SMARTER

smarterIcon_animateIn some measures of intelligence, I’m smart. In others…not so much. I experienced something at a young age that science has confirmed.

Intelligence, like many other attributes, is not fixed. I discovered this by getting tested over and over again when I was starting school. Each successive time I took a test, I got much better at the test. I started off well below average and ended up being well above average.

This trend has followed me throughout my life. It takes me a long time to become competent in a subject. But the time between competence and mastery is comparatively short.

Like Dweck, Ericsson, and others, I discovered that considering I could get better and deliberately practicing on the things I could actually improve led me, quite predictably, to improvement. When it comes to intelligence (Mensa style not Gardner style intelligence), getting more of it isn’t easy. And I don’t think it’s taught all that well, either.

I want to talk about becoming more intelligent entails and an approach to becoming more intelligent. It isn’t as straight forward as taking more IQ tests (although that could help). And it isn’t enough to study people who have intelligence(s) that you desire.

It’s going to require you to see smaller, and do smaller. And you’re going to be able to see more. And once you do more, you’re going to be able to know more (knowledge) and be more (intelligent).

Being that what we learn is based on BioFeedback, we need to look at intelligence through BioFeedback’s lens. BioFeedback has to do with the relationship between sensation and action. In the common parlance, that’s the relationship between knowing and doing.

Whenever we’re talking about Intelligence, we think of it more in the realm of knowing…than doing. And we’ll keep Intelligence in that realm for a bit. Intelligence has to do with knowledge.

But knowledge of what? When we’re speaking of intelligence, we’re not talking about any specific domain. We want general intelligence…or the ability to be smart in anything.

How can we be generally smart, or generally intelligent? We have make the specific – general. Let me explain.

Each intelligence, whether it be in the arts, sciences, or mathematics comes with a particular set of specific terms. For the artist, the scientist, the mathematician, they call those sets of terms a language. For the uninitiated, we call those terms jargon.

If we don’t want them to be jargon, we have to understand them. And understanding those terms requires using other words, more words to make meaning of them. But it’s not enough to just define your terms.

When we define the terms (or understand) everything we encounter, we have yet to make the specific general. To make the specific general, we have to move beyond definitions. We have to find synonyms.

Finding synonyms is seeing how one word, or term, is like another. Ennui is like boredom. Misery is like suffering.

We’re using one term to understand another. But understanding isn’t just limited to terms, it can be applied to ideas. A peak experience is like summiting a mountain.

When we can see how seemingly non-related things can be related, we’re not only “building” empathy (see what I did there?) we’re making the specific general…building general intelligence. But there is another direction intelligence can go.

Not only can Specific Intelligence be generalized, General Intelligence can become specialized. An easy way to go down this path is to see how things are different. Can you see how synonyms can be antonyms?

What would else would you call something heavy? How about massive? Synonyms, right? But not entirely.

Massive refers to mass (to others, size), heavy refers to weight…they’re different. This differentiation allows for general intelligence to become specific (Hipsters are great at this, lol). And it’s in moving back and forth between the general and specific where we get smarter.

Think of general and specific in visual terms. General is more macroscopic. Specific is more microscopic.

If you look macroscopically, you see astronomy. Smaller, you see geology. Smaller you see sociology. Smaller, you see biology. Smaller, you see physiology. Smaller, chemistry. Smaller, physics.

Or you may not see any of the sciences. You may hear music. You may see art. You may hear poetry or prose. You may feel sports or martial arts. You may make peace or war.

But they’re all related. They’re all connected. They’re connected into patterns.

You may’ve heard intelligence (especially Artificial Intelligence) referred to as pattern recognition. Can you recognize what makes them the same? Can you recognize what makes them different?

If you can connect them generally and disconnect them specifically, you’ll be well on your way to being smarter…maybe even smart…maybe even genius…but probably not savant (but no longer an idiot, either).

And in the most important measures of intelligence, new knowledge should lead to new action. Here’s the most important insight into intelligence: action leads to more intelligence. More intelligence, whether general or specific, is a function of more action.

THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING

This-Changes-Everything-1080One of the best compliments I ever received was from a student and colleague who noted, “When you get a new piece of information, you get excited. You’ll say, ‘Don’t you understand…this changes everything?!!!” I think what he meant was that when I get a new piece of information, it changes everything for me….eventually.

While I periodically get enthusiastic about change, my disorder makes change very challenging. Times change, and I’m left behind. This means if I’m going to keep up with the times, I have to be ahead of them.

But I can only be ahead of them in spirit, the body changes too slowly…at least for now. But the prediction of where things will likely go helps those of us who are little slower catch up. And this all leaves me with a very important question, “Where are things going?” (More importantly – to me- where am I going?)

When I can make a somewhat educated guess as to where things are going, I can start work on moving in that direction. Since I move a bit slower than most (both literally and metaphorically), I need a head start. I usually need that head start in any direction.

An example direction is Martial Arts. There have been three trends that have emerged since I’ve been practicing BJJ. I’ve tried to stay ahead of all three.

The first was the movement away from the Gi. It’s only now with the popularity of EBI, 10PJJ, and the DDS (these acronyms mean something to BJJ players) that No Gi is emerging as a distinct practice. I saw it early (Marcelo @ ADCC and at my home Dojo) and 2.5 years after I started (over 10 years ago), I took off the Gi and haven’t consistently put it back on since.

The next trend that emerged in BJJ (which is in full force now) is the practice of leg locks. While I have never been interested in becoming a leg lock specialist, I did start becoming more versed in their use. I watched videos, bought books, and started rolling with leg lockers.

The final trend that has yet to surface in BJJ but I believe ultimately will is wrestling. Fundamental wrestling shuts down many submissions. And wrestling wins nearly every position.

No Gi, Leg Locks, and Wrestling has and will change everything in BJJ. But what clued me in to that? Why did I think that those things changed everything?

I thought No Gi, Leglocks, and Wrestling changed BJJ because I saw how their players fared against traditional BJJ players. I saw how the practice of each of those demonstrated dominance. While I only saw No Gi players, leg lockers, and wrestlers show up occasionally, the effect was undeniable.

Others saw the same thing I did…but where I saw the future, they saw an anomaly. You have to understand the scope of this, though. These were just a few data points.

These three trends were previously only personified. They were three solitary datums. But I knew that they wouldn’t be solitary for long.

When I saw the three trends first emerge, there was resistance to their practice. They weren’t looked at as trends. They were looked at as trendy, a novelty.

Each time the trend reappeared, it became easier for people to accept that this new thing was here to stay. And the new somehow subsumed the old. Those people who wouldn’t accept the new either left or became a relic of the past.

While we don’t identify as such, we’re all more naturally conservative than progressive. We want to conserve what was before more so than we want to progress past it. While some things are timeless and remain, those things are in the minority.

The natural order is change. In order to orient towards the future, we have to be on the constant lookout for what will change everything. Most things that are new won’t be catalysts.

But when we see something new that puts a chink in the armor of the old, we have to pay attention – very close attention – to understand the scope of that change. For every bit of change we see, we get more insight into what actually works. And we better understand what changes everything…and the personal work it takes to change.

A.I. & BioFeedback

AI

Artificial Intelligence has a long (fictional) history of being something to fear. The machines will rise up, take over, and our place at the top of the food chain will be over.

But is that the trajectory of AI? Being that we don’t have much of a mind for math, statistics, or the future, it’s hard to predict. I like all of those things so I’m going to make a prediction of the trend of AI.

That trend is based on the history of not just artificial intelligence, but intelligence itself. We’ll start with defining our terms. We need a better understanding of artificial and intelligence…and we can’t forget BioFeedback.

Artificial refers to something man made, not nature made. Intelligence is a little more difficult to define. But we’re going to use a familiar set of terms to aid our definition.

BioFeedback refers to how sensation and motion feed back into each other and affect each other. We define how intelligent someone is (there are multiple intelligences as Gardner delineates) by how much someone can sense and/or how much someone can act. Common sense (intelligence) refers to how many average functions one can do or sense.

Many of us wouldn’t think of a high level athlete as intelligent, we may describe them as physically gifted, but there is such as thing as physical or motor intelligence with many different physical subdomains, as well. But we do think of someone who is a whiz with numbers or language as intelligent. But being numerate or literate are just types of intelligence…not the whole of it.

Whenever we broaden our definition of intelligence, it allows us to further simplify it. Intelligence isn’t just about knowing, it’s also about doing. That’s where BioFeedback comes in.

BioFeedback is about how sensation and action affect each other in a biological system. They inform each other. When I do this, it feels this way. When I feel this way, I should do this thing.

But to classify AI, we need to brake this model apart into sensation or knowing, and action or doing. There are some AI that focus on knowing. There are some that focus on doing…and they’re both intelligent.

Whenever we see an AI who can do more than us in a particular area, we get scared. This computer can beat our best chess player.  Scary.

But we often forget that is what technology is all about. Technology is about building levers to help us do what we already do…better. A screwdriver can turn a screw better than we can with just our hands.

In much the same way, Google can compile and search through data much faster (and more often than not accurately) than we can. It’s another example of technology doing what we do…only better. Is this really what we’re scared of?

We’re scared of being totally dominated by one entity. We’re scared that there is going to be one technological super organism that can do more and know more than us. There is a risk of that.

But we haven’t built AI to be centralized. In Kevin Kelly’s book, THE INEVITABLE, he makes note that AI is decentralized. We’re making individual devices smarter.

And we’re making them smarter for a simple reason – to better suit us. Machines are extensions of us, not entirely separate. We’re worried about machines connecting to each other, yet that is not AI’s trajectory.

AI’s trajectory is to better connect to us. And if we can better connect to AI, we can better connect to ourselves. AI isn’t going to take us over, it’s going to help us get over.

With AI, our NI (natural intelligence) will grow allowing us to do more and know more than ever before. How can I make that prediction? Because that what’s always happened.

THE BIGGEST LEVER

archimedes-300x224At our BioChemistry course, one of the highlights was the delineation of bodily functions. One more of the macro end, certain functions were enumerated. Included in that list were functions such as breathing, hydrating, sleeping, and eating.

These were ordered in terms of how long you could go without them. Breathing was numbered first, of course. But this wasn’t the only way they were classified.

Another way to look at functions is through the lens of leverage. Which functions have more leverage over the others? Which functions change others the most?

In his book, OUTLIERS, Malcolm Gladwell highlights the unusual degree of health of the members of a community. Researchers tried to ascertain what was behind their robust health. They started with the usual suspects.

It wasn’t what they ate or didn’t eat. It wasn’t what they drank or didn’t drink. It wasn’t their work or the work they didn’t do.

It all came down to one term in the first sentence. Community. The social function was the lever behind the extraordinary health of this community…and we explain why this is the case.

There aren’t that many ways to breathe, or to meet your necessity for atmosphere, especially oxygen. There are a few more ways to drink, or to deliver water into your system. While there are phases for sleep, and all are necessary, there aren’t many variations to meet that necessity.

And when it comes to eating, in the microscopic way, you need the macronutrients of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. You also require a host of micronutrients which are usually present in nutrient rich foods. And while there are many ways to move, each musculoskeletal movement is easily enumerated and measured.

But when we look at the magnitude of social relationships, and the fact that a functional social group can number up to 150 people, and all the numerous 1 on 1 relationships as well as smaller group relationships that can form, it’s no wonder that socialization is such a protective factor…compared to the rest of our functions. In number, social functions dwarf all other functions.

It’s for that reason that our social competence and practice should be just as important if not more important than diet, exercise, and sleep. Being social is not only what keeps us alive, being social is what makes a life. A life shared with others is a life lived best.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

what does it all mean - spiritual and philosophical question in vintage wooden letterpress prinitng blocks isolated on white

I have heard brains referred to as meaning making machines. They are…at least part of them. While there are redundancies across the hemispheres, there are also specializations.

One of the things the right side specializes in is forming a narrative, or making meaning out of an experience. This is what makes life worth living to many of us, the meaning of it all. Some will say that life has no meaning other than what we give it. I disagree.

In EVOLUTION, A NEW TESTAMENT, I argue that what makes life worth living are the forces that shaped us. And if you look at things that make your life worth living, it’s likely to be one, if not all of those forces. We often review these when we go through big life events.

When you’re in the midst of a big life change, it can be hard to make sense of it, much less take meaning from it. And often that change comes along with a commensurate degree of the negative. And it’s easy to become focused on what’s negative.

As an autistic, I’m particularly good at seeing what’s bad and getting looped into it. That loop leads to a spiral. That spiral is often downwards in direction.

To switch directions requires us to switch perspectives. When change comes along, it’s impossible for it to be all bad. While we lose the ability to do what we did before, it leads us to a new question.

“What can I do?” That’s the question that I advocate we ask the most often. But when we have life upending events, it calls for a refinement if that question.

“What can I do now?” Or even better, “What can I do now…that I couldn’t do before?” The answer to this questions offers us a way out.

It offers us a way out of thinking about what we can’t do. And it offers us a way out of feeling the pain of that functional loss. It not only offers us a way out, it offers us a way forward.

Life events change us, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse…but no change leaves us entirely less than before. Life changes aren’t just external changes, they’re internal, as well. That’s why it is imperative to ask, “What can I do now that I couldn’t before?”

That may require to look back at things you couldn’t do before…but wanted to. Or the answer may be things you wanted for your future. Or the answer may be something you haven’t considered yet.

What you can no longer do is no longer your direction, your way out. But what you can do that you couldn’t do before is your new direction. Do the new and you displace the pain of past loss and future lost…with the joy of the future gained.

YOU ARE NOT YOUR ENEMY

man_in_mirror

I’m a student of all things psychology oriented. The mind, the brain, and the nervous system, are all favorite topics of mine. I see each misrepresented in laypeople all the time.

The mind isn’t what we think it is. It isn’t running the show. You, the conscious you especially, aren’t really running much of the show.

You, the conscious you, play a part in your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. But your role is more minor than you would want it to be. And for this topic, that’s a good thing.

Your mind is not the enemy. Your brain isn’t the enemy. You are not your enemy.

Knowing and doing are two different things. This is intuitive to us. We can know what the right thing is to do and yet not do it. That’s for a good reason.

The lower, older parts of our brain that are more responsible for our feelings and our habits and have more control over our behavior than the newer parts of our brain. The new parts of our brain are more responsible for our consciousness…including thinking. Thinking (or knowing) and doing are very different in the brain, too.

And when we don’t do what what we wish we would, we can make it worse by thinking worse of ourselves. We can be ashamed ourselves…and shame makes us hide as opposed to making us try to do better. Feeling too bad about doing “bad” makes bad even worse.

When you view yourself, or some part of yourself, as an enemy, you engage in self harming behaviors. I don’t mean anything as obvious as “cutting” or issues of that ilk. Your own thoughts hurt you…literally.

The so-called negative emotions increase catabolic processes in your body. Catabolism is a necessary part of metabolism. When it runs amok, your body starts (over)eating itself.

You may hate the way think or the way you feel or the way you act…but the act of hate makes changing the way you think, feel, or act even harder. The act of hate makes the actor worse.

Hate makes the actor dumb, forgetful even. Forgetful of where the hate started. Forgetful that hate came before the actor.

It’s my belief that we over-identify with our conscious mind. And this leads to the misconception that we are our own worst enemy. “I’m thinking all of these bad thoughts right now, so I’m self sabotaging.”

That thinking would be accurate if all the self sabotaging thoughts originated with you, but that’s not how it works. We aren’t born blank slates. We only need to look at our parents or our children to see the power of genetics, of nature. And in some cases, nurture plays as big a role as nature.

I mention nature and nurture to remind you that almost of all of “you” was inherited and learned. You didn’t spontaneously harm yourself with your own language..you were first harmed with language. You’re not your own worst enemy, and if you think you are, you’ve internalized the enemy…thinking him (or her or them) to be you.

Self harm doesn’t start with the self…but for it to end, the self has to start. The conscious part of you has to wrestle with what you’ve inherited and what you’ve learned. And how you win that match requires a change in focus. It requires you to be aware of two things.

The first is how you feel. When you don’t think, feel, or act as you’d like and would like to change it, how you feel matters. You only need to feel “bad” enough about undesirable thoughts, feelings, and actions in order to want to change. But changing requires better feelings.

Whenever we feel bad, our ability to act is impeded. Think of when you’re physically sick. You can’t function as much, right? And that same goes for when you’re emotionally feeling bad.

Feeling better requires a modicum of self compassion. It requires an understanding that you simply haven’t learned to act, think, or feel as you’d like to. No one taught you yet…and so now it’s up to you to change.

And the change is hastened along if you can learn to be kind, patient, and understanding with yourself and all your shortcomings. This brings us to our second focus: action. No matter how bad you feel, and whatever you can’t do, instead of being your own worst enemy and become your best friend?

Can you help yourself find that one thing that will help you feel better? Can you continue doing so? Can you keep finding those thoughts and actions that you make you feel better until you’re convinced that you’re no longer your own worst enemy?