Sunday, August 3, 2014

What it is Not - The Brain

Often when trying to improve our world we fall into a trap of saying what something is not, instead of seeking actual solutions. I find myself falling into this same trap, I know what is not a green city, but have few answers as how to improve things.

The reasons for this are because of how our brains learn. Typically described as a difference engine, the brain learns more from mistakes and errors than from being correct. Because of this, we tend to notice the flaws before we notice the advantages.

I recently read that they were working on "spray on" solar cells, to make it possible for any surface to be made into a solar panel. I love this idea, and it is the solution to why I don't like solar or wind farms. Spraying the outside of all the buildings is a perfect way to avoid claiming more land space.

To find such solutions, a person must rewire their brains to focus more on possible solutions, enter the inventor. Inventors are capable of learning from their mistakes, as well as able to see successes. They either have a rare trait, or have broken free of the reptile brain more than others.

So we return to the difference engine, the reason we have an easier time seeing what is wrong instead of what is right. When we make a mistake, the brain notices that the result was not desirable, so it alters the neural pathway values so the next time it encounters that same event a slightly different response is generated.

The structure of the brain results in similar inputs following similar paths, so when one is adjusted it effects the outcomes of other stimuli. But what happens when an outcome is desirable? Well, there is an increase in the chance of that same response happening. This means that there is a larger number of possible "bad" pathways for any stimuli recorded than good.

Think of it this way, when facing five doors and no one tells you what is behind them you open the first and see a pile of trash blocking the way. The next one you open you find a bunch of alligators. Then the third one you try opens to a place you feel safe.

The next time you come to these same doors you are more likely to open the one you know leads to a safe place than to try one of the two you don't know yet. This demonstrates the difference engine's effect on our perception on the world.

This also explains the sad state of affairs in the world today. We see many people simply unwilling to alter their behaviors, remaining with what they see as working out safe enough for them. We need to, as a species, break away from this pattern of comfort, to break away from the difference engine, and learn to make ourselves uncomfortable for the sake of advancement and learning.

So every month, try to find something you have always been afraid to do, something which has a small risk of hurting you or making you uncomfortable. Seek out the new things, new ideas, and new frontiers to explore. Expand your mind so it no longer dwells on the flaws and failures.

I have been taking this adventure since the beginning of the year, seeking out new things to try every month. Because of it I have found many new foods, friends, and experiences that make my life better. Post your stories in a blog, or record them on camera, encourage our future generations.

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