Tuesday, July 16, 2013

MOOC's are Life Enhancing!

MOOC's (Massive Open Online Courses) are incredible. As Wikipedia explains it:
"A massive open online course (MOOC) is an online course aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for the students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs). MOOCs are a recent development in distance education."
Some of the best Universities in the world are putting courses onto MOOC's. I'm now positively addicted to doing MOOC's. My favorite MOOC Portal is Coursera. It has hundreds and hundreds of amazing courses, from incredible Universities and facilitated by some of the top Researchers and Professors in their respective fields. I've now done courses from places like Duke University, with lectures and lessons delivered by people such as Prof. Dan Arieley. I absolutely love it! It's so life enhancing. I get to sit in the comfort of my own home, and tune into and turn onto learnings that I could never have a few years ago. And they are all open and free. What's even better is that you get a Certificate (providing you complete the course and meet the required standards for the course) that you can use with your resume. How cool is that!

So if you haven't already discovered MOOC's, then now is the time! Jump on over to Coursera, and take a look at the feast of courses provided. Sign up for some. Then enjoy involving yourself in the learning tribe for that course. Take your knowledge to new levels.

As I've pointed out in earlier blog posts, learning is important and life enhancing. If you'd like to know the distinctions I made on this, take a look at:
Continue to enhance your life by involving yourself in ongoing learning. By learning you stimulate neural-plasticity, you grow new neurons and new connections in your brains. You make yourself more intelligent and bring greater knowledge and wisdom to your world. And that is truly life enhancing and generative!

life and learning enhancing wishes

Friday, July 12, 2013

Your thoughts leave traces...

"New research shows that spontaneous waves of neuronal activity in the brain bear the imprints of earlier events for at least 24 hours after the experience has taken place."

Prof. Rafi Malach

This is profound! The implications of this new research are quite life changing and life enhancing. Let me explain.

I just came across this amazing new research in an article in Science News entitled: 'Past Brain Activation Revealed in Scans: Brain Activity Patterns Preserve Traces of Previous Cognitive Activity' and knew I had to read about it and share it. In the experiment, Prof. Rafi Malach and colleagues at the Weizmann Institute Neurobiology Department had volunteers undertake a training exercise that would strongly activate a well-defined network of nerve cells in the frontal lobes. To test whether the connections created in the brain during this exercise would leave their traces in the patterns formed by the resting brain waves, the researchers performed fMRI scans on the subjects before the exercise, immediately afterward, and 24 hours later.

Their findings, which appeared in the Journal of Neuroscience, showed that the activation of the specific areas in the cortex did indeed remodel the resting brain wave patterns. Surprisingly, the new patterns not only remained the next day, they were significantly strengthened. These observations fit in with the classic learning principles proposed by Donald Hebb in the mid-20th century, in which the co-activation of two linked nerve cells leads to long term strengthening of their link, while activity that is not coordinated weakens this link. The fMRI images of the resting brain waves showed that brain areas that were activated together during the training sessions exhibited an increase in their functional link a day after the training, while those areas that were deactivated by the training showed a weakened functional connectivity.

Think about this, we know that the brain exhibits neural-plasticity, the ability to grow new connections, new neurons, new dendrites, new synapses, and to strengthen the functional plasticity of existing connections. We know that the process of thinking changes the structure of the brain. And now this new research shows in part how this is occurring. When you think thoughts, when  you activate neural circuits, the activation and the pattern of activation continues to fire and run even 24 hours after the initial activation. Your thoughts echo and linger in the physical structures and circuits of your brain long after you've stopped consciously attending to them. And these thoughts and thinking patterns change the structure of your brain.

The implications of this, are as I said above, profound. This means that thoughts aren't mere thoughts, not fleeting ideas or notions that once come and gone are actually gone. Thoughts leave traces that can be viewed with an fMRI up to 24 hours later. Thoughts are like stones that leave ripples on the pond of your mind. They create ongoing propensities and priming of the neural circuits. So you need to be the guardian of the thoughts and neural activation occurring in your brain. Make sure you think thoughts and hold ideas that serve you. Make sure you are throwing into your pond, the sorts of stones that will create ripples that add value to your life. The ripples eventually become new brain structures. And this causes your brain to evolve new structures and patterns that lead to propensities for thinking and feeling in certain ways.

You become what you focus on. Your thoughts and feelings leave traces. You are either enhancing your life with your thoughts or doing the opposite. So make certain to focus on positivity, on love, on the Highest Expressions of Compassion, Creativity and Courage. And you can be certain that this propensity of neural networks to continue to activate neural circuit patterns is NOT just happening in the head brain. It will also be happening in the heart and gut brains too! You are the gardener of your multiple brains, you are the one who plants the seeds of thinking, feeling and activation in your head, heart and gut brains. You can choose to focus on those ways of mBraining (of using your multiple brains to do cool stuff) that bring your human spirit alive, and as you do now, you'll have been finding that this way of being and doing continues to leave traces and echoes for way longer than just 24 hours.

You can evolve your brains and your world! And that is truly truly life enhancing.

with positive joy and smiles

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mastering Accelerating Change

"If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less.”
General Eric Shinseki

[The following post is excerpted from my upcoming book 'Avoiding the Enemies to Happiness']

The world is changing, and changing at a massive and accelerating rate. More information, more stimulus, new ways of doing things, faster ways of doing things in an ongoing race that touches us in every way. Technological change is driving business change, societal change, environmental change and even personal change. It can be a struggle to just keep up.

To understand how massive this change is and how it’s accelerating at an ever growing rate, to get a graphic sense of just how fast the change is accelerating, you need to see a few graphs. Let’s start by looking at the amount of invention in the world. Technological invention drives change in our lives. New ways of doing things change the way we work, the way we live and just about every aspect of our lives.

Below is a graph of the number of patents filed in the United States per year. You can see that the graph starts relatively flat, with a small rate of growth over the last 100 years. Indeed, the amount of invention over the last couple of thousand years has been relatively small compared to recent growth. But look what happens from about 1980 onwards. The graph starts to rise and rise at a sharper and sharper rate.

[Source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (http://www.uspto.gov)]

The shape of this graph is known as an exponential curve. This shape comes about due to a process of growth in which the size increases by a fixed multiple over time. For example, in computing there is a law known as ‘Moore’s Law’, coined by Gordon Moore, one of the inventors of the Microprocessor. Moore’s Law predicts that the power of computing will double approximately every 2 years. To get a sense of this, imagine that we start off with 1 unit of computing power. In 2 years time this will have doubled to 2 units. In a further 2 years, we will have 4 units of computing power. Two years later this will double to 8 units, then 16 units, 32 units, 64 units and so on. You can see from this that at first things appear to be growing slowly, but as the size increases, the doublings really start to make a powerful difference. This is the power of exponential growth. Once you reach the turning point, the graph just takes off and explodes upwards.

Importantly, it turns out that exponential growth – that is massively accelerating growth and change – is not just happening in the price/performance of computing. As you’ve seen from the previous graph, the number of patents for inventions is changing at an exponential rate and it’s now at the near vertical rate of growth. This accelerating rate of invention is in part what is driving Moore’s Law in the area of electronics and computing. And these massive changes in computing have lead to the growth and uptake of the internet. Let’s take a look at what its growth looks like.

[Source: Internet Systems Consortium, Inc. (http://www.isc.org/)]

You can see from this graph that it’s the same sort of curve and that the rate of growth of the internet is now in the near vertical part of the curve. So what does this mean? It means that the rate at which the internet is growing and changing is massively accelerating. More change and quicker change. Incredible.

The rate of invention development is also feeding other diverse areas such as:
  • Genetic Engineering: Number of genes mapped per year
  • Medical Technology: Resolution of brain scanning devices
  • Industry: Manufacturing productivity rates
  • Economics: World Economic Growth in GDP.
When graphed, these all show exponential growth and are now in the near vertical parts of their growth curves. Science Philosophers have been examining these trends and have shown that these growth curves are all due to an underlying accelerating growth in world knowledge. If we take each unit of knowledge in the world, whether you consider it to be an invention, an idea, a book or a web page and we graph the number of these over time, we find… yes you guessed it, an exponential curve.

You can clearly see that the world is now at a point where the exponential change is producing massively accelerating growth. We are on the steep point of the curve and it’s only going to get bigger and steeper from here. You see, the limits now are not going to be human limits. We are creating intelligent automated systems that are designed to create and generate ideas and knowledge themselves. For example, we now have millions of web pages created each day by ‘know-bots’ (knowledge robots) – automated systems that crawl the web and synthesize, integrate and generate new web pages. Add in Moore’s Law to this and you’ll see that these bots are going to get faster and more powerful and more plentiful.

So what does this mean to you?

Well, as one interesting YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmwwrGV_aiE) created by Dr. Scott McLeod and Karl Fisch puts it: “Shift happens”.

Yes, your world is going to continue to change in massively accelerating ways. Society is changing and changing massively. Work is going to change immensely. Economics is going to change in accelerating ways. The way you live and connect is going to continue and continue to change... massively! You’ll have to keep up. If you don’t you’ll get run over. In order to stay economically viable, you’ll have to continue to learn and adapt. Or like the dinosaur you’ll become extinct. There’s no ignoring it. There’s no escaping it.

This massively accelerating change means there will always be ‘too much, too soon’ in our lives. Unless you become a change master and learn to ride the wave of change, your happiness will suffer. The stress and overwhelm of ‘too much, too soon’ are enemies to happiness. The good news is that there are skills, attitudes and strategies you can use to increase your resilience and embrace change so that it enhances your life. If you fight change, it will literally kill you. The stress of massive change can impact your mental, emotional and importantly your physical health.

"Worry and stress affects the circulation, the heart, the glands, the whole nervous system, and profoundly affects heart action.”
Charles W. Mayo, M.D.

There are ways of learning to embrace change, to be comfortable with it, to value it in your heart, to not feel threatened by it at a gut level. You can learn to bring wisdom to how you embrace change and to evolve with it. The neural networks of your head, heart and gut brains (see www.mbraining.com for more info about this) have neural-plasticity. You can literally learn to evolve more complexity and more adaptive ways of processing change. And this is what my upcoming book 'Avoiding the Enemies to Happiness' teaches the behavioral skills and competencies of. So stay tuned for when it hits the Amazon book shelves soon. And in the mean time, if you haven't already, grab a copy of my book 'mBraining - Using your multiple brains to do cool stuff', co-authored with my colleague Marvin Oka, and learn the skills of connecting with and utilizing the intuitive intelligences of your heart and gut brains.

life enhancing wishes