DR.DAVID CHRISTIAN,  SCIENTIFIC MODESTY & SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

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DR.DAVID CHRISTIAN,  SCIENTIFIC MODESTY & SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

Can we bring the study of evolution to schools? Can children be taught that we are one big evolutionary entity? Can we instill the spirit of enquiry and keep young minds away from mischief?

A meeting in the midst of books was in order as I had the privilege to get some of Dr.David Christians’ time and views.

In this blog, I’ve been on ajourney, exploring how human beings got the gift of language. Consciousness has played a major role in human beings acquiring the gift of language. But by and large, we do not understand consciousness, yet.

Somewhere, since the beginning of time, 13.7 billion years ago, to the cognitive revolution roughly 70000 years ago, we got both consciousness and language- we don’t know the order.This is nothing short of a miracle- and our ability to communicate with each other has saved our species- and may save humanity itself in future.

The clue to ending the violence and unrest in the world, may just lie in a greater appreciation of where we have come from. Young minds in schools all over the world, can be instilled with the spirit of enquiry. A mind once opened by possibilities, is more likely to see all of humanity as one great evolutionary entity. There is nothing so dangerous as uninspired young minds- they set out to mischief & violence.

Dr. David Christian shared that most of our understanding of the world today is owed to scientific modesty- our scientists admit what they do not know- and keep looking for answers. Reproducing here a part of our discussions.

Would there be big history if there was no consciousness?

Neuroscientists around the world have been looking at consciousness, and have been advancing evidence-based theories about it- there’s a lot of good work being done. Consciousness is one of the three big questions we are grappling with today.

Consciousness is a complex arrangement within the brain- and it’s only fair that from time to time, we talk about collective consciousness, as opposed to individual consciousness.

Is consciousness fundamental?

Referencing the now famous discussion between Nagasena and Milinda, a lot of our answers may lie in the theory of emergence. The property of a system is said to be emergent if it is in some sense more than the “sum” of the properties of the systems’ parts. An emergent property is said to be dependent on some more basic properties (and their relationships and configuration), so that it can have no separate existence.

The Homo sapiens drove the most resilient species to extinction, the Homo erectus. What role did our consciousness play in that?

We certainly know that language played a role. But unless we have hardcore scientific evidence, any discussion on consciousness would only make for interesting theory. What science needs is evidence- not theory. For eg; there is scientific evidence that energy congeals to form matter- the very basis of big history; but none yet to show that energy could congeal to form consciousness.

Would you rather the earth was hit by another asteroid and wiped out Homo sapiens? Or will it be violence?

65 mn years ago, that’s how the dinosaurs bid adieu; thanks to an asteroid. Our history, at least over the last 200 years has seen a lot of violence. It is encouraging that; there is evidence that violence is declining around the world. However, to keep violence at bay, we need to inspire our young minds with the spirit of inquiry- there is nothing so dangerous as unemployed youth.

Finally, Dr Christian had a question for me-  if you never talked to one other human being in your whole life, would you be the same person?

No. Even though our experience of the world is uniquely ours, it is influenced by the collective; because consciousness is a social phenomenon and there is such a thing as a shared experiences and collective consciousness. In any group situation, revolutions around the world and

Two recent interviews of Dr. David Christian attached.

May 22, The Edge.org: “We Need a Modern Origin Story: A Big History”, electronic publication & video interview, The Edge.Org, http://edge.org/conversation/david_christian-we-need-a-modern-origin-story-a-big-history

May 23, the Australian Financial Review: “Lunch with the AFR: David Christian, Bill Gates and their Big Adventure”, http://www.afr.com/lifestyle/food-and-wine/lunch-with-the-afr-david-christian-bill-gates-and-their-big-history-adventure-20150522-13c9da.

About Dr.David Christian.

Dr. Christian is credited with coining the term Big History and he serves as president of the International Big History Association. His course entitled Big History caught the attention of philanthropist Bill Gates who is personally funding Christian’s efforts to develop a program to bring the course to high school students worldwide.

5 arguments: The X factor in entrepreneurship is courage

Reproducing here my column from your story.com

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Entrepreneurs rarely bear grudges. Not for them, the expensive pursuits of the ego. Often, investors are dismissive of very raw ideas, and they don’t mince words. Entrepreneurs’ ideas get rejected  all the time — but it goes down only so far. The same investor is more than welcome to see logic in the business in 12 months’ time, and offer series A funding. The entrepreneur is only too happy to let bygones be bygones, forgive wholeheartedly and absorb the funding.

The ability to forgive anyone and everyone is the first argument that the X-factor in entrepreneurship is courage. Only the truly courageous can forgive and move on!

We all know we make our world more significant by the courage of our questions. Courage is the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.

Let’s look at four more arguments.  (Please note that some of it is deliberately exaggerated for a hearty laugh.)

Argument 2: Perseverance

Entrepreneurs often forget which pocket they placed their visiting card in! (There are normally two suits, the college convocation suit and the wedding suit). Rummaging and fumbling, they mutter breathlessly about a project that has currently immersed them in its vice-like grip. It is a moment’s work for them to have rattled off 100 words in 30 seconds that make sense to them and them alone. Scan a networking dinner, and you will spot startups a mile away — because they don’t care how much food they spill, on themselves, or on the floor, as long as they get to meet ‘that VC guy’ whose wallet shines with possibility. And this goes on, dinner after dinner, rejection after rejection. There is no diminishing the enthusiasm of the startup that has a business idea to sell!  From an unrefined amoeba of an idea, to a full-blown revenue model, the startup stumbles in and out of half-meetings and networking dinners till he secures his first angel investment.

Argument 3: Danger is real, but fear is a choice.

The home rent is not paid. The better half is hopping mad and does not understand your passion. You have no idea where you will be in three months’ time. Better still, unless asked, these questions don’t even arise in your mind.

Somewhere inside, you know that, sooner or later, your work will do the talking. This belief is all-consuming and everything else can wait. The degree of self-belief, by itself, is often the defining factor in the varying levels of success between any two entrepreneurs.

Argument 4: Adaptability

Customer interfaces bring out the best in entrepreneurs. If a situation calls for it, they can instantly profess to have an interest in classical music – give them 24 hours, and before the next meeting, they have read up about Pdt. Bhimsen Joshi and Lalgudi Jayaraman, both! Interest areas can be newts, astrophilia or even Karl Marx! So long as the discussion can be put off till the next Google search (answer nature’s call if need be), love for unknown things can be professed to advance a conversation.

Argument 5: Venturing

All an entrepreneur needs to be told is: “Why don’t you go and meet this guy? He can really help you.” The dinner plate is down, and quicker than Edward Cullen in ‘Twilight’ saga, the entrepreneur will be out of the room,  looking up the  six degrees of separation between him and “the man who can help” on LinkedIn.

The best part is the awkwardness of wanting people’s time and attention without really knowing them or needing an introduction, does not cross the mind at all. Venturing wherever needed, taking charge and not worrying about upsetting people comes with the startup welcome kit. All in a day’s work.

Summing up

On a serious note, courage evolved through time when our ancestors wanted to overcome the climatic challenges to live. Courage evolved when there was something they wanted to call their own, and had the gumption to fight to claim it and preserve it. Courage evolved when human consciousness allowed for slightly more complex thought.

Forgiveness, perseverance, belief, adaptability and venturing are five manifestations of courage itself. Interestingly, courage is what we look for, even in leaders, in our spouses, our partners and our friends. Courage, by virtue of what it means, is closely related to “massive determined action.” This is the X-factor of all entrepreneurship.

Heres the link.
http://yourstory.com/2015/05/x-factor-in-entrepreneurship/

A THEORY FOR CONSCIOUSNESS: IS IT OUR SIXTH SENSE?

consciousness

I’m writing this article- you’re reading it. Thanks to something called consciousness.

Some postulate that consciousness is fundamental, like gravity. (credit: David Chalmers)

In that case, is consciousness older than language? Lets examine what experts have said.

No discussion on consciousness, can be complete without a mention of Julian Jaynes, who said that that the human brain, until very recently (~3000 years ago) was truly split into very distinct hemispheres: the left half allowed a person to function in day-to-day routine matters; the right side came into play under stress, providing guidance through hallucinated voices, usually those of authority figures, alive or dead leaders, or gods.

People were not self-conscious, and operated almost as automatons in responding to the hallucinated voices. This phenomenon provided social stability, order, and safety in ancient societies.

Many experts argue against this today.

For instance, did homo habilis, who created tools, gesture to a fellow homo habilis to pass it to him?

And if yes, did that act demand consciousness? Possibly.

Considering that consciousness goes to sleep when we go to sleep, and awakens when we get up, isn’t consciousness much older than 3000 years? Walker and Stickold (2004) postulated that there is strong evidence that that sleep enhances or assists learning. Hence, sleep was an important part of evolution itself.

In that case, what went to sleep, when early homo went to sleep? Surely, it was their consciousness that went to sleep (even if it was not as evolved as we understand it today)

Earlier in this blog, we have surmised that somewhere between 90000 years ago and 40000 years ago, speech made its first appearance. Modern language is a much more evolved phenomenon, while sound and sign language could date 4mn years ago.

We needed consciousness to speak and gesture coherently.

Much of archaeological evidence has emerged after Jaynes published his theory. Hence, probably in relative terms, we can describe consciousness more accurately today. Chances are, logically, that more evidence will create better understanding in the future.

Our brains have a lot of similarities with those of our ancestors going back 40,000 years. It seems highly probable that consciousness co-evolved with brains as a successful survival strategy.

For instance, consciousness and communication would’ve been be critical to helping groups of homo sapiens to coordinate and survive great climactic changes.

My theory of consciousness is, that as each sense evolved, sight, touch, smell, hearing and speech, consciousness evolved in tandem with it, gradually, as a combination of all of the above. Consciousness is the glue that connects the meaning of all the other senses.

I also believe that consciousness evolves at a faster pace than the other senses. Ironically, it’s the other senses, that are helping consciousness evolve faster.

We adapt, accept and conceive things that do not exist, not because of sight, smell, taste, touch or speech alone, but thanks to our imagination.

I am sure everyone would agree that imagination definitely falls into the realm of what we call “conscious understanding of current surroundings and future possibilities.”

So I argue, further that consciousness, like energy, cannot be seen. This is logical. Borrowing some lines from David Christians brilliant Ted talk, “history of the world in 18 minutes”, we know that

  1. The universe began 13.7 billions ago. There was no time and no space.
  2. First energy congealed to form matter.
  3. Floating hydrogen and helium atoms, compacted by gravity, gave us stars.
  4. The solar system was formed 4.5 billion years ago. The universe gained chemical complexity. Then there were planets, with water in it.
  5. We definitely have carbon, and other exotic combinations between elements, to thank for all the living beings we have today.

So far, so good. Energy was the starting point. So is consciousness, like energy, also 13.7 billion years old?

Unlikely. Consciousness has been described as the state of being awake and aware of what is happening around you, and of having a sense of self.

This could be more easily applied to living beings- and perhaps modern day machines too?

So perhaps, we need to put a date to the first “conscious” act. Is “motion” the first conscious act? Moving towards something- food for instance?

If yes, then consciousness is definitely much older than we think it is today.

More thoughts soon!

If you want to shoot, shoot! Don’t talk.

good bad ugly

If you want to shoot, shoot! Don’t talk.

This line in the cult western classic, “the good, the bad and the ugly” encourages you to do what you need to do in the moment- “position your brand and service” sharply, as opposed to “talking about it”

What is the current market problem? Does your product or service solve the problem? Have you managed to make your customer see it?

In the 1990s, “fair and lovely” was a product that would “make you look better and get a better husband.”

Today, with changing times, “fair and lovely” is a product used by many women, “to feel better about themselves (self-confidence).”

From wanting a “better husband” to “wanting a better life, where family and career were both important” Fair and Lovely has positioned and re-positioned itself to be relevant.

While some of these could have been “their own realizations”, some were prompted by aggressive competition that communicated better. Learning from the customer, and learning why the customer is responding to competition, is always a good thing in business.

Positioning your product or service is “precision communicating”. Such precision communication requires homework. Truckloads of it! Such as-

  1. Observing customers when they interact with your product/service.
  1. What were they seeking, to the exception of all else?
  1. Out of the 10 attributes present in your product/service, were there some they didn’t even notice? What is the dead cost of those features?
  1. If there is an existing product in the category, is it doing better or worse than you and why?
  1. What are the established prejudices in your industry that you have to be aware of? Have you done something about it?
  1. Is your pricing compatible with the customer you feel is your TG?
  1. Is there another way to fulfil the same need, without paying the price you’re asking for?
  1. Do you learn from the customers who’ve accidentally discovered what they like about

your product?

  1. Are you using this learning to help more customers discover your product?
  1. Is your business about scale or about service? Volume or specialization? Do you need to be available at more accessible points or with more enhanced service proposition in fewer locations?

Put pen to paper and ask yourself these questions.

Positioning can be developed consciously, but oftentimes develops through trial and error and the natural evolution of a business. Understanding your business’ positioning is vital, and is the baseline for strong marketing strategies and execution, and in the end will determine the success or failure of your business.

Whether you are a small corporation or large, your product talks to your customer. Guiding this conversation is the key. The words and creative concepts you use, create an image in the mind of the consumer, which is pre-coloured by 4 billion years of evolution. Make sure you contribute to creating the right image.

Daniel Amen: Brain Capability, Evolution and a Question

brain

The homo sapien brain was extremely capable. So much so that it managed to be the only surviving species. As we evaluate various aspects of what could have led to us developing language, here’s a look at how powerful the brain really is. How capable it would ve been of shaping the course of history- and how capable we are, as a species, of actually improving life expectancy, finding new inhabitable worlds and complex global structures that do not exist today.

Not in my words- In Dr.Daniel Amen’s words.

Your brain is involved in everything you do.

Your brain is the organ of your personality, character, and intelligence and is heavily involved in making you who you are.

Your brain controls everything you do, feel, and think. When you look in the mirror, you can thank your brain for what you see. Your brain controls whether you hit the gym or sit at the computer to check your Facebook page. If you feel the need to light up a cigarette or drink a couple cups of java, that’s also your brain’s doing.ACTION STEP Remember that your brain is involved in everything you do, every
decision you make, every bite of food you take, every cigarette you smoke, every worrisome thought you have, every workout you skip, every alcoholic beverage you drink, and more.
Daniel G. Amen, Change Your Brain, Change Your Body: Use Your Brain to Get and Keep the Body You Have Always Wanted

“Having a sense of purpose, as well as connections to past and future generations, allows us to reach beyond ourselves to affirm that our lives matter. Without a spiritual connection, many people experience an overriding sense of despair. Morality, values, and a spiritual connection to others and the universe are critical for many people to feel a sense of wholeness and connection, and a reason to get up in the morning and to take good care of themselves.”
Daniel G. Amen, Unleash the Power of the Female Brain: Supercharging yours for better health, energy, mood, focus and sex

So here’s the Question!

Where can you take the human race, if you have full control over your brain? Just look back at how far we have come. The mobile phone in your hand – could’ve been part of a magic show in the 1970s. Whats the magic show of 2040 going to be? Be alive, be alert to the possibilities of your mind.

Positioning is more returns for less headache!

Positioning is about setting yourself apart from the rest- in "usage" terms.
Positioning is about setting yourself apart from the rest- in “usage” terms.
The focus of this blog is to connect the dots- from how we evolved as a species- acquired language and how we use it to communicate today.

Positioning is the pinnacle of all communication- like the six-pack abs of body constitution. Everyone would love to have it- but its not easy to achieve and maintain.

Positioning is more returns for less headache!

In our “overcommunicated universe”, no brand or person or institution, has the luxury of being indecisive- hence the need for a sharp positioning (the process of identifying an appropriate market niche for a product, service or brand and getting it established it in that market)

When most entrepreneurs/organisations/marketers hear the word “positioning,” they think “very big brands.”

They lament that they cannot lose some of their customers, because ‘positioning’ makes it look as though they’re interested in only a ‘certain kind’ of customer.

Nothing could be farther from the truth, and it’s actually quite the opposite.

It is true that bigger brands have a little more ‘room for error’ than smaller businesses- but if any business should write a brand positioning, it is the small business or an entrepreneur or an organisation that’s looking to strengthen its position in the marketplace. It doesn’t cost a dime to write one, and it could save hours of time and enormous resources.

For one simple reason: focus.

Positioning is more returns for less headache!

Focus is a companies’ best friend, and a well-crafted brand positioning can bring greater focus than ever before. Simply put pen to paper and add some clarity to your activities- and share this with your agency-

You have to decide-

a. who is the most profitable target customer (80% revenue)

b. who is the definitive business to compete with (parallel offerings)

c. what you can best bring to the marketplace (what your customers come to you for?)

d. how to connect emotionally (what do your customers feel when they interact with you- relief from pain? Break from hunger? Time saved? Convenience? In safe hands? Protected?)

Once you know what ‘value’ to bring to mind, its very easy for you to figure out everything else. In the short term, it may appear that you’re losing customers- in the long term, you will be spending far lesser money- by targeting your communication- to people who ‘have use for it.’

Your positioning is a gift of prioritization that no other document can give you.

Your brand-positioning statement can give you the clarity you need to move your business forward. And yes, always remember that positioning is not about being “stuck”. Within your core positioning, you evolve to be consistent with a changing world.

We are closest to chimpanzees among the four apes.  

Picture courtesy: http://ohmygodfacts.com/7-interesting-chimpanzee-facts/2/

A human hemoglobin molecule differs from its chimpanzee counterpart in only a single amino acid.
A human hemoglobin molecule differs from its chimpanzee counterpart in only a single amino acid.

The study of positioning cannot be complete without understanding how we interpret and use language.

The study of how we acquired language cannot be complete without understanding how we evolved.

Anthropologists across the world have made the task of a learner like me easier. They have done all the hardwork and I am only proposing some theories. In bullet points, with more references and gratitude than I can possibly express- heres a critical view to our evolution.

  1. Considerable controversy exists about the identity of the first hominoid.
  2. Studies of ape DNA have explained a great deal about how the living apes evolved. The Asian apes evolved first. The line of apes leading to gibbons diverged from other apes about 15 million years ago, while orangutans split off about 10 million years ago (see figure 23.3). Neither are closely related to humans.
  3. The African apes evolved more recently, between 6 and 10 million years ago. These apes are the closest living relatives to humans; some taxonomists have even ad-vocated placing humans and the African apes in the same zoological family, the Hominidae
  4. We are closest to the chimpanzees, than any other kind of ape. This is well-established. Based on genetic differences, scientists estimate that gorillas diverged from the line lead-ing to chimpanzees and humans some 8 million years ago.
  5. What is particularly bizarre, is that because this split was so recent, the genes of humans and chimpanzees have not had time to evolve many genetic differences. For example, a human hemoglobin molecule differs from its chimpanzee counterpart in only a single amino acid. In general, humans and chimpanzees exhibit a level of genetic similarity normally found between closely related sibling species of the same genus.
  6. The common ancestor of apes and hominids is thought to have been an arboreal climber. Much of the subsequent evolution of the hominoids reflected different approaches to locomotion. Hominids became bipedal, walking up-right, while the apes evolved knuckle-walking, supporting their weight on the back sides of their fingers

When you are bipedal, a major part of the weight of your body is supported by your feet.

This alters many things, the gait, the relative position of the head to the rest of the body, the extensive freedom that the forelimbs (hands get) to accomplish other things rather than just support locomotion.

Seen over a few hundred years, each attribute contributes to a unique aspect of our evolution.