4 min read

Hardware based bias?

Does the ageing hardware of our brain cause us to think in unproductive ways? (yes, it does).
Hardware based bias?

I'm a big fan of On Opinion, a podcast about the way we think, by a company (Parlia) who is trying to map the world's opinions.

The latest episode of the podcast was all about how our "stone aged brains" are not optimized for our current environment and the challenges the old hardware causes, along with some insightful ways to counteract them.  

Our Stone-Age Brains, with Maren Urner - Parlia
We have stone-age brains, which last evolved many thousands of years ago, and are no longer suited to the challenges of ...

Maren Urner (German neuroscientist, professor and author) goes into fascinating detail in her conversation with Turi Munthe (the host, and my former CEO at Demotix) about this topic.

They cover a wide range of ideas from why or brains are as they are, negativity bias, tribes, how to change, way to thinking, pseudo-dichotomies, and even if we are fit to vote. I highly recommend listening to the episode (and subscribing to the podcast), but wanted to pull out just two interesting things I heard and that got me thinking (a lot).

All decisions are based on emotion?

The idea breaks down like this:

  • Decisions are about preference - picking between options is only possible when you have a preference.
  • Preferences are based on values - how much you like something is based on your value of it.
  • Values are based on emotions - how much you value something, comes down to how it makes you feel.

So this means there is no need to differentiate between rational/emotional decisions - it's all the same. And it's all from the brain, but it not about logic, it's about feelings.

Yet oddly, when we talk about feelings, language puts feelings as originating in the heart. It's everywhere. Maren does something very thought-provoking, replacing "heart" in language with brain, when it comes to decision/thinking.

  • Heart of the matter ➡️ Brain of the matter
  • Heat felt ➡️ Brain felt
  • Heart break ➡️ Brain break

Fun right? Puts a new spin on things. I think there could be a temporal aspect that's missing here, how fast you make the decision and how quickly the decision is linked to the emotion - but it was a fun one to try and grok.

A defence against deficient hardware

Thinking might help us get past the problems with thinking.

Maren discusses an idea called "Dynamic Thinking" as 3 principled preventative, to counterbalance some of the stone aged mental models we have. It's also an important part of Constructive Journalism, which is worth exploring in its own right.

What is Constructive Journalism - Definition - Models - Meaning
Constructive journalism is a response to increasing tabloidization, sensationalism and negativity bias of the media and offers an add on to news coverage.

The 3 principles of Dynamic thinking are:

  1. Ask “what for” not “against what
    Framing a conversation, debate or idea around what we want to do, instead of want to avoid, gives you a path to a solution.
    It's a future-oriented perspective, which engages our most valuable mental tool - our imagination. What could be?
  2. Redefine how we make groups
    Tribalism is rooted, perhaps even defined by being exclusionary, making belonging a function of not being like the "others".
    Instead, define groups by how things in them are similar, how they are alike, how they are connected.
    Doing this will foster trust inside the group. If we are connected, we listen longer, trust more - while not seeding distrust of those outside it.
  3. Different stories, switching our focus from the individual to the collective
    How do we really function? We over index on the power, agency and impact of the individual and undervalue those values of the group.
    We all depend on the systems and groups around us, we all stand on the shoulders of giants. Yet, even that quote feels like it's promoting the great man (or person) theory a bit too much.
    I love the concept that it's much more a case of "I am because we are" (Ubuntu), and we all should keep that in mind more!

I think applying dynamic thinking could be hugely impactful and beneficial in many areas of my personal and work life. I've already started to think how I can use these principles when considering:

  • Coaching and 1 to 1's
  • Product market fit and exploration
  • Parenting

As you might be able to tell, I got a lot out of this latest podcast - If you read this far, you might too, go on, go download it - I hope you enjoy it.