Sunday, November 13, 2016

What the brain is good for

I've been thinking about the brain and what a marvelous machine it is.  How did humans evolve such a powerful brain?  We don't have the largest brains in the animal word.  Even as a proportion of our body size, the human brain doesn't exceed that of some birds (where you will find a fascinating article debunking human brain myths.)

Brain size doesn't seem to matter for intelligence.  My wife is much smarter than I am despite the fact that women have, on average, smaller brains.

My recent fascination with brain function was due to an insight I made about what the brain does best: pattern recognition. This skill is at the forefront of computer science progress and is responsible for speech and facial recognition, the dominance of computers over humans in games like chess and go, medical diagnosis, technological unemployment, matchmaking, learning and music composition.

My thesis is that brains evolved to optimize pattern recognition - and they did so spectacularly.  I believe it was accidental in the way that all evolution is accidental.  It may have begun by detecting light and dark and eyes were born.  The ability to detect and ultimately discern smells, touch, sounds and taste gave us an evolutionary edge.  Then we developed motor skills to impact our environment. At one point, I believe, the pattern recognition became responsible for memory and ultimately consciousness.

All this is pure speculation and I wish I had time to research the subject more completely.  Perhaps a train ride to the West will afford the opportunity. 

Rotary invocation, October 25, 2016

Rotary Invocation
October 25, 2016
Good Will & Better Friendships

Every week we recite the Rotary 4 Way Test.  #3 is “Do the things we think say or do build good will and better friendships?”

Wow!  This election season has put a real strain on thinking about good will and better friendships between large numbers of us hasn’t it?  How can we fix that?

Sharing Rotary service projects, like Indy Do Day, bring people together.  Coming to our club meetings, where we hear from community leaders like our speaker Matt Gutwein and the good work he does at Health & Hospital Corp, when we share a common purpose and contribute to helping people, we are also sharing how we understand the world.  When you open yourself up to other people they see you on their side, not the other side, working towards a common goal.
The foundation of understanding is listening.  We need to listen more and talk less.  Look where talking heads have gotten us.  Challenge yourself to listen to a diversity of opinions.  Listening only to people who agree with you may validate your beliefs and make you feel smarter, but rarely uncovers the truth.

We are not so different.

1.2 million Rotarians all want to eliminate polio, doesn’t the whole world want to eliminate diseases and suffering? I believe we share many common goals: We want our children, our neighborhoods, and our planet to be healthy.  We want to keep the promises we made to the last generation and we make to the next.  We want our communities to prosper and every student to be above average.

When this election season ends – and it can’t end soon enough in my view – we Americans can hopefully begin working together again, listening to each other rather than the talking heads, and focusing on common goals and solving the problems we all care about.  Hopefully, we can be more mindful of our Rotary pledge to make all the things we think say or do build good will and better friendships.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Maker Spaces getting attention Inside INdiana Business!

I was interviewed by Gerry Dick on his television program: Inside INdiana Business.  We talked about how our 1st Maker Space business aims to put shop class back in schools!  Lots of fun as you can tell.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

My calendar

Having too many meetings and appointments is a byproduct of curiosity, connections and commercial intent.  I like the buzz and the beer.  But my days are packed and they don't give me much time to reflect or think.  I understand it's a trade-off.

Sometimes I share the analogy with friends that my calendar is like a well played, but losing game of Tetris.  'Well played' because there is very little unfilled space.  'Losing' because the column is filled to the top and the game is over.

Here are the images that reflect both.

Get the picture?

Friday, July 29, 2016

Could Women Be Trusted With Their Own Pregnancy Tests?

I loved this story which appeared in the NYT today about the woman who invented the home pregnancy test.  Unrecognized, uncompensated and disrespected for decades...she finally got the credit she was due.

Margaret Crane, 1965.
Why did society make laws to prevent women from performing such tests?  What was the logic - other than exercising some power over an entire gender?  Much the same as slavery but 'gentler.'

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Rotary Invocation
May 2, 2016
Shared Hope
Kim Brand

I can’t believe I’m giving the invocation on Primary Day 2016 during what will be remembered as one of the most notorious campaign seasons of the 21st Century!  At least, I hope it stands out – because I never want it to happen again!

Here’s what I think is worth talking about in an invocation on a day like today: shared hope – or what politicians would call the ‘hope gap.’

We may have entered a time in our nation’s history when nothing is shared less than hope.  You hear about income inequality.  You hear about immigration.  You hear about terrorism.  You hear about resurgent racism, international tensions, exploding debt, and economic uncertainty.  We witness unprecedented dysfunction in Washington.  What is the link between these maladies?

I believe we are suffering from the lack of shared hope and too many of us have lost confidence in the belief that for them tomorrow will be better.

Have we forgotten that to be hopeful is uniquely human?  Do we not all hope for peace? For the success of our children? To be treated with respect? For health and prosperity? Can’t we at least share those hopes?

More than losing our status in the world, more than ‘losing,’ more than the other party winning the Whitehouse, we should fear the loss of shared hope.  Shared hope is the binding that once tied our country together, forged a powerful nation and was the source of our prosperity.

Being an American endows us with a special kind of hopefulness.  The ability to work together, to overcome problems, to look beyond differences and to see a brighter future.  The measure of America’s greatness will not be in a budget or trade surplus, or military power – it will be in the ability of all Americans to hope again.

How do we do that?  Turn off the TV.  Surround yourself with optimists and push back on negative talk when you hear it.  Be prepared with positive facts - look for positive news and you’ll find it.  Allow inspiration into your life – from wherever you can find it; whether it’s a purposeful walk in the woods or a raucous service on Sunday morning.  

Be an actor not an audience member.  Practice Service above self – Rotary is a great way to share hopefulness.  Hope is a source of strength that is multiplied when shared.  Share your hope with someone when you have it – share theirs when you don’t.

The hope gap may be a tool politicians use to sell fear and mistrust.  Don’t buy it.  Find someone to share your hopes and dreams with today.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Anyone can have a life changing idea

This video should be presented at every art, business, engineering and medical school.  It should be posted to every entrepreneur blog. For anyone who thinks that they are not 'good' or 'smart' enough to have the next great/transformative idea.  This brief talk pushes back and says: YOU CAN.  DO IT NOW!

Monday, January 18, 2016

News Porn

It seems to me that much of the growing antipathy in the nation is borne from irrational fear of anyone who disagrees with someone else's beliefs.  This applies to the fear of 'black thugs' by 'white people,' apostates by believers, conservatives by liberals, etc.  The fear ranges across all dimensions of needs and desires: life, health, wealth, liberty, security, family, lifestyle, power, heritage, etc.

I think if people were thinking rationally we wouldn't have this frenzied maelstrom.  But once triggered, an irrational response is immune from rational engagement.  I fear we now have hundreds of millions of people around the world caught in this irrational 'avalanche' racing towards some apocalypse.  Isn't that what caused the world wars, genocides, atrocities?

How do you reason with the unreasonable? Ideologues, bigots, idiots, ultra-partisans?  There are only a few of them and their numbers could be offset by the mostly sane.  But what if the media has the power to convert the sane into the insane?  Reasonable into unreasonable?  Exaggerating threats, impacts, causes, effects for profit or power; exploiting human tendencies to overreact, disproportionate response or simply intellectually lazy evaluation?

Is the media the difference?  Four TV channels and one newspaper attenuated the news to what could fit, sell advertising motivated by simple commerce and meet broadcast standards.  But now echo chambers have replaced journalism.

Are we teaching kids how to consume media?  We have restrictions on porn - is this 'news porn?'

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Thinking about the JA Spark Career Fair

A note I sent to the CEO of EmployIndy regarding the JA Spark Career Fair planned for September, 2016.

I can’t help thinking that career clusters are (or will be) obsolete.

Who would have predicted IT for me when I graduated Purdue with an engineering degree?  But I took a test in high school that did predict I would be good at programming.  Maybe I was analytical.  Liked problem solving.  I also liked risk.  I could have joined the risk taking entrepreneur tech startup cluster if one existed J

Does EmployIndy do any kind of testing like:  The modern version is

I really liked this explanation of how people pick careers – and just how old the problem of finding a place for yourself in the world is.

In "The Holland Codes," a letter or code stands for a particular "type." Psychologist John L. Holland originally labeled his six types as: "motoric, intellectual, esthetic, supportive, persuasive, and conforming."[2] He later developed and changed them to: Realistic (Doers), Investigative (Thinkers), Artistic (Creators), Social (Helpers), Enterprising (Persuaders), and Conventional (Organizers)."[6] Professor John Johnson of Penn State suggested that an alternative way of categorizing the six types would be through ancient social roles: "hunters (Realistic), shamans (Investigative), artisans (Artistic), healers (Social), leaders (Enterprising), and lorekeepers (Conventional)."[7]

I think the whole cluster idea is wrong – those are assemblies of jobs.  The jobs are what someone is interested in doing.  Maybe there should be leadership, inventing, making things, working outdoors, problem solving, stress averse, helping people, art.  You can be in construction but be in HR – more like a helper than a builder.  I also think it is naive to reduce the range of human interests into eight or so government/economic job clusters.  There are lots more type of jobs, there will be many that go away (say radiologists,) some you can’t predict will emerge (like app developer in 1975) and one-offs.