The truth is not out there


I’ve always loved paradoxes and alternative realities.

They are very useful things to be able to embrace if you’re a parent or work with young children. Children operate in a constantly changing, often incoherent and sometimes contradictory reality. As adults we often see our job as to ‘straighten them out’ by getting them to understand ‘the real world’ and to ‘get’ the ‘truth’.

I’ve put all those worlds in inverted commas because I don’t believe in any of them.

(But that’s just me. It is of course possible to prove or disprove a belief in anything you like.)

So what is this ‘truth’ that we are supposed to be weaning them onto?

Here’s an example. Do you believe in Father Christmas? Most dull adults will say ‘no of course not’. Most of the people I hang around with will say, ‘yes’ because they’re a facetious bunch. But the more we think about it, the more that opinion is correct.

Let’s look at the facts: children have a strong image of the Father Christmas/Santa Claus being. There are pictures, films and songs of him. He turns up at school and/or in shops. They write letters to him. There is a mythos surrounding his story, paraphernalia and methods. But most of all: on Christmas morning, presents turn up, just as they have been promised.

This all means that Father Christmas is real. He exists. You can argue with me if you want to and say that it’s daddy who get’s dressed up and/or waits until their asleep. But that just proves my point. The problem with truth is that so many people want to be so blumin’ literal with it. If you want to take it further there are other strands to the mythology of the concept of Father Christmas that are ‘true’ and ‘real’, some positive, some perhaps not so: wishful thinking, positive thinking, hope, greed, consumerism, trust, joy. Those feelings are real.

So to those people who say that encouraging a believe in Father Christmas is ‘lying’ – you’re not only miserable joy snatchers you’re also categorically wrong, according go my evidence and my beliefs.

I’ve heard is said that some people think it’s bad form to let children believe in things that they think ‘aren’t true’. (The list usually includes Father Christmas, faeries and God amongst other things). They think we should tell our children ‘the truth’.

So where do I begin in this quest? And where do I end? Do I tell them about violent pornography and pedophilia? Do I give them the full truth and details of mass murder, torture and cruelty? Do I tell them the details of the Holocaust? Do I explain the pain of dying from cancer? That’s the truth isn’t it? Of course I don’t, and in the moment that I censor any of that ‘truth’, I’m presenting a modified and incomplete vision of the world and  its reality to my children. (And in my opinion, quite rightly so.)

Our children recently watched the Beatles animated film Yellow Submarine. They loved it and began acting out the stories and characters in imaginative play. As a Beatle fan, I have the Beatles records and their other films in the house. Over the past few weeks we’ve also watched A Hard Days Night and Help!

Mabel said, “I wish the Beatles lived in Oxford so that they could come to our house and sing for us”. I wish that too, but I know it’s not possible. I know that the events depicted in those films took place 46 to 48 years ago. I know that Paul is nearly 70 and Ringo is 71. I know that George died of cancer ten years ago and that John was murdered outside his home thirty-one years ago. So do I tell this ‘truth’ to my children, running around the house singing A Ticket to Ride and putting on Liverpool accents and saying “I’ve got a hole in my pocket”?

The answer is of course no. In the same was that I won’t be saying that Mickey Mouse or Scooby Doo is dead. The Beatles aren’t real, not in the sense that our family and friends are real. But in a sense that Thomas the Tank Engine or Tinkerbel is real, then yes they are very much alive. It’s only us boring literal adults, locked into linear time that say they no longer exist.

By the time they realise that Paul McCartney doesn’t now look the same as he did when he was 21 and is as old as their granddad it won’t matter because their understanding of the world will by default have ungraded their own mythologies as their reality changes as they grow.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know I’m a big fan of the television programme Doctor Who. My son is 6 but he’s not watching it because I’m withholding it from him. Why? because he’s what they patronisingly call a ‘sensitive child’. He has no concept of death, and frankly he doesn’t need to have one. Not yet. He will. That will come. But there’s no rush, why should there be? Doctor Who deals with death. It deals with nightmarish monsters that currently have no place in his straightforward problem solving world of Thomas the Tank Engine. So there I am again, creating and maintaining a deliberate different reality to yours (and mine).

My children believe in faeries. I didn’t encourage that belief, but neither have a dissuaded it. The reason is that just like Father Christmas, faeries are real.

My daughter may visualise them as flittering winged creatures, akin to angels, and princesses (and cats, in some surreal way. She’s 4). That’s her reality and who am I to stomp all over it with my Gortex boots.

After all, she’s probably right. Faeries are nature sprites. The small fluttery ones help the flowers bloom. The gnome-like ones work on decomposition and help fungus breakdown rotting matter. What if faeries are our anthropomorphism of these natural processes? That makes them real. I’d go further and suggest that faeries are live, actual beings that do indeed work with flora and vegetation, blossom and decay. Today we tend to call them the more uninspiring names such as butterflies, bees and woodlice. Perhaps faeries are the anthropomorphism of insects? When some people look at them they may see just an insect. Their boring lack of imagination sees a creepy-crawly. I see the miraculous circle of life. If I ingested enough ergot alkaloids I’d probably see pixie faces too, just like our ancestors did.

I’ve got grown up friends who have seen ghosts, spoken to them (and got replies). The fact that I haven’t doesn’t make them wrong either. It doesn’t make their experience less valid. I haven’t seen one and I know nothing about such things. My experience proves nothing about the subject.

The esteemed professor Dawkins and his cohort would have us not believe in God. His non-belief is his own rightly held opinion although he can’t have any evidence for it, only lack of it as you can’t prove a negative. But his assertion that such a belief is like believing in an invisible unicorn or a chocolate teapot in orbit around Mars or a spaghetti monster is not the same thing and his weakest argument. No-one believe in those things because there’s no point in believing in those things. There’s a great point to believing in a creator God or a Father God and many people derive great joy and meaning from their beliefs which is why they have them and keep them. (If someone has a belief that is a threat to others then we may well have to step in to challenge their reality but they’re not the people Dawkins et al go after, preferring instead softer targets, which is a shame.)

If you ever watched the 1990s television series about the unknown, The X Files, then you will be familiar with the phrase ‘the truth is out there’. I think that the truth is NOT out there at all. It’s in here, that is I have my version and you have your version.

Another more useful phrase from that programme was on a poster behind Agent Mulder’s desk. It said, ‘I want to believe’. I like it because it has a positive flexibility within it. I may not be able to believe, but I’ll seek out the evidence accordingly, rather than a default setting of disbelief which is as inflexible as any other dogma.

To those who still maintain that so-called supernatural beings aren’t real and don’t exist: our society has some fashionable concepts that are, by all modern definitions, ‘not real’ and yet we all believe unquestioningly in them. Money being a good example. We all believe in things that very few of us really understand (such as Electromagnetism).

In mathematics there are calculations that cannot be done unless you invoke what it called the ‘imaginary number’, i. It’s determined as the square root of -1, which is impossible (and therefore imaginary). And yet we need it to solve the equations that make our modern world possible as it’s needed for signal processing, control theory, electromagnetism, fluid dynamics, quantum mechanics, cartography and vibration analysis. Some mathematicians describe i as not ‘imaginary’ but ‘pure real’.

We need the imaginary in our lives which it is just as relevant and therefore just as real as anything we can actually see and touch, which, when you come to think of it, is such a tiny proportion of our so-called reality don’t you think?

Perhaps we live mainly in a ‘pure real’ world…

Ayd works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

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The Power of ‘What If?’


The Power of What if? Ayd Instone innovation creativity conference keynoteHow can we trigger innovative thought, consistently, deliberately and when we need it?

One way is to use the power of a simple question. It’s a question at the heart of creativity, invention and imagination. It’s the force behind all creative storytelling, especially Science Fiction which can be defined as ‘What If?’ extrapolated into a story).

The question ‘What If?’ can be thought of as an energy field that can power our creativity. Just like most energies, it can be used to manifest both positive and negative effects with very different results. The qualifying factor to the question is how we relate it to time.

If we ask ‘what if?’ about the past, which we have no control over, it can easily lead to feelings of regret. E.g. “What if that had never happened?”, “What if I’d worked harder?”

But if we apply it to the future it fires our possibility thinking and leads, either directly or indirectly, to hope.

“What if there was a better way to do this?”

If we imagine an undesired outcome in the future, our brains begin to work on methods to prevent that future coming to past, or at least find the path of least damage. Imagining even our worst fears of the future gives us hope because we are still in the present with some chance, however small, to shape and even change the future.

If we imagine a desired outcome, our brains begin to fill in the gaps to speed the passage of the present into the desired future by directing our subconscious to incubate the problem until solutions or opportunities present themselves.

The application of ‘what if?’ fires the imagination and problem solving capacities of the brain and that imagination begins to manifest the emotions of the outcome.

This isn’t an application of the supernatural, so-called ‘law of attraction’. This isn’t about asking the universe, or God, or wishful thinking. This is the relatively simple neuroscience of the imagination.

Negative emotions based on regret will slow us down, but positive emotions based on desired outcomes, hope and wonder, will drive us and motivate us to seek out and manifest the desired outcome.

Wondering ‘what if?’ defines us as scientists, exploring the universe of possibilities. Taking action on those possibilities to manifest an outcomes makes us artists. It’s this blend of being both artist and scientist is what it means to be a creative mind.

Asking the question and seeking the answer is the start of creative innovation. That’s the power of ‘what if?’

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com


The bicameral brain and the origin of leadership


You think you know about the so-called Left and Right brain? Left is logic and Right is arty? Right?

What if it was far more interesting and paradigm shifting than that…

What if the two hemispheres operated as two almost separate brains, two almost different individuals? Today we are beings that have a single identity, our two brains work together to create a consciousness we describe as ‘me’.

But what if that wasn’t always the case? What if the two brains operated as two different identities? The Left being the ‘doer’ and the Right being the ‘instructor’…

What if there was a time, many thousands of years ago when, some psychologists have proposed, that mankind did not have the same kind of consciousness that we have today?

Almost all modern humans today have free-will governed by a stream of consciousness thought conversation that appears to be in our heads. Our heads appear to have a silent, private place where we can weigh up decisions and think through thoughts. Instead of this, ancient man may have been unable to weigh up decisions and not had this internal space.

Julian Jaynes (1920–1997), a psychologist at Princeton University, USA, proposed in 1977 in his controversial but critically acclaimed book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind that humans operated under a previous mentality he called the bicameral (‘two-chambered’) mind. In the place of an internal dialogue, bicameral people experienced auditory hallucinations directing their actions. These hallucinations were interpreted as the voices of chiefs, rulers, or the gods.

The Left and Right brains provided an external voice and an externalised voice. With no internal dialogue, the ‘bicameral’ man would have had to talk out-loud, and not to himself, but to his other voice which he would have heard as if it was external and separate from himself, outside his head. This external voice, originated in his right hemisphere, would communicate decisions and information to him which he heard as auditory hallucinations.

Today, some people still do hear voices telling them what to do. We label them as schizophrenic. If the voices they hear tell them positive things the person tends to think of the voice as coming from an angel (and does not often report the fact). If the voice is negative and nasty people often seek medical advice and label the voice as demonic.  (Various studies suggest that 4% of the population regularly hear voices today).

In a civilisation where everyone externalised their inner voices, the society was used to living amongst angels and demons, or good and bad gods. Their world was structured by individuals responding to the voices of their own personal gods, giving them orders and telling them what to do. We have written accounts that many people not only hallucinated voices, but many actually saw their gods too, sometimes as humanoid beings, sometimes as anthropomorphised animals or talking objects. Some civilisation worshiped the dead, decorating their bodies and brining gifts. They did this not out of loss for the deceased, but because the dead person would still be talking to them and still giving orders from within their crypt.

Such societies were highly organised in strict pyramidal chain of command structures. When the bicameral mind broke down, perhaps due to stress from some natural disaster, those people were left lonely and scared.

Jaynes puts the development of modern consciousness to around the end of the second millennium B.C. in Greece and Mesopotamia with the transition occurring at different times in other parts of the world due to local events or clashes with non-bicameral groups. An example is when the Spanish invaded South America and the bicameral Aztec civilisation collapsed overnight.

The newly conscious people could suddenly no longer hear the voices of their gods and didn’t know what to do. They had no orders to follow but an overwhelming desire to follow. They sought solace from those that could still hear the voices and obeyed their orders instead, setting them up as oracles. When these sought-after individuals became scarcer they were given even more power and priesthoods were invented.

Eventually only the insane or a few rare prophets heard voices at all. Some of the priests would turn to narcotics and rituals to invoke what connection with the gods that they could and would attempt (often successfully) to hear the voices.

Then, for most people, with no reliable connection with the gods was available, the societies had to rely on faith in the old stories and start to guess what the gods may desire them to do today. With the leadership structures still identical to before, things could continue as before, albeit with laws now having to be mutually agreed and the requirement for law enforcement.

The old bicameral command structure is still used in an almost identical way in most religious orders, armies and dictatorships today. Anywhere else, the system doesn’t work with non-bicameral brains as non-bicameral people will think for themselves and often question orders. This has become even more prevalent in the last 50 years, since the end of the Second World War in the West, where the youth have grown up with less and less command structure in their lives. Many people today lack the ability and discipline needed to follow orders as well as a lack of faith in authority, whatever it’s source.

In our wholly post-bicameral age, the voices of the gods are long silent. We need a different kind of leadership based on example setting and inspiration if we are ever to work together again.

(If you’re interested in the Bicameral theory, do read the books The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind and Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes’s Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited)

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com



Invented 100 years ago in 1912


In our modern complex world we tend to think that all the best ideas have been thought of. History proves that is never the case.

Here are 7 inventions that were invented one hundred years ago, in the year of 1912. (Click here for 1913) All of them are still relevant today. Also with all of them, the technology for their operation was already in existence and had been for some time. So they could all have been invented 1, 10 or maybe 50 years earlier. But weren’t.

Most of us don’t invent anything much in our lifetimes. Part of that reason is that we think of invention as grandiose and that we’d need to invent time travel, teleportation or anti-gravity to have invented something worthwhile.

Inventors don’t think like that. Instead they look at a problem, a real problem that they or other people they know actually have. Their inventions are solutions to those real life problems.

Formica
The kitchen worktop surface was invented by Daniel J. O’Conor and Herbert A. Faber who originally conceived it as a substitute for mica used as electrical insulation. It was made of wrapped woven fabric coated with Bakelite thermosetting resin, then slit lengthwise, flattened, and cured in a press. Because the new product acted as a substitute “for mica”, Faber coined the name “Formica”.

The Electric Blanket
Invented by the American physician Sidney I. Russell.

The Zip
A Swede, Gideon Sundback, working in America, invented the zipper.

Belgian chocolates
Chocolate pieces filled with a soft fondant center were invented by Jean Neuhaus II, a Belgian chocolatier.

Slot Cars
The first commercial slot cars (now most famously made by Scalectrix) were made by the Lionel model company in the USA, drawing power from a toy train rail sunk in wide slot between the rails (see pic).

The Traffic Light
The first traffic controlling light was invented in by a Detroit policeman named Lester Wire as a two-color, red-and-green light with a buzzer to warn pedestrians ahead of the impending  change.

The Pentathlon
Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games invented the modern Pentathlon which was was first contested at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm.

We should all be focusing on real life problems within our own spheres of interest and work on how to solve them. Perhaps we too could come up with a solution that would benefit the world.

Don’t get bogged down thinking there’s nothing left to invent. At every point in the history of civilisation where people thought ‘everything that could be invented has been invented’ – it has always been soon followed by an amazing era of progress and invention.

They’ll be nothing left to invent when the world has no more problems to solve. And that’s a long way off….

So have a think. What could YOU invent this year? Can you imagine an idea that will still be in general use in 2112?

Have a look at 10 things that were invented the following year, in 1913, here.

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com



A record for your life


“A record was like a massive flat mp3…. there was almost no information on it at all. It was very impractical – it could break or warp in the heat and get scratched…

…but it was better than your life.”
Stewart Lee

Record player Twist and Shout by the BeatlesI finally got my record player plugged back in. I unplugged it in late December to make room for a seven foot Norwegian Spruce that I’d covered in glass balls and low voltage white bulbs. We’d long since thrown that tree away and vacuumed up thousands of tiny needles and now it was time to re-install just one needle in its place.

There was an air of anticipation and excitement. My three children gathered around. From a massive pile of 7” black discs, some in paper sleeves with pictures on, some in plain green sleeves, they selected one.

Oliver (age 6) slid it out of its cover and I showed him how to place it on the spindle by touching only the edges. I told him to flick the switch on the left to ’45’. I lifted the metal arm over just a little bit and Mabel (age 4) flicked the switch on the right; once to make the platter spin and again to lower the needle into place.

We all watched as the disc span round and round at 45 revolutions per minute. A crackling sound, like that of a well established fire came from the speakers. Then, the room was filled with the booming mono sound of the most energetic 2 minutes and 35 seconds ever committed to the physical realm.

49 years ago, a few young men played and sang live in a recording studio in Abbey Road, London, using their voice boxes, guitars and a drum kit. The sound they’d made caused vibrations in the air which caused magnets to create electronic fluctuations along a wire which cause another magnet to re-arrange the rust particles on a lengthy plastic tape into a pattern.

Later, another magnet was affected by those magnetic particles from the tape causing low level electronic fluctuations in a wire which were amplified by a complex arrangement of glass vacuum valves to move a diamond tipped needle to vibrate. The needle was held still while a lacquered disc spun round at speed, allowing the needle to carve a spiral on its surface.

A mould was made from that lacquered disc and a glass disc was made from the mould. This was then pressed onto millions on lumps of hot vinyl plastic which were flattened into a 7” disc.

One of those discs found its way into a shop in mid 1963 and was bought by my Dad. 18 years ago when I got my own house, I liberated it, and now it was here, spinning around in my lounge with my three children jumping and dancing to the sound of the Beatles performing Twist and Shout live in 2012.

They were in room with us. This was no sample. No abstract digital file in the cloud from zeros and ones in a computer. They were here for real. (As real as a reflection in a mirror of you, is actually you, where a photograph of you is not you.)

That record is a time mirror that reflects their sound, via magnets and needles, right here from the long distant, unimaginable so-called past of 1963 to today, here and now. They were with us, alive and happy and infectious.

But more important that all that was the fact that my children were dancing and singing. Music was real. They could see it. They could touch it. They could choose it.

The past two weeks have seen Oliver become a DJ, going through my collection of singles and albums, intrigued how the large cover images may relate to the secret sounds hidden within the grooves. He’s playing tracks for his sisters to dance to, or draw to, or play to. He wants to be like Ringo and play the drums so he can come with me to my conference performances and provide the beat for my keynote songs.

He’s developed an ‘ear’. Some tracks he says are ‘too noisy’ or ‘too sad’. Mabel has lifted the piano lid and is more considerate in which keys she presses. She knows that some combinations are more pleasing than others. Our youngest is just 20 months old. When the records are on she smiles and dances and twirls.

It’s an involved process to choose which record to put on. You have to make a decision that will involve some physical activity that needs to be done with great care. The records are precious and fragile, and therefore by association, so too is the music. So once a record is on, it needs to play all the way through. It needs to be listened to, to be engaged with. There’s no easy way to change your mind, or to default to ‘shuffle’. You make your choice and stick with it.

Is there a danger, in our perceived search and adopted desire for ‘easy’ and ‘quick’ we are at risk of overlooking the experience altogether? After all, what is music ‘for’?

In our instant coffee, free download, always online world, do we rush through the day to get to the evening? Do we sometimes rush through the week to get to the weekend? Do we rush our children through childhood so they can grow up? And rush them through education so they can get some certificates?

Do we risk rushing the journey of life to get to the destination of the grave in the easiest and shortest possible time? Do we risk taking for granted the complexity of the human experience in order to dumb it down to effortless chicken nuggets that we can consume on the move?

Take a moment.

Dust off your own record player (whatever that might be) and put on a record. Choose it. Touch it. See it. Listen to it. Dance to it. Enjoy it.

Life is not about the needle reaching the run-out groove in the centre of the record.

It’s about the music in between.

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com


And by the way. For those of you who read my blogs and take all the metaphors literally: this is not a blog about replacing new technology with gramophone vinyl records. If you thought that, this blog is not for you. You’ll find material better suited to your taste here.