way forward, and how different parts of the future influence each other.

Exploratory methods start with the present, with the pre-conditions, beliefs and social or technological possibilities which already exist. The same in your private field. If you think about a savings plan for retirement or about planning your career, you are normally following an exploratory approach.

Normative methods start with a desirable future. Here you design exciting futures on the drawing board. Especially in normative scenarios we find creative, adventurous and revolutionary possibilities. Here the future is open.

If exploratory methods are usually quantitative, normative scenarios show as qualitative. You are not forecasting, but backcasting, you postulate the future and then see how you could get there. You are not restricted by what exists and the allegedly possible. You start with the vision, with the new world, and then find a way to adapt the existing fact.

Ideally, you combine the two approaches as you can see in the picture. With normative, creative approaches you produce an abundance of desirable future scenarios, reflecting the abundance of the universe. You look back by backcasting, what has to happen on the way to each of these scenarios to make them come true. Then start today with explorative forecasting methods. Evaluate the points at which changes, inventions, trends are likely and how that affects the way into the future. See where the paths into the future and from the future meet and what this means for future decisions and actions.

To learn about this in detail hear the new Aventure Future Podcast.

What do aquariums have to do with Web 2.0?

A few weeks ago while reading definitely not Web 2.0 related literature, I found a good metaphor for my ideas about Web 2.0. Günther Sterba was a German ichthyologist, a fish researcher, his aquarium books from the 50s were cult books of many young people that were still dealing with analog things, just like me. When I read them again, I found astonishing statements.

He wrote in 1955 (my words) that all the aquarium hobbyists would be essential for professional research. Because one cannot simply examine e.g. the reproductive behavior of a particular type of fish in centralized research once, and then know the facts. It depends on so many factors, well-known factors like water temperature, but also things you do not have on your radar. Therefore in many cases, breeding will not work, even if people have actually kept everything the way that experts have so thoroughly investigated. Because they are just in a different location, in a different situation with other factors prevailing. And small differences have large effects.

So therefore the solution that hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic hobby aquarists try that out themselves at home and talk to each other. Thus automatically incorporate the diversity of local conditions with myriad factors, test it out, communicate, learn. A research endeavor, that could not be paid by individual institutions, there would not be enough staff and it could not be performed under so many spontaneous conditions. The unusual, highly distributed, localized mix is the right thing. And at the time of Sterba, this exchange worked with . . . Shriek. . . Letters!

In this example everything is included, what drives my ideas about Web 2.0: integrate many enthusiastic individuals who experiment in heterogeneous ways for their respective situations and – through intensive networking – multiply the knowledge and skills for all. And like this, we should set up projects for Enterprise 2.0, innovation and the future. Many points of view, diversity, individuality, heterogeneity, bottom-up instead of a knowing elite. Therefore, prefer a scenario project with many “normal” people to a Delphi panel with a few experts, use rather Prediction Markets than operational planning. And if we think with this metaphor in mind about things like health care or management?

The heart of creative structures

We often want to know what exactly makes exceptionally creative structures tick, where the magic is hidden. And then,  to imitate that.

The Attractor-Incubator-Approach (ATICA) has as objective to dive into the core of creative structures, like creative businesses, cities or regions, hotspots, of magical places.

Its assumption is that any deeply creative structure is an intimate connection of an incubator and an attractor, a combination which finds really new solutions in contrast to the ordinary everyday way and, based on that, ensures rapid explosive spread. Together they stand for real change instead of incremental improvements or “messing around with the symptom.”

Because an idea without application and spreading is as if it was not thought at all, as well as rapid spread without a radical new idea that promises real solutions is a fad or a big show, but nothing more. True creativity goes to the core. It solves open issues and pressing problems in an unprecedented way.

The incubator is the place where diversity clashes, where the big questions of humanity are given to a team of individuals ready for intense debate. With its own “mission”, completely closed to the currently fashionable catalog of solutions, the participants develop the “next big thing” in the incubator.

The attractor communicates solutions to the outside, motivates people to use them, to work with them, being a part of them. It attracts talent into the orbit of these new approaches, combines feedback and plays back the improved solutions.

The performance of a creative structure like a company or a region is at its highest when it designs the interaction of an incubator or incubators with an attractor in a permanent cycle of self-re-inventing.

You’ll find an overview of ATICA in this introduction article:

http://www.vreedom.com/material/TAF_2012-01-10_ATICA-Artikel_eng.pdf

Three levers

In my work in the future-field, I see three powerful fields of influence that represent mighty levers for us. They develop rapidly and enhance each other significantly in their effect: Artificial Intelligence, Networking and Hyper-Humanism.

Let us start with artificial intelligence. When the moment has come when artificial exceeds human intelligence much will be different, as Ray Kurzweil has repeatedly described it very impressively. How will you compete in many fields with a machine that only costs 1000 € and simulates your brain down to the last details as an easy background work? Not at all, and therefore we should better use the systems instead of competing with them. We do not have to be futuristic here, because even the current recommendation systems in shopping portals are the fruits of artificial intelligence. The enormous amounts of data can only be crunched with intelligence on a new level.

To my mind, hardly something is so underestimated as artificial intelligence. OK, wonders were promised for decades and yet we still laugh today about the attempts of computers to pretend being intelligent. However, researchers in the future-field know the typical effect when looking at S-curves. Innovations require longer than you think, until they come to fruition (“long nose”). Nevertheless, if they take off in the end, they go on much faster than you could have imagined. Therefore, if the promises of artificial intelligence are fulfilled, it will happen faster and more comprehensively than we think. And the impact goes from truly intelligent artificial friends up to a possible post-Scarcity Society.

The second lever is networking. We already see the effects of many people networked together via the Internet. The “Internet of things”, in which devices and artificial intelligences directly “speak” to each other, is in building-phase. Wisdom-of-Crowd applications such as prediction markets show how communication- and decision-making processes could run, if we flip old structures through digital networking and link individual diversity.

Behind networking lie fundamental principles, such as Metcalfe’s Law, which states that a network is ever more useful, if more participants are involved in the network. Moreover, if this network is humanity, how much can we grow to be useful for each other? The other aspect is that creativity research shows that ideas arise from the clash of diversity. For this to occur there have to be occasions. And networking creates exactly that. The odds are good that we increase our rate of innovation, just by connecting more people. And a completely new quality of society is created by linking.

The third lever is hyper-humanism. This is the idea to find out what lies at the core of the human being, the things that characterize us as human and to develop and reinforce that. At first this begins with something that makes most people more afraid, to find out the things where man is not unique, e.g. where a machine could replace us easily. It takes courage and self-awareness to recognize the things profoundly human, and not to search for excuses, by just postulating, “that a machine could never do this or that”, or not to explore or research certain things just to stay away from unpleasant insights. However, if we face the knowledge, we can zero in on our “core competency”. We then focus on the things special in people and manage the rest in a new way, with new means.

Exciting now what the three levers have to do with each other. Thus digital networking leads to artificial intelligence getting more data (see Recommendation systems). The development of artificial intelligence provides insights into what distinguishes human beings and is therefore a prerequisite for the hyper-humanism. In addition, hyper-humanism is the frame for using the chances in networking and artificial intelligence more intensive and fruitfully. Especially effective is to use all three ways with devotion.

A good basis for future workshops then, is to consider the next few years under these three aspects. Practical application from my field of work: Many companies in the moment say rather stubbornly, that in the field of sales “no one can replace the people in customer contact”. And then go on organizing and managing sales as before. On the other side, we see the steady growth of very successful Internet portals, which integrate consulting of customers and sales. And if we think about further developments in AI and networking, you could quickly get the idea that humans are completely replaceable in sales.

But what does a company that thinks in terms of the three levers will do? It uses all levers! It utilizes enthusiastically the possibilities of web portals, powered by artificial intelligence and with automation to the level possible. At the same time, it looks exactly at the essence of what makes humans necessary in sales and brings its own sales staff to the highest excellence in these areas.