Dan Cobley: What physics taught me about marketing


So I work in marketing, which I love, but my first passion was physics, a passion brought to me by a wonderful school teacher, when I had a little less gray hair. So he taught me that physics is cool because it teaches us so much about the world around us. And I’m going to spend the next few minutes trying to convince you that physics can teach us something about marketing. So quick show of hands — who studied some marketing in university? Who studied some physics in university? Pretty good. And at school? Okay, lots of you. So, hopefully this will bring back some happy, or possibly some slightly disturbing memories. So, physics and marketing. We’ll start with something very simple — Newton’s Law: “The force equals mass times acceleration.” This is something that perhaps Turkish Airlines should have studied a bit more carefully before they ran this campaign. (Laughter) But if we rearrange this formula quickly, we can get to acceleration equals force over mass, which means that for a larger particle — a larger mass — it requires more force to change its direction. It’s the same with brands: the more massive a brand, the more baggage it has, the more force is needed to change its positioning. And that’s one of the reasons why Arthur Andersen chose to launch Accenture rather than try to persuade the world that Andersen’s could stand for something other than accountancy. It explains why Hoover found it very difficult to persuade the world that it was more than vacuum cleaners, and why companies like Unilever and P&G keep brands separate, like Ariel and Pringles and Dove rather than having one giant parent brand. So the physics is that the bigger the mass of an object the more force is needed to change its direction. The marketing is, the bigger a brand, the more difficult it is to reposition it. So think about a portfolio of brands or maybe new brands for new ventures. Now, who remembers Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle? Getting a little more technical now. So this says that it’s impossible, by definition, to measure exactly the state — i.e., the position — and the momentum of a particle, because the act of measuring it, by definition, changes it. So to explain that — if you’ve got an elementary particle and you shine a light on it, then the photon of light has momentum, which knocks the particle, so you don’t know where it was before you looked at it. By measuring it, the act of measurement changes it. The act of observation changes it. It’s the same in marketing. So with the act of observing consumers, changes their behavior. Think about the group of moms who are talking about their wonderful children in a focus group, and almost none of them buy lots of junk food. And yet, McDonald’s sells hundreds of millions of burgers every year. Think about the people who are on accompanied shops in supermarkets, who stuff their trolleys full of fresh green vegetables and fruit, but don’t shop like that any other day. And if you think about the number of people who claim in surveys to regularly look for porn on the Web, it’s very few. Yet, at Google, we know it’s the number-one searched for category. So luckily, the science — no, sorry — the marketing is getting easier. Luckily, with now better point-of-sale tracking, more digital media consumption, you can measure more what consumers actually do, rather than what they say they do. So the physics is you can never accurately and exactly measure a particle, because the observation changes it. The marketing is — the message for marketing is — that try to measure what consumers actually do, rather than what they say they’ll do or anticipate they’ll do. So next, the scientific method — an axiom of physics, of all science — says you cannot prove a hypothesis through observation, you can only disprove it. What this means is you can gather more and more data around a hypothesis or a positioning, and it will strengthen it, but it will not conclusively prove it. And only one contrary data point can blow your theory out of the water. So if we take an example — Ptolemy had dozens of data points to support his theory that the planets would rotate around the Earth. It only took one robust observation from Copernicus to blow that idea out of the water. And there are parallels for marketing — you can invest for a long time in a brand, but a single contrary observation of that positioning will destroy consumers’ belief. Take BP — they spent millions of pounds over many years building up its credentials as an environmentally friendly brand, but then one little accident. Think about Toyota. It was, for a long time, revered as the most reliable of cars, and then they had the big recall incident. And Tiger Woods, for a long time, the perfect brand ambassador. Well, you know the story. (Laughter) So the physics is that you cannot prove a hypothesis, but it’s easy to disprove it — any hypothesis is shaky. And the marketing is that not matter how much you’ve invested in your brand, one bad week can undermine decades of good work. So be really careful to try and avoid the screw-ups that can undermine your brand. And lastly, to the slightly obscure world of entropy — the second law of thermodynamics. This says that entropy, which is a measure of the disorder of a system, will always increase. The same is true of marketing. If we go back 20 years, the one message pretty much controlled by one marketing manager could pretty much define a brand. But where we are today, things have changed. You can get a strong brand image or a message and put it out there like the Conservative Party did earlier this year with their election poster. But then you lose control of it. With the kind of digital comment creation and distribution tools that are available now to every consumer, it’s impossible to control where it goes. Your brand starts being dispersed, (Laughter) it gets more chaotic. (Laughter) It’s out of your control. (Laughter) I actually saw him speak — he did a good job. But while this may be unsettling for marketers, it’s actually a good thing. This distribution of brand energy gets your brand closer to the people, more in with the people. It makes this distribution of energy a democratizing force, which is ultimately good for your brand. So, the lesson from physics is that entropy will always increase; it’s a fundamental law. The message for marketing is that your brand is more dispersed. You can’t fight it, so embrace it and find a way to work with it. So to close, my teacher, Mr. Vutter, told me that physics is cool, and hopefully, I’ve convinced you that physics can teach all of us, even in the world of marketing, something special. Thank you. (Applause)

Tom Chatfield: 7 ways video games engage the brain


I love video games. I’m also slightly in awe of them. I’m in awe of their power in terms of imagination, in terms of technology, in terms of concept. But I think, above all, I’m in awe at their power to motivate, to compel us, to transfix us, like really nothing else we’ve ever invented has quite done before. And I think that we can learn some pretty amazing things by looking at how we do this. And in particular, I think we can learn things about learning. Now the video games industry is far and away the fastest growing of all modern media. From about 10 billion in 1990, it’s worth 50 billion dollars globally today, and it shows no sign of slowing down. In four years’ time, it’s estimated it’ll be worth over 80 billion dollars. That’s about three times the recorded music industry. This is pretty stunning, but I don’t think it’s the most telling statistic of all. The thing that really amazes me is that, today, people spend about eight billion real dollars a year buying virtual items that only exist inside video games. This is a screenshot from the virtual game world, Entropia Universe. Earlier this year, a virtual asteroid in it sold for 330,000 real dollars. And this is a Titan class ship in the space game, EVE Online. And this virtual object takes 200 real people about 56 days of real time to build, plus countless thousands of hours of effort before that. And yet, many of these get built. At the other end of the scale, the game Farmville that you may well have heard of, has 70 million players around the world and most of these players are playing it almost every day. This may all sound really quite alarming to some people, an index of something worrying or wrong in society. But we’re here for the good news, and the good news is that I think we can explore why this very real human effort, this very intense generation of value, is occurring. And by answering that question, I think we can take something extremely powerful away. And I think the most interesting way to think about how all this is going on is in terms of rewards. And specifically, it’s in terms of the very intense emotional rewards that playing games offers to people both individually and collectively. Now if we look at what’s going on in someone’s head when they are being engaged, two quite different processes are occurring. On the one hand, there’s the wanting processes. This is a bit like ambition and drive — I’m going to do that. I’m going to work hard. On the other hand, there’s the liking processes, fun and affection and delight and an enormous flying beast with an orc on the back. It’s a really great image. It’s pretty cool. It’s from the game World of Warcraft with more than 10 million players globally, one of whom is me, another of whom is my wife. And this kind of a world, this vast flying beast you can ride around, shows why games are so very good at doing both the wanting and the liking. Because it’s very powerful. It’s pretty awesome. It gives you great powers. Your ambition is satisfied, but it’s very beautiful. It’s a very great pleasure to fly around. And so these combine to form a very intense emotional engagement. But this isn’t the really interesting stuff. The really interesting stuff about virtuality is what you can measure with it. Because what you can measure in virtuality is everything. Every single thing that every single person who’s ever played in a game has ever done can be measured. The biggest games in the world today are measuring more than one billion points of data about their players, about what everybody does — far more detail than you’d ever get from any website. And this allows something very special to happen in games. It’s something called the reward schedule. And by this, I mean looking at what millions upon millions of people have done and carefully calibrating the rate, the nature, the type, the intensity of rewards in games to keep them engaged over staggering amounts of time and effort. Now, to try and explain this in sort of real terms, I want to talk about a kind of task that might fall to you in so many games. Go and get a certain amount of a certain little game-y item. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, my mission is to get 15 pies and I can get 15 pies by killing these cute, little monsters. Simple game quest. Now you can think about this, if you like, as a problem about boxes. I’ve got to keep opening boxes. I don’t know what’s inside them until I open them. And I go around opening box after box until I’ve got 15 pies. Now, if you take a game like Warcraft, you can think about it, if you like, as a great box-opening effort. The game’s just trying to get people to open about a million boxes, getting better and better stuff in them. This sounds immensely boring but games are able to make this process incredibly compelling. And the way they do this is through a combination of probability and data. Let’s think about probability. If we want to engage someone in the process of opening boxes to try and find pies, we want to make sure it’s neither too easy, nor too difficult, to find a pie. So what do you do? Well, you look at a million people — no, 100 million people, 100 million box openers — and you work out, if you make the pie rate about 25 percent — that’s neither too frustrating, nor too easy. It keeps people engaged. But of course, that’s not all you do — there’s 15 pies. Now, I could make a game called Piecraft, where all you had to do was get a million pies or a thousand pies. That would be very boring. Fifteen is a pretty optimal number. You find that — you know, between five and 20 is about the right number for keeping people going. But we don’t just have pies in the boxes. There’s 100 percent up here. And what we do is make sure that every time a box is opened, there’s something in it, some little reward that keeps people progressing and engaged. In most adventure games, it’s a little bit in-game currency, a little bit experience. But we don’t just do that either. We also say there’s going to be loads of other items of varying qualities and levels of excitement. There’s going to be a 10 percent chance you get a pretty good item. There’s going to be a 0.1 percent chance you get an absolutely awesome item. And each of these rewards is carefully calibrated to the item. And also, we say, “Well, how many monsters? Should I have the entire world full of a billion monsters?” No, we want one or two monsters on the screen at any one time. So I’m drawn on. It’s not too easy, not too difficult. So all this is very powerful. But we’re in virtuality. These aren’t real boxes. So we can do some rather amazing things. We notice, looking at all these people opening boxes, that when people get to about 13 out of 15 pies, their perception shifts, they start to get a bit bored, a bit testy. They’re not rational about probability. They think this game is unfair. It’s not giving me my last two pies. I’m going to give up. If they’re real boxes, there’s not much we can do, but in a game we can just say, “Right, well. When you get to 13 pies, you’ve got 75 percent chance of getting a pie now.” Keep you engaged. Look at what people do — adjust the world to match their expectation. Our games don’t always do this. And one thing they certainly do at the moment is if you got a 0.1 percent awesome item, they make very sure another one doesn’t appear for a certain length of time to keep the value, to keep it special. And the point is really that we evolved to be satisfied by the world in particular ways. Over tens and hundreds of thousands of years, we evolved to find certain things stimulating, and as very intelligent, civilized beings, we’re enormously stimulated by problem solving and learning. But now, we can reverse engineer that and build worlds that expressly tick our evolutionary boxes. So what does all this mean in practice? Well, I’ve come up with seven things that, I think, show how you can take these lessons from games and use them outside of games. The first one is very simple: experience bars measuring progress — something that’s been talked about brilliantly by people like Jesse Schell earlier this year. It’s already been done at the University of Indiana in the States, among other places. It’s the simple idea that instead of grading people incrementally in little bits and pieces, you give them one profile character avatar which is constantly progressing in tiny, tiny, tiny little increments which they feel are their own. And everything comes towards that, and they watch it creeping up, and they own that as it goes along. Second, multiple long and short-term aims — 5,000 pies, boring, 15 pies, interesting. So, you give people lots and lots of different tasks. You say, it’s about doing 10 of these questions, but another task is turning up to 20 classes on time, but another task is collaborating with other people, another task is showing you’re working five times, another task is hitting this particular target. You break things down into these calibrated slices that people can choose and do in parallel to keep them engaged and that you can use to point them towards individually beneficial activities. Third, you reward effort. It’s your 100 percent factor. Games are brilliant at this. Every time you do something, you get credit; you get a credit for trying. You don’t punish failure. You reward every little bit of effort — a little bit of gold, a little bit of credit. You’ve done 20 questions — tick. It all feeds in as minute reinforcement. Fourth, feedback. This is absolutely crucial, and virtuality is dazzling at delivering this. If you look at some of the most intractable problems in the world today that we’ve been hearing amazing things about, it’s very, very hard for people to learn if they cannot link consequences to actions. Pollution, global warming, these things — the consequences are distant in time and space. It’s very hard to learn, to feel a lesson. But if you can model things for people, if you can give things to people that they can manipulate and play with and where the feedback comes, then they can learn a lesson, they can see, they can move on, they can understand. And fifth, the element of uncertainty. Now this is the neurological goldmine, if you like, because a known reward excites people, but what really gets them going is the uncertain reward, the reward pitched at the right level of uncertainty, that they didn’t quite know whether they were going to get it or not. The 25 percent. This lights the brain up. And if you think about using this in testing, in just introducing control elements of randomness in all forms of testing and training, you can transform the levels of people’s engagement by tapping into this very powerful evolutionary mechanism. When we don’t quite predict something perfectly, we get really excited about it. We just want to go back and find out more. As you probably know, the neurotransmitter associated with learning is called dopamine. It’s associated with reward-seeking behavior. And something very exciting is just beginning to happen in places like the University of Bristol in the U.K., where we are beginning to be able to model mathematically dopamine levels in the brain. And what this means is we can predict learning, we can predict enhanced engagement, these windows, these windows of time, in which the learning is taking place at an enhanced level. And two things really flow from this. The first has to do with memory, that we can find these moments. When someone is more likely to remember, we can give them a nugget in a window. And the second thing is confidence, that we can see how game-playing and reward structures make people braver, make them more willing to take risks, more willing to take on difficulty, harder to discourage. This can all seem very sinister. But you know, sort of “our brains have been manipulated; we’re all addicts.” The word “addiction” is thrown around. There are real concerns there. But the biggest neurological turn-on for people is other people. This is what really excites us. In reward terms, it’s not money; it’s not being given cash — that’s nice — it’s doing stuff with our peers, watching us, collaborating with us. And I want to tell you a quick story about 1999 — a video game called EverQuest. And in this video game, there were two really big dragons, and you had to team up to kill them — 42 people, up to 42 to kill these big dragons. That’s a problem because they dropped two or three decent items. So players addressed this problem by spontaneously coming up with a system to motivate each other, fairly and transparently. What happened was, they paid each other a virtual currency they called “dragon kill points.” And every time you turned up to go on a mission, you got paid in dragon kill points. They tracked these on a separate website. So they tracked their own private currency, and then players could bid afterwards for cool items they wanted — all organized by the players themselves. Now the staggering system, not just that this worked in EverQuest, but that today, a decade on, every single video game in the world with this kind of task uses a version of this system — tens of millions of people. And the success rate is at close to 100 percent. This is a player-developed, self-enforcing, voluntary currency, and it’s incredibly sophisticated player behavior. And I just want to end by suggesting a few ways in which these principles could fan out into the world. Let’s start with business. I mean, we’re beginning to see some of the big problems around something like business are recycling and energy conservation. We’re beginning to see the emergence of wonderful technologies like real-time energy meters. And I just look at this, and I think, yes, we could take that so much further by allowing people to set targets by setting calibrated targets, by using elements of uncertainty, by using these multiple targets, by using a grand, underlying reward and incentive system, by setting people up to collaborate in terms of groups, in terms of streets to collaborate and compete, to use these very sophisticated group and motivational mechanics we see. In terms of education, perhaps most obviously of all, we can transform how we engage people. We can offer people the grand continuity of experience and personal investment. We can break things down into highly calibrated small tasks. We can use calculated randomness. We can reward effort consistently as everything fields together. And we can use the kind of group behaviors that we see evolving when people are at play together, these really quite unprecedentedly complex cooperative mechanisms. Government, well, one thing that comes to mind is the U.S. government, among others, is literally starting to pay people to lose weight. So we’re seeing financial reward being used to tackle the great issue of obesity. But again, those rewards could be calibrated so precisely if we were able to use the vast expertise of gaming systems to just jack up that appeal, to take the data, to take the observations, of millions of human hours and plow that feedback into increasing engagement. And in the end, it’s this word, “engagement,” that I want to leave you with. It’s about how individual engagement can be transformed by the psychological and the neurological lessons we can learn from watching people that are playing games. But it’s also about collective engagement and about the unprecedented laboratory for observing what makes people tick and work and play and engage on a grand scale in games. And if we can look at these things and learn from them and see how to turn them outwards, then I really think we have something quite revolutionary on our hands. Thank you very much. (Applause)

Hans Rosling: Global population growth, box by box


I still remember the day in school when our teacher told us that the world population had become three billion people, and that was in 1960. I’m going to talk now about how world population has changed from that year and into the future, but I will not use digital technology, as I’ve done during my first five TEDTalks. Instead, I have progressed, and I am, today, launching a brand new analog teaching technology that I picked up from IKEA: this box. This box contains one billion people. And our teacher told us that the industrialized world, 1960, had one billion people. In the developing world, she said, they had two billion people. And they lived away then. There was a big gap between the one billion in the industrialized world and the two billion in the developing world. In the industrialized world, people were healthy, educated, rich, and they had small families. And their aspiration was to buy a car. And in 1960, all Swedes were saving to try to buy a Volvo like this. This was the economic level at which Sweden was. But in contrast to this, in the developing world, far away, the aspiration of the average family there was to have food for the day. They were saving to be able to buy a pair of shoes. There was an enormous gap in the world when I grew up. And this gap between the West and the rest has created a mindset of the world, which we still use linguistically when we talk about “the West” and “the Developing World.” But the world has changed, and it’s overdue to upgrade that mindset and that taxonomy of the world, and to understand it. And that’s what I’m going to show you, because since 1960 what has happened in the world up to 2010 is that a staggering four billion people have been added to the world population. Just look how many. The world population has doubled since I went to school. And of course, there’s been economic growth in the West. A lot of companies have happened to grow the economy, so the Western population moved over to here. And now their aspiration is not only to have a car. Now they want to have a holiday on a very remote destination and they want to fly. So this is where they are today. And the most successful of the developing countries, they have moved on, you know, and they have become emerging economies, we call them. They are now buying cars. And what happened a month ago was that the Chinese company, Geely, they acquired the Volvo company, and then finally the Swedes understood that something big had happened in the world. (Laughter) So there they are. And the tragedy is that the two billion over here that is struggling for food and shoes, they are still almost as poor as they were 50 years ago. The new thing is that we have the biggest pile of billions, the three billions here, which are also becoming emerging economies, because they are quite healthy, relatively well-educated, and they already also have two to three children per woman, as those [richer also] have. And their aspiration now is, of course, to buy a bicycle, and then later on they would like to have a motorbike also. But this is the world we have today, no longer any gap. But the distance from the poorest here, the very poorest, to the very richest over here is wider than ever. But there is a continuous world from walking, biking, driving, flying — there are people on all levels, and most people tend to be somewhere in the middle. This is the new world we have today in 2010. And what will happen in the future? Well, I’m going to project into 2050. I was in Shanghai recently, and I listened to what’s happening in China, and it’s pretty sure that they will catch up, just as Japan did. All the projections [say that] this one [billion] will [only] grow with one to two or three percent. [But this second] grows with seven, eight percent, and then they will end up here. They will start flying. And these lower or middle income countries, the emerging income countries, they will also forge forwards economically. And if, but only if, we invest in the right green technology — so that we can avoid severe climate change, and energy can still be relatively cheap — then they will move all the way up here. And they will start to buy electric cars. This is what we will find there. So what about the poorest two billion? What about the poorest two billion here? Will they move on? Well, here population [growth] comes in because there [among emerging economies] we already have two to three children per woman, family planning is widely used, and population growth is coming to an end. Here [among the poorest], population is growing. So these [poorest] two billion will, in the next decades, increase to three billion, and they will thereafter increase to four billion. There is nothing — but a nuclear war of a kind we’ve never seen — that can stop this [growth] from happening. Because we already have this [growth] in process. But if, and only if, [the poorest] get out of poverty, they get education, they get improved child survival, they can buy a bicycle and a cell phone and come [to live] here, then population growth will stop in 2050. We cannot have people on this level looking for food and shoes because then we get continued population growth. And let me show you why by converting back to the old-time digital technology. Here I have on the screen my country bubbles. Every bubble is a country. The size is population. The colors show the continent. The yellow on there is the Americas; dark blue is Africa; brown is Europe; green is the Middle East and this light blue is South Asia. That’s India and this is China. Size is population. Here I have children per woman: two children, four children, six children, eight children — big families, small families. The year is 1960. And down here, child survival, the percentage of children surviving childhood up to starting school: 60 percent, 70 percent, 80 percent, 90, and almost 100 percent, as we have today in the wealthiest and healthiest countries. But look, this is the world my teacher talked about in 1960: one billion Western world here — high child-survival, small families — and all the rest, the rainbow of developing countries, with very large families and poor child survival. What has happened? I start the world. Here we go. Can you see, as the years pass by, child survival is increasing? They get soap, hygiene, education, vaccination, penicillin and then family planning. Family size is decreasing. [When] they get up to 90-percent child survival, then families decrease, and most of the Arab countries in the Middle East is falling down there [to small families]. Look, Bangladesh catching up with India. The whole emerging world joins the Western world with good child survival and small family size, but we still have the poorest billion. Can you see the poorest billion, those [two] boxes I had over here? They are still up here. And they still have a child survival of only 70 to 80 percent, meaning that if you have six children born, there will be at least four who survive to the next generation. And the population will double in one generation. So the only way of really getting world population [growth] to stop is to continue to improve child survival to 90 percent. That’s why investments by Gates Foundation, UNICEF and aid organizations, together with national government in the poorest countries, are so good; because they are actually helping us to reach a sustainable population size of the world. We can stop at nine billion if we do the right things. Child survival is the new green. It’s only by child survival that we will stop population growth. And will it happen? Well, I’m not an optimist, neither am I a pessimist. I’m a very serious “possibilist.” It’s a new category where we take emotion apart, and we just work analytically with the world. It can be done. We can have a much more just world. With green technology and with investments to alleviate poverty, and global governance, the world can become like this. And look at the position of the old West. Remember when this blue box was all alone, leading the world, living its own life. This will not happen [again]. The role of the old West in the new world is to become the foundation of the modern world — nothing more, nothing less. But it’s a very important role. Do it well and get used to it. Thank you very much. (Applause)

Ali Carr-Chellman: Gaming to re-engage boys in learning


So I’m here to tell you
that we have a problem with boys, and it’s a serious problem with boys. Their culture isn’t working in schools, and I’m going to share with you ways that we can think
about overcoming that problem. First, I want to start
by saying, this is a boy, and this is a girl, and this is probably stereotypically
what you think of as a boy and a girl. If I essentialize gender for you today,
then you can dismiss what I have to say. So I’m not going to do that,
I’m not interested in doing that. This is a different kind of boy
and a different kind of girl. So the point here is that not all boys
exist within these rigid boundaries of what we think of as boys and girls, and not all girls exist
within those rigid boundaries of what we think of as girls. But, in fact, most boys
tend to be a certain way, and most girls tend to be a certain way. And the point is that, for boys, the way that they exist
and the culture that they embrace isn’t working well in schools now. How do we know that? The 100 girls project
tells us some really nice statistics. For example, for every 100 girls
that are suspended from school, there are 250 boys
that are suspended from school. For every 100 girls
who are expelled from school, there are 335 boys
who are expelled from school. For every 100 girls in special education, there are 217 boys. For every 100 girls
with a learning disability, there are 276 boys. For every 100 girls
with an emotional disturbance diagnosed, we have 324 boys. And by the way, all of these numbers
are significantly higher if you happen to be black, if you happen to be poor, if you happen to exist
in an overcrowded school. And if you are a boy, you’re four times as likely
to be diagnosed with ADHD — Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Now there is another side to this. And it is important that we recognize
that women still need help in school, that salaries are still
significantly lower, even when controlled for job types, and that girls have continued to struggle
in math and science for years. That’s all true. Nothing about that prevents us from paying attention
to the literacy needs of our boys between ages three and 13. And so we should. In fact, what we ought to do
is take a page from their playbook, because the initiatives and programs
that have been set in place for women in science and engineering
and mathematics are fantastic. They’ve done a lot of good
for girls in these situations, and we ought to be thinking about
how we can make that happen for boys too in their younger years. Even in their older years, what we find is that
there’s still a problem. When we look at the universities, 60 percent of baccalaureate degrees
are going to women now, which is a significant shift. And in fact, university administrators
are a little uncomfortable about the idea that we may be getting close to 70 percent
female population in universities. This makes university
administrators very nervous, because girls don’t want to go
to schools that don’t have boys. And so we’re starting to see the establishment of men centers
and men studies to think about how do we engage men
in their experiences in the university. If you talk to faculty,
they may say, “Ugh. Yeah, well, they’re playing video games, and they’re gambling
online all night long, and they’re playing World of Warcraft, and that’s affecting
their academic achievement.” Guess what? Video games are not the cause. Video games are a symptom. They were turned off a long time
before they got here. So let’s talk about
why they got turned off when they were between the ages
of three and 13. There are three reasons that I believe that boys are out of sync
with the culture of schools today. The first is zero tolerance. A kindergarten teacher I know,
her son donated all of his toys to her, and when he did, she had to go through
and pull out all the little plastic guns. You can’t have plastic knives
and swords and axes and all that kind of thing
in a kindergarten classroom. What is it that we’re afraid that this
young man is going to do with this gun? I mean, really. But here he stands as testament to the fact that you can’t roughhouse
on the playground today. Now I’m not advocating for bullies. I’m not suggesting that we need to be
allowing guns and knives in the school. But when we say that an Eagle Scout
in a high school classroom who has a locked parked car
in the parking lot and a penknife in it, has to be suspended from school, I think we may have gone
a little too far with zero tolerance. Another way that zero tolerance
lives itself out is in the writing of boys. In a lot of classrooms today, you’re not allowed to write
about anything that’s violent. You’re not allowed to write about anything
that has to do with video games. These topics are banned. Boy comes home from school, and he says, “I hate writing.” “Why do you hate writing, son?
What’s wrong with writing?” “Now I have to write
what she tells me to write.” “OK, what is she telling you to write?” “Poems. I have to write poems. And little moments in my life. I don’t want to write that stuff.” “Well, what do you want to write? What do you want to write about?” “I want to write about video games.
I want to write about leveling-up. I want to write about
this really interesting world. I want to write about a tornado
that comes into our house and blows all the windows out, and ruins all the furniture
and kills everybody.” “All right. OK.” You tell a teacher that,
and they’ll ask you, in all seriousness, “Should we send this child
to the psychologist?” And the answer is no, he’s just a boy. He’s just a little boy. It’s not OK to write these kinds of things
in classrooms today. So that’s the first reason: Zero tolerance policies
and the way they’re lived out. The next reason that boys’ cultures
are out of sync with school cultures: there are fewer male teachers. Anybody who’s over 15
doesn’t know what this means, because in the last 10 years, the number of elementary school
classroom teachers has been cut in half. We went from 14 percent to seven percent. That means that 93 percent of the teachers that our young men get in elementary
classrooms are women. Now what’s the problem with this? Women are great, yep, absolutely. But male role models for boys
that say it’s all right to be smart — they’ve got dads, they’ve got pastors,
they’ve got Cub Scout leaders, but ultimately, six hours a day,
five days a week they’re spending in a classroom, and most of those classrooms
are not places where men exist. And so they say, I guess this really
isn’t a place for boys. This is a place for girls. And I’m not very good at this, so I guess I’d better go play video games or get into sports,
or something like that, because I obviously don’t belong here. Men don’t belong here,
that’s pretty obvious. So that may be a very direct way
that we see it happen. But less directly, the lack of male
presence in the culture — you’ve got a teachers’ lounge,
and they’re having a conversation about Joey and Johnny
who beat each other up on the playground. “What are we going to do with these boys?” The answer to that question changes depending on who’s sitting
around that table. Are there men around that table? Are there moms who’ve raised boys
around that table? You’ll see, the conversation changes depending upon who’s sitting
around the table. Third reason that boys
are out of sync with school today: Kindergarten is the old
second grade, folks. We have a serious compression
of the curriculum happening out there. When you’re three, you better be able
to write your name legibly, or else we’ll consider it
a developmental delay. By the time you’re in first grade, you should be able to read
paragraphs of text with maybe a picture, maybe not,
in a book of maybe 25 to 30 pages. If you don’t, we’re probably going to be putting you
into a Title I special reading program. And if you ask Title I teachers,
they’ll tell you they’ve got about four or five boys
for every girl that’s in their program, in the elementary grades. The reason that this is a problem is because the message
that boys are getting is, “You need to do what the teacher
asks you to do all the time.” The teacher’s salary depends
on “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top”
and accountability and testing and all of this. So she has to figure out a way
to get all these boys through this curriculum — and girls. This compressed curriculum is bad
for all active kids. And what happens is, she says, “Please, sit down,
be quiet, do what you’re told, follow the rules, manage your time,
focus, be a girl.” That’s what she tells them. Indirectly, that’s what she tells them. And so this is a very serious problem. Where is it coming from?
It’s coming from us. (Laughter) We want our babies to read
when they are six months old. Have you seen the ads? We want to live in Lake Wobegon
where every child is above average … but what this does to our children
is really not healthy. It’s not developmentally appropriate, and it’s particularly bad for boys. So what do we do? We need to meet them where they are. We need to put ourselves into boy culture. We need to change the mindset
of acceptance in boys in elementary schools. More specifically, we can do
some very specific things. We can design better games. Most of the educational games
that are out there today are really flashcards. They’re glorified drill and practice. They don’t have the depth,
the rich narrative that really engaging video games have, that the boys are really interested in. So we need to design better games. We need to talk to teachers and parents
and school board members and politicians. We need to make sure that people see
that we need more men in the classroom. We need to look carefully
at our zero tolerance policies. Do they make sense? We need to think about how to uncompress
this curriculum if we can, trying to bring boys back into a space
that is comfortable for them. All of those conversations
need to be happening. There are some great examples
out there of schools — the New York Times
just talked about a school recently. A game designer from the New School put together a wonderful
video gaming school. But it only treats a few kids,
and so this isn’t very scalable. We have to change the culture
and the feelings that politicians and school board
members and parents have about the way we accept
and what we accept in our schools today. We need to find more money
for game design. Because good games,
really good games, cost money, and World of Warcraft has quite a budget. Most of the educational games do not. Where we started: my colleagues Mike Petner,
Shawn Vashaw, myself, we started by trying to look
at the teachers’ attitudes and find out how do they really
feel about gaming, what do they say about it. And we discovered that they talk
about the kids in their school, who talk about gaming,
in pretty demeaning ways. They say, “Oh, yeah. They’re always
talking about that stuff. They’re talking
about their little action figures and their little achievements
or merit badges, or whatever it is that they get. And they’re always talking
about this stuff.” And they say these things as if it’s OK. But if it were your culture,
think of how that might feel. It’s very uncomfortable
to be on the receiving end of that kind of language. They’re nervous about anything
that has anything to do with violence because of the zero tolerance policies. They are sure that parents
and administrators will never accept anything. So we really need to think
about looking at teacher attitudes and finding ways to change the attitudes, so that teachers are much more open
and accepting of boy cultures in their classrooms. Because, ultimately, if we don’t, then we’re going to have boys
who leave elementary school saying, “Well I guess that was just
a place for girls, it wasn’t for me. So I’ve got to do gaming,
or I’ve got to do sports.” If we change these things,
if we pay attention to these things, and we reengage boys in their learning, they will leave the elementary
schools saying, “I’m smart.” Thank you. (Applause)

Google Personal Growth Series: Mindsight: The New Science of


>>Good afternoon, my friends. My name is
Meng. I’m the–my day job is being the Head of the School of Personal Growth in Google
University. And one of the things–one of the main things we do is to take advantage
of the knowledge we gain from the cutting edge of brain sciences and use the knowledge
to invent curriculum, to help Googlers upgrade and transform themselves, that’s what we do.
And we hope that one day when we figure out how to make this work for Googlers, we can
share this knowledge with the rest of the world so that everybody can benefit from personal
growth in the workplace. And towards this we, are very delighted today to have a man
who deeply shares our goals and aspirations, Dr. Daniel Siegel. And he’s just like us except
a lot smarter than me. Dan is a clinical professor at the UCLA School of Medicine. He’s the co-director
of the UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center and the co-investigator at the UCLA
Center for Culture, Brain and Development. He’s also the director of the Mindsight Institute
and the author of the book, “Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation.” In
additional to all that, he is also the author of the book, “The Mindful Brain” and the other
book, “The Developing Mind” and “Parenting From the Inside Out.” And ladies and gentlemen,
let’s welcome Dr. Daniel Siegel.>>SIEGEL: Thank you. Thank you, Meng. I–I
really appreciate the introduction and being invited to come speak with you today about
what the mind is and how we can create a healthy mind. It’s really a fascinating idea to think
about what we know just intuitively but yet we may not able to define so easily what is
our human mind. So, you may be surprised to find, in fact, the fields that study the mind
like, let’s say, the field of mental health or even a field like education where you help
develop the mind, the individuals in those fields, the educators in those fields actually
often don’t have a definition of the mind. And as a psychiatrist and trained as a researcher
in developmental psychology and working in the field of attachment, looking at how kids’
minds develop, what really struck me as amazing, in my own field, psychiatry, was that I was
never given even one lecture that defined what the mind is. Also in the field of mental
health, we had an orientation that lasted a long, long time which was that health is
the absence of symptoms. And so you didn’t really have a working definition of the mind
and you didn’t have a definition of what a healthy mind would be, it just meant you didn’t
meet criteria for disorders, so you must be healthy. Now this is kind of strange, so when
I started lecturing after the first book I wrote called “The Developing Mind” came out
which tried to make a definition of the mind that I’ll share with you in a moment. What
really struck me as amazing and actually now I’ve had the opportunity to ask in person
over 80,000 mental health practitioners all around the planet, from every discipline of
mental health you can imagine, psychiatry, psychology, social work, occupational therapy,
psychiatric nursing, every field, the numbers are about the same. And how many people in
the field of mental health do you think had even one lecture defining what the mind is?
Turns out to be about 2-5%. So 95% of individuals in the field of mental health have never been
given a definition of the mind. Now, when I started working in the interdisciplinary
world of bringing different sciences together years ago, the beginning of the decade of
the brain, beginning of the 1990s, I brought about 40 scientists together and they also
didn’t have a working definition of the mind and yet our task was to say what’s the connection
between the mind and the brain, which is what we’re going to talk about today. And so I
offered them this definition and all of them agreed on this definition which is an amazing
thing if you know how academics works. Usually you don’t find convergence of an opinion but
here people agreed with it. And here’s what the definition I offered them was and I’ll
give you an expanded one in just a moment, the simplest definition of the mind that these
scientists agreed upon goes like this; that the mind is a process that regulates the flow
of energy and information. Now the human mind happens in a couple of ways. It happens in
a body of course, [INDISTINCT] so it’s embodied. It happens through our extended nervous system
that’s distributed throughout the whole body and I’m going to use the word “brain” just
to refer to that because extended nervous system distributed throughout the whole body
is hard to keep on repeating, but when I say the word “brain” that’s what I mean. But what’s
happening now between me and you? [pause]
>>SIEGEL: What’s–what goes on right now? Or let’s say in Google, when you allow people
to have a transfer of energy and information among them, among each other? That’s what
you can call sharing energy and information. So in many ways, the mind is not just embodied,
it’s also relational, okay? So, we can say then the mind can be defined, it’s a working
definition, as an embodied and relational process that regulates the flow of energy
and information. Now you may say, “Well that sounds really natural,” you may not agree,
you may agree but it’s actually a working definition. And what’s really striking is
when you sit down with scientists who study the mind, let’s say like psychologists or
brain scientists who are interested in the mind, even philosophers who study the mind
which is what I’ve had the opportunity to do. Here’s the striking thing, almost none
of them will define the mind. And they’ll say things like “the mind is indefinable”
or “the human mind shouldn’t be defined” or “will be limited if we define it because we
don’t know everything about it”. So what I say in response that is, “I totally get those
concerns but if we don’t define a word, how can we actually use the word with each other?
Why would we have a word?” And some people say, “Well it’s just a place holder for something
we really don’t understand.” And that’s okay and then you’re still in the dark, you’re
still doing what we’ve done in mental health for all of these years. When you define the
mind as a process that regulates the flow of energy and information, it changes what
you can do for defining healthy mind. It also changes in a very practical way the approach
you can take to strengthen the mind. Let me give you an example. If you buy into it just
for now, the notion that the mind is a regulatory process, what does it take to regulate? If
you say just on the simplest level, “I want to take a person coming to me as a friend,”
or “Coming to me professionally,” if you’re a therapist, “And I want to strengthen their
mind.” At a minimum, what do you need to do? What does it take to regulate something? Anyone
here an engineer? Okay, you need to measure it. You need to have some way to measure or
monitor the thing that you’re regulating. And we’re saying the thing is energy and information
flow. So at a very minimum, you need have a way to monitor and measure, maybe not quantitatively
but to assess, to monitor, to observe that what you’re going to influence which is the
second thing in regulation. If you’re driving a car and you’re watching, if someone has
tied your hands behind your back and tied your feet together, you can’t influence the
thing that you’re trying to regulate. So monitoring and modifying are the two essential components
of regulation. So once we define the mind, especially in this way, you get a new insight
into how to actually create a stronger mind. You’d be amazed, but a lot of people live
their lives just having thoughts and feelings, beliefs and attitudes, having hopes and dreams
and memories and perceptions, all the stuff that we can use to describe the mind, those
aren’t definitions, they’re descriptions of mental activity, but they haven’t developed
the capacity to actually observe those mental activities as the flow of energy and information,
as the mind itself. So that process of being able to see mental activity with more clarity
and then modify it with more efficacy is something that you can name with the word mindsight.
This ability to actually see your mind not just have one. Now, it may sound kind of,
almost simplistic, but when you look at different areas of research what you find is that when
mindsight is present, various ways of understanding mental health are also present. There’s something
about being able to see and influence your internal world that creates more health. I’ll
give you an example. Let’s say someone had a huge feeling of anger going on inside of
them and they had no way of monitoring that, would the anger go away? No. They’d still
have anger, right? The anger would still be changing their physiology but they wouldn’t
have the capacity to have what’s called discernment. To take a step away from mental activity and
notice I have anger. The anger would sweep them up and if you’re an 8-year old on a playground
of a school and someone takes your ball, you may slug that kid, right? So we’ve done studies
at UCLA using mindfulness techniques, one way of teaching a way to monitor and modify
internal states. And even in preschool kids, using certain very basic mindfulness techniques,
we’ve been able to show that you can decrease bullying, you can increase empathy, you can
increase the capacity for kids to pause before they act. We’ve even done a pilot study at
UCLA where if you teach mindfulness techniques which I’ll tell you about in a moment, you
actually can take people with attention deficit problems where they can’t regulate energy
and information flow and you can actually, as adults and older teenagers, you can change
the way their executive functions of their brain function just by teaching them mental
training. So what I’d like to do is dive deeply with you into this notion of once we have
a definition of the mind, can we define a healthy mind? And then look at a way of thinking
about this and think, “Well, how does this work in our personal lives? How does this
work in a life where you’re involved in energy and information transfer around the globe?
How does it work in the interface between a human being and a computer?” These are all
relevant areas where understanding how you see the mind and defining the mind may be
of benefit. So the first thing we’ll say is that in common neuroscience, there’s a statement
that you may have read about which is, “The mind is just the activity of the brain.” How
many of you have heard that? So if you read any of the really well regarded neuroscientist
writers who either write their research papers or write for the general public, this is basically
what it said. And I’m going to suggest to you that that view is only part of the story.
That instead–we can think of a triangle where there are three points on this triangle. One
point is the brain, the extended nervous system distributed throughout the whole body, which
can be thought of as a mechanism by which energy and information flow. Then there’s
the point of relationships which is where there’s a sharing of energy and information
flow. And then there’s the point of the mind which is the process that regulates this flow.
And these three points on the triangle have arrows going in all directions. So unlike
what you might read if you read the common neuroscience books where the arrow is one
direction, these arrows in all directions and it’s not even as simple as just there’s
the mind and the brain. You can’t understand human experience, I’ll have you consider,
without thinking about relationships. Certainly in my own background as an attachment researcher
and a psychiatrist, we see this all the time, that relationships shape the firing in the
brain and when neurons fire, they actually change their synaptic connections with each
other. And so the way we learn, the way we grow, the way we develop is by experiences
in addition to genes, shaping the synaptic connections in the nervous system. We know
that relationships shape those connections. So it’d be way too simplistic to say as some
scientists do, that genes explain all of how someone develops. I mean, I don’t know why
those scientists say it because it’s actually proven not to be true. Eric Kandel won a Nobel
Prize in 2000 showing in fact that the way experience works is it changes the synaptic
connections in the brain by harnessing the power of genes for sure, but by experience
directly. So what we have here then is the notion these arrows are going at all directions.
Now relationships can evolve all sorts of sharing of energy and information. You may
have had relationships with your teachers in school which just talk about ideas and
concepts and facts and externally based things. Or you may have had relationships which are
more involving which you feel really understood by your teacher. You really feel your internal
world is seen by them. And those two kinds of relationships, on a broad spectrum, are
profoundly different and they activate different parts of the nervous system which we’re going
to talk about now. So, let’s dive deeply into the brain, the extended nervous system, so
you can get a feeling for where we’re at now in terms of neuroscience informing us about
the mind and what a healthy mind might be. And I’ll start this by first giving you an
overview of brain anatomy and then we’re going to look at a particular clinical case to understand
how the mind is influenced by the structure of the brain. So Meng has been really nice
enough to hand out a model of the brain that’s underneath each of your seats. So if you reach
down below your seat and pull your hand out, you pull your hand out that’s attached to
your wrist, that’s–Meng arranged that, too, if you take your hand out and put your finger
in the middle, this is a very handy model of the brain. You–you don’t have to ever
remember to bring it to work. So, if you put your thumb in the middle and then curl your
fingers over the top, these individuals face will be in front of the finger nails, the
metaphoric brain we have here, the top of it will be the top of the fingers that’s where
the top of the skull would be, the back of your hand will be where the back of your skull
is over here. So, taking the brain apart piece by piece, if you raise your fingers up, lift
your thumb up, let’s start the anatomy lesson here. The spinal cord brings in data from
all over the body and it first enters the skull part of the skull based brain in an
area called the brainstem and this is an area that helps regulate your basic physiology,
like heart rate and respiration, but it also has the nuclei, the collection of the basic
cell of the nervous system, the neuron, that are responsible for the fight-flight-freeze
response, okay? And that area of the brainstem works closely with the next area, the–this
is called the triangular model or three part model, you put your thumb over, you’d have
two thumbs, it’d be the idea–but most of us just have one. This thumb represents the
part that evolved when we became mammals, hundreds of millions of years ago, it’s called
the limbic area, it’s involved in five processes and it works closely with the brainstem. Those
five processes include appraising the significance of events that happened. So, if you’re on
a computer program for example and you feel not really compelled, your limbic area is
probably not saying, “That’s important, pay attention.” So appraisal is number one, number
two is motivational states, it works very closely with the brainstem in motivating–motivating
us to do certain things, to behave in certain ways, okay? Number three is it distinguishes
between different kinds of memory systems. Number four is it also works closely with
the brainstem and the body to generate what are called emotions or affective states or
sometimes called valence states of mind, emotions. And the fifth thing that the limbic area does,
that people often don’t realize, but if you raise rats or mice or if you raise amphibians
and–and–like frogs or newts or you raise lizards–you know, when we developed a limbic
area as mammals, we also developed another really important function and that’s the function
called attachment relationships. So the limbic area is important for us having relationships
with other people that are–that are not only close and meaningful but when we’re in a state
of distress, we go to that attachment figure to help soothe us. So here you see from 200
million years ago, we, as mammals have needed each other to survive. We’ve needed each other
to help regulate our energy and information flow. We are as a class of animal–mammals
extremely social, okay? So that’s the limbic area, the fifth function of limbic area. Now
since these are all below the cortex, they’re called sub-cortical. When we also developed
our mammalian ancestors long ago developed the cortex, the neo mammalian cortex, the
newer part of the brain, it’s the outer part of the brain. It’s actually really thin it’s
only six layers thick and it has lots of folds, these convolutions that make it look thicker
on a–on a scan, and it has two huge areas, easy to remember, back and front. The back
has several lobes, like the occipital lobe, parietal lobe, we don’t need to worry about
that, but the–the back in general is for processing the external world. When you see
me moving my hands around like this, right? We know it’s the back of your brain that’s
being activated. When you hear the sound of my voice coming from outside of you, we know
it’s the side of your brain, the temporal area. Even when you feel with your fingers,
like this, you’re activating still the back part of the brain because you’re exploring
the outer world, okay? So that’s the posterior part of the brain. Once you get from your
second to the last knuckles forward to the fingernails, that’s the frontal area of the
brain which grew when we became primates. And this area has energy and information flowing
in that in the first part is about your motor action, what you’re going to do with your
body in response to your experiences and the next strip just before that is called the
pre-motor strip, it’s where you plan your actions, where you image what you’re going
to do. As you keep on moving forward in the brain, which is called anteriorly, as you
keep up going forward, and I don’t know if there is a computer analogue to this, but
in the brain there, the way it works is, the more forward you move, the more complex the
representations. Representation is a cluster of neural net firing patterns that stands
for something obviously other than the neural net firing pattern. So, in the back of the
brain, you might have a representation let’s say of my hand here and moving here and moving
here, so you’re representing the visual image of my hand. But in the front of the brain,
you can have a representation of something like freedom, or justice, or mental health,
or awakening. The back of the brain doesn’t know what to do with those kinds of things.
You know, they’re really far from solid stuff but the more forward you move, the more abstract
the representation gets. Once you get to the prefrontal area, you are so forward and you’re
now becoming part of the brain that is uniquely human. We have a prefrontal cortex that is
so big; our ape cousins probably think we are really ugly. Because our foreheads have
pushed out, because of our prefrontal region, and we don’t look like our ape relatives but
it’s this prefrontal cortex that you could call, “The Cortex Humanitas.” It is capable
of doing an amazing set that is processing energy and information in a way that creates
representations of information that as far as we can tell most other animals can’t do.
For example, telling stories, sitting together and having a meeting like this, obviously
inventing stuff where you can project things all over the planet, you know? And look at
little dots flying up and see where the globes is, and you know, where Google is, you know,
being used by people in different languages. I mean, you know, I–as far as we know, you
know, rats don’t do that and even apes don’t do that, other animals are great but we do
some pretty wild things, you know? And we believe that’s because our prefrontal cortex
is so distant from the physical world because its anterior in the cortex, it can make new
combinations that we call creativity that are the thrust of this capacity. But the prefrontal
cortex, while it’s creative in this way, it also anchors us in some very interesting ways
in relationships. And let me give you an example. The first thing to say is like any part of
the brain, there are many parts, so here we’re talking about the prefrontal area which is
your–represented from your last knuckles to your fingernails, the side part, the dorso-lateral
prefrontal cortex, just the side area, is very important for–when you put something
in the front of your mind, so if you have a computer program for example, and you want
someone to remember something and then you change screens and they’re going on to something
else, you want to know how is this, what’s called the chalkboard of the mind, holding
on to that piece of data. And it used to be said that we can hold on to seven plus or
minus two items. People actually don’t believe that anymore, not because we’re changing but
because it’s a re-interpretation of research, that in daily life, it’s probably more like
three, two or three items. So just in terms of what you present on the screen before that
screen moves, just something to think about of what this dorso-lateral is really able
to hold in the chalkboard of the mind. But for our purposes, we’re going to look now
at the middle pre-fontal area, and for those of you who like to know names, I’ll tell that
you–what I’m including in middle prefrontal cortex, if you look up the research, you’ll
know what the anatomical names are. This includes an area called the anterior singulet, the
orbital frontum, the dorsal and medial aspects of the medial prefrontal, I’m sorry, the dorsal
and the ventral aspects of the medial prefrontal, and the ventral-lateral prefrontal cortex
which includes an area called the insula. Now, everyone’s going, “Oh no, too much Greek.”
So, don’t worry about all that. That’s why I made up this term called middle, right?
So we have the side, we have the middle. It’s very easy to remember for your dorsal-lateral
and to remember that. So, the middle prefrontal cortex is unbelievably important. And if you’re
thinking about mental health, as I hope you’ll see in a moment, the list I’m about to give
you is an unbelievable list that helps describe, not define, but I think describe what you
may consider to be a mentally healthy life. So let’s look at this list. And here’s the
clinical case I told you I would tell you about. Obviously, the details are changed
to protect confidentially, but this is the essence of the case. A child stopped talking
at school. I’m a child’s psychiatrist, so she’s brought to me for treatment. She refuses
to talk in school. And one day, as we’re playing games, just stuff in silence, she finds a
video recorder, this was before DVDs existed, a video recorder and she gets very excited.
So she brings in a video the next session and on the video is this beautiful depiction
that her father was taking, it was her father’s birthday, of her mother and herself playing
together and dancing around and really hugging each other and looking each other in the eye,
in something that’s called attuned communication where two people, two individuals become a
“we”. Absolutely exquisite. But what I came to realize when–she then said, “That’s the
way my mother used to be.” For the first time she spoke in the office was that something
had happened to this mom and when the mom came in and I’d heard the story but I didn’t
understand the impact of it, the mom had had a car accident a year earlier. And–unfortunately,
she was not wearing a seatbelt and she–there were no airbags, it was an old car, and the
steering wheel hit her in the forehead, right in the area where this middle prefrontal area
is. And she had severe damage, was in a coma for a while, had brain surgery, had plastic
surgery, she actually looked pretty good but she behaved totally differently than the woman
in the video who was tuned–attuned, who was present, who seemed flexible. Now this mom
had severe problems in the way she could relate to her children, this girl had other siblings
as well, “She seemed like a different human being,” the husband said. So I took the brain
scans from the neurosurgeon with me, under my arm, and I went to the medical school library
and I looked up everything I could find in the basic research on what these areas that
the prefrontal cortex did. And as I was gathering all that data, I had a session with the mom
and the dad alone without the kids there, and I asked the mom, “What was life like since
the accident?” And she says, matter of factly, “Well, I guess if I had to put a word to it,
I guess I would say I’ve lost my soul.” And this was exactly what the kids were having
such a hard time articulating. There was something in the essence, whatever you believe about
the word “soul,” if you just think of the idea of the essence of our personality, of
who we are, this core place of ourselves, there was something about this essence that
was gone. And yet she could walk, she could talk, she could write, she could think. So,
when I brought back the information from the scans, which I’m going to describe to you
now, and explained it to the family, we could start to make sense of why things had changed
so much. Here are nine functions that now we know from research are based on, that is
they need a healthy middle prefrontal area to functional well. And you just think about
in your own life what role these nine functions play, in yourself, in your relationships with
others and people you know. And here are the nine functions. The first is this area of
the brain actually sits on top of the brainstem as you can see from where it is, and it helps
regulate it. So, regulating the body, the heart, the lungs, is actually what this part
contributes to, body regulation. Number two is, you know, when you look at another person
in the face and you feel like you’re connected to them and you’re attuned to them, that attuned
communication depends on this middle prefrontal area. And when it’s damaged, people don’t
do that. And you can try it right now if you want to. Look at each other and see what it’s
like when you just look at someone you feel connected versus when one–one of you looks
away. Give it a try. You’ll see what that’s like. Look at your neighbor, try looking and
then just–look even–even just look away and see–see the difference in the feeling.
Each of you try on the left side, do the looking away first, and then on this side, now try
switching it over. How did it feel differently when someone was actually–looked like they
felt like they were tuning in to you versus not? Did you notice the difference? Yeah,
well, not in their head. There’s a huge difference and the prefrontal region can create it and
knows the difference. Number three is to be able to balance your emotions so that this
internal valence states we call emotions, rise enough so life has meaning but not rise
too much so life becomes chaotic and not be too depleted so life becomes rigid. That optimal
flow, which we’ll talk about in just a moment, that optimal flow is what this area helps
create. The fourth function is the capacity to extinguish fear. If you’ve been traumatized
or it’s a difficult thing and you’re frightened of it, this area actually grows what are called
GABA fibers, gamma aminobutyric acids is a inhibitory peptide that helps dampen down
firing in the lower limbic area. The amygdala is responsible for generating activations
that are–what help us feel fear. So this middle prefrontal area helps calm that down.
That’s number four. Number five is the ability to pause before you act, what I call response
flexibility to instead of just active, you know, respond your impulse, to pause, have
a space in your mind where you consider the various options available to you. For a kid
on a playground, this is absolutely all the difference between being adaptive and flexible
with emotional intelligence and social intelligence or lacking those things. That ability to pause
before you act is everything and if you could just teach kids that you’ll be making a huge
difference in public schools, that’s number five. Number six is something called insight
which scientifically means something called autonoetic consciousness which is self knowing
awareness. And in the brain, what we think that does is the representations of the past
that are connected with the representations of the present and anticipated future. So
you have this thing called mental time travel. The next one is the capacity for empathy.
Different from attunement and it is the ability to tune in to someone else and to create maps
of them in your mind. I wonder what that person is feeling, I wonder what she was thinking,
I wonder what memories might have come up that made her behave that way, that’s the
example–those are examples of empathy. And then number eight, if you thought that those
seven weren’t enough. Number eight is the capacity for morality, for actually thinking
about the importance of compassion, of using your moral imagination to think about the
larger social good and then enacting those behaviors even when you’re alone, it’s a way
of defining morality. People with damage in this area, they don’t become immoral, they
become amoral. They just don’t consider this larger social good. Now those first eight
for me, started echoing in my mind, as an attachment researcher, independent of brain
studies with what we had proven secure attachment, healthy relationships between a parent and
a child produce those first eight. We’ve proven that, not knowing anything about the brain.
So I was going, “Wow! That’s really amazing.” The ninth one, no one ever looked for. This
ninth factor of the middle prefrontal area is intuition, being in touch with the wisdom
of the body. The heart and the intestines have actual neural net processors around them
which allow energy and information to flow. It’s kind of like little computers in your
gut and your cardiac system that then bring the data up through this area of the spinal
cord called Lamina I. It comes up like–in any, you know, mammal, it comes up to our
lower areas where they regulate the heart and the intestines, but then it moves up to
the area called the posterior insula in primates, and then forward only in humans and if you’re
thinking about the interface between computers and humans, this is a really important to
think about. It allows, when it goes from the posterior insula taking Lamina I data
from the body including the viscera, the hollow organs like the heart and lungs, it takes
this data, moves it from the posterior insula to the anterior insula. And what we believe
happens when, that occurs only in humans, is you create a representation of your representation
of the body, it’s called a re-representation. It keeps you one step removed, it’s called
introception, perceiving you to your world and that function amazingly enough, has been
directly correlated, not only with anterior insula activation naturally, but with the
ability to have empathy, the ability to have an empathy which is at the core of emotional
and social intelligence. So we’ve now in these years, bless you, we’ve now mapped out the
actual circuitry that allows you to have these nine functions. And if you look at your hand
model, lift your fingers up and bring them back down, what do you notice is unique about
this area of the brain? Well, it touches everything, exactly. It touches everything. This middle
prefrontal area is connected to the cortex. It’s deeply connected to the limbic areas.
It actually receives direct input from the brainstem. It’s also, through Lamina I; receive
a direct Lamina I input from the body’s whole system, the muscles, the joints, the teeth,
so you feel sensual touch, you feel the internal state of the body through this Lamina I movement
which goes directly to the middle prefrontal areas, not to the back, to the front, which
is just an amazing finding. And as we’ve pointed out, you’re getting the data from other people’s
nervous systems through attunement and empathy; you’re actually creating maps of other people’s
energy information flow in their nervous systems. So the social, the somatic, the brainstem,
the limbic, the cortical are all interconnected as one. What is so striking about that phenomenon
is when you look deeply at the mathematics of that–what’s that called by the way, when
you link differentiated parts?>>Integration?
>>SEIGEL: Integration. This is probably–there’s a few regions that are massively integrated,
but this is one of the top tier integrators in the brain. It’s not that the cells in this
middle prefrontal cortex look any differently or they are not really different in their
structures, it’s not like they’re super specials cells that have gone to special schools or
something like that, it’s their anatomical location that bridges with one synapse connections.
Obviously the whole brain is interconnected, yes, that’s true. But you’re talking about
speed of conduction with myelinated fibers that are a hundred times faster than unmyelinated
ones and with one synapse shopping, you have basically connected the whole “shebang” together.
So it’s massively integrated. And for Mathematics, those of you who are in Mathematics, what
do you know about when a system can link differentiated components? When it can become integrated?
What do we know about it? This is now straight from Math. Well, let’s take a choir example
just briefly, as an example. If you take a choir of 10 singers, right? Ten singers and
you have them–we have differentiation and we have linkage. Let’s do first where they’re
not differentiated, you block differentiation. You have them just sing one note all at once.
Ahhhh and goes on and on and on. Is there any, besides the overtones, but in general,
there’s no variation. It’s not flexible, it’s not adaptive. It’s kind of dead and flat and
rigid. That’s one extreme. We have what we call river of integration. One extreme is
rigidity. In this case, you block integration by impairing differentiation. Let’s say you
do the opposite. Let’s say you take this 10 singers, have them close their ears and have
them belt out a song, any song they want as loud as they can when you raise your hands,
what would you hear? Cacophony. You’d hear chaos. And for those of you who are familiar
with complexity theory, you know that when a system is not maximizing complexity, it
goes either to rigidity on one end or to chaos on the other. What we’re talking about is
an interpretation of complexity theory that says, as this choir example would be if we
had the 10 singers up here and we said, sing a song, very often, people will sing Amazing
Grace. I can’t sing so I’m not going to do it for you, but if you had the choir, you
can imagine them singing in what? How would they do it? Harmony. Harmony is a great word
for integrated flow. Why? You’re allowing the different singers to be differentiated
in their voice and the octaves they attain–not octaves, the–what’s it called? I’m not a
singer. What’s it called?>>Intervals.
>>SEIGEL: The intervals. Thank you very much. They’re varying their intervals but they’re
linking with each other to sing Amazing Grace. So it’s an example of an integrated flow,
just to give you the–we’re not singers up here, to give you the idea. This notion then
says, and here’s the proposal by the–a mental health. When I started reading about complexity
theory in trying to understand why the middle prefrontal cortex might be so exquisitely
important in creating the well being, not just of this woman who unfortunately had been
hurt in the car accident, unfortunately, so severely damaged there wasn’t much recovery
possible. But her family was also hurt because the integration, that is the linkage and differentiation
in this family was impaired. Now luckily they could go through the grieving process. Understanding
the mechanisms of the brain that wouldn’t allow the mind of this mom to continue functioning
as it did because the mind uses the brain to create itself, and if the pathways aren’t
there, the mind can’t do it. So the kids had to learn how to grieve the loss of a mother
who is no longer there, whose body was still present. So they actually did well even though
the mom couldn’t recover much. They grew up well. They understood what was going on. They
could even begin to try to take care of the mom in various ways, it’s a long story, but
they’ve done well. For our purposes, understanding the power of this part of the brain, even
through the pain of that family is to look at the power of integration. So take to look
at this list in your head or if you written it down, of nine middle prefrontal functions.
And how many of you think that that list of nine has a number of components that feel
to you, just in your intuition that this is probably a reasonable description of mental
well being. Let me see, okay. Well, if you ask mental health practitioners, they jump
all over this list and they’ll say, “My God, where did you get this list?” And I tell them,
“You know from the clinical case,” And they go, “That’s like a magnificent description
for us of describing mental health.” So here is the move from a description to a definition.
What I am going to propose to you and this is in all of my different writings that Meng
talked about, so it’s–you can see the detailed analysis and the references in science, this
is just kind of the take home message and a kind of an overview. The proposal I’m going
to make to you is that a healthy mind emerges from intergraded systems. Integration very
clearly defined as the linkage of differentiated parts, so that when you have a nervous system
that’s integrated you get these nine functions. When you see relationships in a family that
are integrated, you know, where people are honored for their differences but linked,
they want it, “How are you doing? How are you doing?” “Okay.” “You like vanilla ice
cream. You like chocolate? Fine. But let’s go out for ice cream together.” You know that’s
a healthy adaptive family. You get flexibility, adaptability, even a sense of coherence. If
you look at the mathematics of coherence, it’s a beautiful book by Thagard called, “Coherence
in Thought and Action” which examines the equations beneath coherence and these integrated
systems get there where they embed the ongoing variables that they’re encountering into how
they define the in and out group, and the system then moves through time by changing
the response to what their experience is. Different from a cohesive equation which is
rigid in how it’s defining things and it just doesn’t change, you’re either in or you’re
out, odd numbers out, even number in. Whatever the system is, it doesn’t adopt. So we’re
talking about relationships and a brain as systems of energy information flow that when
they’re integrated, they can move in this adaptive way. Now, in my own journey through
all this stuff, what blew my mind was not only being trained as a clinician and finding
it, actually useful to name specific domains of integration, like the left hemisphere and
the right, having them become differentiated and linked, like the body and the cortex having
them linked, just as two examples, there’s all sort of domains of integration that can
outline a whole approach to promoting a healthy mind. But one very direct approach which has
been around for–it turns out thousands of years, was taught to me only very recently
because I, by accident, used the word, “mindfulness” in a book on parenting. And I said, with my
co-author Mary Hertzel, that, “One of the most important things we can do is be intentional
and awake in our parenting.” We used the word, English word, mindfulness. It turned out,
as you may know, that there’s twenty five hundred years of specific mental training
to develop mindfulness traits which I wasn’t aware of. But since that time, I was fortunate
enough to meet people who’ve been spending their life in modern times studying scientifically
the power of mental training to promote, it turns out and this–this totally blew my mind,
it turned out to promote all nine of the middle prefrontal functions. And when I presented
this to one of our nation’s leaders John Cavett, who’s in on this, he was beautifully able
to say that, “It wasn’t just that this was the outcome of mindfulness training to get
these nine functions, it turned out it was the way of being mindful to regulate your
body, to balance your emotions, to be tuned in to other people, to be flexible on your
responses.” All of these things, they have insight, empathy, moral living, even intuition,
100% of them. So, in a book called, “The Mindful Brain” what I wrote about was, integrative
processes that link differentiated components as your integrator, like a parent’s tuning
in to a child, promote the activation of these integrated fibers in the brain and promote
their growth. It turned out that–there were studies that suggest the fact that when you
do this thing called mindfulness training, there’s the kind that’s been studied in depth,
this mindfulness meditation, but there are also other trainings that we think will do
the same thing. We don’t know, like yoga, and tai chi, and chi gong, and centering prayer,
those are all mindfulness practices, but for now, the main, the bulk of research, scientific
research has been done on mindfulness meditation, but there’s lots of ways of practicing mindfulness.
For that research, these are the areas that get activated and the neuroscience lesson
is that neurons which fire together, wire together. So, if you have a practice, let’s
say 10 minutes a day, where you are taking time to focus, let’s say on the breath, and
when your mind wanders, return your attention to the breath in a loving and kind way, and
then your mind gets distracted, return your attention, to have this practice where you’re
aware of your awareness and you’re paying attention to your intention, we believe that
those are the two fundamental things in every mindfulness practice. When you do that over
and over again, in that 10-minute period, you’re creating what’s called “a mindfully
aware state”, a state of mindful awareness. And you may say, “Well, is that just the same
as relaxation?” Well, the answer is no. It turns out studies have been done and show
that mindfulness training is not the same as relaxation training. You may feel calm
or you may not feel calm but it’s a form of mindful awareness which is very different
from just relaxing, that’s number one. You say, “Well, I’m doing it 10 minutes a day,
how’s that going to help me? Good 10 minutes, what about the rest of my day?” Here is the
secret, when you intentionally practice, firing off neurons, you stimulate neuronal activation
and growth, you snag the brain, stimulate your own activation growth. When you create
those states, they will change the structure of the brain and subsequent studies have actually
shown that that’s true. To make a mindfulness trait, states become traits with practice,
that’s the whole idea. So what I’m suggesting to you is that here’s–we’ve defined a healthy
mind coming from integrated relationships and integrated nervous system. We’ve described
its features, and now, here’s the last few minutes before we stop for questions, is how
do you actually do this? Well, one thing is you try to promote healthy relations with
other people. You tune in to not just their thoughts but their internal world, their non-verbal
signals. You combine in every way you can a way of attuning to people’s internal worlds
and respecting their ability to be distinct from you, that’s a relational one. In the
brain, you can actually on your own, develop and you can call it an integrative practice
if you don’t like the word, mindfulness, but it’s basically a way of focusing energy and
information flow in a way that has you be aware of your awareness, pay attention to
your intention, and basically build the muscle of the mind. We have every reason to believe
what you’re doing in doing that is strengthening the integrative fibers of your brain, in particular,
these middle prefrontal areas that I outlined for you. Now, when you do that, we know from
research, a couple of amazing things happen, people will shift the baseline activity of
their brain to what’s called “an approach state”, so when you do happen in life to confront
things that’s difficult, instead of withdrawing from it, you actually approach it. Even just
after an eight week training where people practice everyday, their brain changes. Your
immune system function improves. People’s approach state shift which is called a “left
shift”, it improves in proportion to the amount of an increased immune cells that are going
to fight off disease. Blood pressure is improved. All sorts of physiological improvements happen.
There have been studies that show empathy increases. I once did a 40 day–a week-long
retreat with 48 brain scientists, we weren’t even focusing on empathy or compassion or
anything like that, we’re just focusing on developing this capacity of being aware of
awareness for a week and when we had our discussion group, two of them, one was married, the other
one was engaged said, “My partner tells me, ‘What happened to you? You sound so connected
to me and you sound so empathic, what are you doing there?'” And what was amazing about
it was we weren’t practicing any empathy practices which exist. You know, we were not trying
to generate compassion; we were just focusing the mind. Why would that be? Well, if you
just think about what I said about the anterior singulet and the anterior insula, we’ve been
talking about the anterior insula, but it’s part of the middle prefrontal area, when these
two go together, the anterior insula’s activation which is what you practice when you’re aware
of your breath, hour after hour, day after day. You’re going to strengthen what your
anterior insula’s doing. And all the studies that have been done, a lot of them at UCLA
with people that I work with, have shown the higher degree of empathy, the higher degree
of anterior insula activation. You see someone without much anterior insula activation; they’re
not touch with their bodies, very low empathy. That’s just what the research shows. Why would
be that the case? We’re not talking about mere neurons but there’s a whole set of neurons
that suggest that we soak in what we see in other people to shape our own bodies response,
and then the way we perceive that body’s response allows us to know not only how we feel, but
how they feel. So in all these ways, having an internal education where you’re getting
this self-connection directly helps your connections with others. And this is where we have the
opportunity as individuals to make the world a more compassionate place, but in a setting
where you’re actually affecting energy and information flow across the planet for our
entire species, you guys are in an unbelievable position to try to create a more compassionate
world for all of us. So, thank you very much for your kind attention. And we have time
for questions. Thank you. Please.>>[INDISTINCT]
>>SIEGEL: Yes.>>What kind of practice [INDISTINCT]
>>SIEGEL: Yeah. No, not a two-year old but, you know, we’re doing four and five year olds
in preschool and if you go to–Oh, I’m sorry. Repeat the question. How do we do this with
little kids? So, the first would be the resource. If you go to innerkids.org, Susan Kaiser Greenland
is the person we collaborate with; we do the research part at the Mindful Awareness Research
Center at UCLA, and there they work–we are working with four and five year olds and studying
the outcome. And the outcome is amazing. The kids are more tuned in to each other, the
bullying has decreased, there’s this sense of more presence and flexibility.
>>[INDISTINCT]>>SIEGEL: Well, what–Susan is a genius at
doing this and she has her book that’s coming all about this, but the way it happens is
you teach kids to be aware of what they’re doing as they’re doing it. So for example,
they put a plush toy on their belly; the thing is just say, “Rock your teddy bear to sleep.”
So they’re constantly watching their belly go up and down and up and down. You don’t
tell them, “You’re meditating,” you know, a four-year old never meditates but they can
do that. Kids who are old of course can do yoga and things like that. They’re–and we
go all the way into middle school. You know, and so there are creative ways of doing it.
So, I would go to her website and you can click right through. The other group I worked
for is called the Garrison Institute. And we have a 180-page summary of all the different
programs we could find in North America that are teaching mindfulness to kids. And there’s
another program called Mindfulschools.org up in Oakland that have–I’ve been now doing
research on their program. They’ve worked with 4,900 elementary school kids and the
bullying has decreased, the empathy has increased and this is parallel to what happens at a
program called cascl, C-A-S-C-L.org is where you’d find that information, where their teacher
reflective skills to build social, emotional intelligence. Even there you see not only
obviously improvements in social-emotional intelligence which is fantastic, even academic
performance improves. It’s a win-win situation. We just have to be mindful enough to do it.
And, you know, I just spoke to 3,500 of the nation’s public schools superintendents about
the concept of the fourth R. You know, you have the reading, writing, arithmetic. You
know, why not have the fourth R be reflection, that if we can build up this, you know, anterior
insula strength, that we can build up reflective skills which basically no one is doing, we
have an opportunity now to shift the compassion in our culture in a very different way and
to boot, we’ll probably get better academic performance, why not? Yes, please.
>>You made a statement at one point where you said the mind uses the brain or something
like; I thought that was a very peculiar way to speak. That perhaps you had spoken loosely.
>>SIEGEL: No, very intentionally.>>So…
>>SIEGEL: What I said was–what I meant to say and I think I did say it; the mind uses
the brain to create itself.>>How can you speak about the mind though
being–in that way of speaking, the mind is something different or separate or outside
the brain where clearly in your definition, the brain is the key part and in fact, no
brain, no mind.>>SIEGEL: Maybe. I mean, you guys are affecting
minds all the time. I have a close friend of mine who’s dead. He died last year and
you could say on some level, his mind is still affecting me because the way it’s influencing
my energy and information flow. That’s a huge discussion. But let me address the area of
peculiar way of speaking. I do that on purpose because we hear so much from scientists that
it’s such a common way of believing and I certainly was raised this way in medical school.
They say the brain creates mental activities. It’s a one-way arrow. Let me you give an example
of the study that was done to illustrate why I’m, you know, weird enough or bold enough
or whatever to say, “The mind uses the brain to create itself.” You take someone let’s
say–take 10 people, put them in a house, blindfold them for a week. And the brain makes
maps of the outside world using the back of the brain, the occipital cortex. After one
week, these people have had to figure out the spatial arrangements around them, to go
to the bathroom, to find food, to find their bed, to go sleep, et cetera. After one week,
when you put them in a scanner, the finger tips have taken over the back of the brain.
And you could say, “Well, sure that’s the brain just doing that.” But one way of understanding
that is this human being…>>What do you mean when you said that, the
finger tips?>>SEIGEL: What I mean is you put them in
a scanner and you have them touch things and now the input from the fingers which is in
a relatively small area, this metasensory strip, massively activates what we used to
call the visual cortex. And you can read about this in a book called, “How the Brain Changes
Itself” by Norman Doidge or another book called, “Train the Mind, Change the Brain” by Sharon
Begley or another book called, “The Body Has a Mind of its Own” by Sandra and Matthew Blakeslee,
these are the summaries of the science so you know I’m not just making it up. So the
idea here is that we used to think of the brain as pretty fixed. Now we’re learning,
it’s always changing and a thought can change the brain. If you need to know the outside
world but your eyes are no longer bringing in the input, we used to think, “Oh well,
you’re really in trouble.” Your need to have energy and information flow about the outside
world, drives the brain to create a map of the outside world. Your mind is using the
brain to create what it needs. It needs a mental image of three dimensional space. That’s
just one example. There’s example after example after example in Doidge’s book of how for
example, imagery. You know, studies of imagery with athletes, they can–if you can, you know,
let’s say you hurt your leg and you are a basketball player, if you take two weeks and
just practice shooting hoops, you’re actually going to do almost the same as someone who’s
been with their legs shooting them. This capacity of the mind to get the brain and be activated
and keep those circuits active is now been proven. We didn’t know these 10 years ago.
So that’s why I’d say, you know, “Hey, the mind used the brain to create itself.” Now
I used this example of this unfortunate woman who’s hurt to show, of course, you need the
brain circuits to let the mind ride those circuit activations to create itself and if
you don’t have those circuits, so for example I would do a lot of work with traumatized
kids, we know the integrative circuits of their brain unfortunately, are damaged from
high stress hormone levels. So those kids have a lot of time developing these middle
prefrontal cortex, you just can’t say, “Hey, just do it, man.” No, their circuits don’t
exist. So in a way, the mind is using, well, using the brain to create itself and if the
brain circuits aren’t there, you’re absolutely right, no brain, no mind in that sense. But
we need to be really flexible, it’s a way of sort of challenging your own mind to say,
“Wow, okay it’s a two-way arrow–two way arrows for sure.”
>>But why pause at something outside of the brain?
>>SEIGEL: Oh, it’s crucial. But you know, as a therapist, if it was just about the brain,
I was just giving pills to people, it would be a travesty because–because in fact, people
can use the mind to change the brain. We now know that. But it’s an important issue, this
larger question, I’m actually going to three think tanks this summer to look at just that
question. So it’ll be–you should come because it will be a fun dialogue. Yes, was there
one more? Oh it looks like we’re done.>>[INDISTINCT]
>>SEIGEL: What’s that?>>One last question.
>>SIEGEL: Oh, one last question. Yes.>>The nine different traits that you explained…
>>SIEGEL: Yes.>>…how have those impacted the severe mental
illnesses like schizophrenia [INDISTINCT]?>>SIEGEL: Yes. Great question. In–oh, I’m
sorry. Thank you. How are these middle prefrontal functions affected by a severe mental illness?
The first broad thing just to say is, if you look at our diagnostic and statistical manual
of illness, what’s amazing to see is every disorder, the symptoms of that disorder are
examples of rigidity, chaos or both. So this is a very different way of approaching mental
illness by looking at impairments to integration. So in schizophrenia, you do see massive impairments
to integration. In autism, you see massive impairments to integration and in bipolar
disorder, just to address the one you’ve brought up; you see massive impairments to integration.
In a book I am writing now that I’m just finishing called “Mindsight”, every chapter is an example
of a challenging mental health issue. Bipolar is actually the first clinical chapter, it’s
about someone’s bipolar disorder. And certainly, often people need medications, but what I
use was a mindfulness technique to try to grow the middle prefrontal fibers. There’s
work from, and it turned out to work in this one particular person’s case, Hillary Bloomberg
is a researcher at Yale who’s now shown that the fibers from this middle prefrontal area,
the ventral one, ventral lateral, are GABA fibers that go down to the amygdala and she
has shown now, that’s the first time ever to be shown that in people with bipolar disorder,
they have much fewer inhibitory fibers going from the middle prefrontal cortex to the limbic
area, to the amygdala in particular. So it’s now our first, you know, empirical research
to support that fact, this capacity to integrate, to–to regulate, that’s what comes from integration,
balancing and coordinating, is impaired in bipolar disorder and we need to have creative
ways than of, with mental training or medications because a lot of these medications actually
promote neural plasticity, the ability of the brain to change a response to experience,
it’s actually promoted by lithium for example, or, you know, by certain medications like
selective serotonin [INDISTINCT] inhibitors. So it may be that that’s one of the major
ways those medications are working, by letting the brain grow itself out of its problem,
you know. But this is a new way of thinking about it and we’re getting support then to
look into these details. So thank you very much for your attention and I look forward
to talking with you more. Thank you.

How to make work-life balance work | Nigel Marsh


What I thought I would do is I would start with a simple request. I’d like all of you to pause for a moment, you wretched weaklings, and take stock of your miserable existence. (Laughter) Now that was the advice that St. Benedict gave his rather startled followers in the fifth century. It was the advice that I decided to follow myself when I turned 40. Up until that moment, I had been that classic corporate warrior — I was eating too much, I was drinking too much, I was working too hard and I was neglecting the family. And I decided that I would try and turn my life around. In particular, I decided I would try to address the thorny issue of work-life balance. So I stepped back from the workforce, and I spent a year at home with my wife and four young children. But all I learned about work-life balance from that year was that I found it quite easy to balance work and life when I didn’t have any work. (Laughter) Not a very useful skill, especially when the money runs out. So I went back to work, and I’ve spent these seven years since struggling with, studying and writing about work-life balance. And I have four observations I’d like to share with you today. The first is: if society’s to make any progress on this issue, we need an honest debate. But the trouble is so many people talk so much rubbish about work-life balance. All the discussions about flexi-time or dress-down Fridays or paternity leave only serve to mask the core issue, which is that certain job and career choices are fundamentally incompatible with being meaningfully engaged on a day-to-day basis with a young family. Now the first step in solving any problem is acknowledging the reality of the situation you’re in. And the reality of the society that we’re in is there are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like. (Laughter) (Applause) It’s my contention that going to work on Friday in jeans and [a] T-shirt isn’t really getting to the nub of the issue. (Laughter) The second observation I’d like to make is we need to face the truth that governments and corporations aren’t going to solve this issue for us. We should stop looking outside. It’s up to us as individuals to take control and responsibility for the type of lives that we want to lead. If you don’t design your life, someone else will design it for you, and you may just not like their idea of balance. It’s particularly important — this isn’t on the World Wide Web, is it? I’m about to get fired — it’s particularly important that you never put the quality of your life in the hands of a commercial corporation. Now I’m not talking here just about the bad companies — the “abattoirs of the human soul,” as I call them. (Laughter) I’m talking about all companies. Because commercial companies are inherently designed to get as much out of you [as] they can get away with. It’s in their nature; it’s in their DNA; it’s what they do — even the good, well-intentioned companies. On the one hand, putting childcare facilities in the workplace is wonderful and enlightened. On the other hand, it’s a nightmare — it just means you spend more time at the bloody office. We have to be responsible for setting and enforcing the boundaries that we want in our life. The third observation is we have to be careful with the time frame that we choose upon which to judge our balance. Before I went back to work after my year at home, I sat down and I wrote out a detailed, step-by-step description of the ideal balanced day that I aspired to. And it went like this: wake up well rested after a good night’s sleep. Have sex. Walk the dog. Have breakfast with my wife and children. Have sex again. (Laughter) Drive the kids to school on the way to the office. Do three hours’ work. Play a sport with a friend at lunchtime. Do another three hours’ work. Meet some mates in the pub for an early evening drink. Drive home for dinner with my wife and kids. Meditate for half an hour. Have sex. Walk the dog. Have sex again. Go to bed. (Applause) How often do you think I have that day? (Laughter) We need to be realistic. You can’t do it all in one day. We need to elongate the time frame upon which we judge the balance in our life, but we need to elongate it without falling into the trap of the “I’ll have a life when I retire, when my kids have left home, when my wife has divorced me, my health is failing, I’ve got no mates or interests left.” (Laughter) A day is too short; “after I retire” is too long. There’s got to be a middle way. A fourth observation: We need to approach balance in a balanced way. A friend came to see me last year — and she doesn’t mind me telling this story — a friend came to see me last year and said, “Nigel, I’ve read your book. And I realize that my life is completely out of balance. It’s totally dominated by work. I work 10 hours a day; I commute two hours a day. All of my relationships have failed. There’s nothing in my life apart from my work. So I’ve decided to get a grip and sort it out. So I joined a gym.” (Laughter) Now I don’t mean to mock, but being a fit 10-hour-a-day office rat isn’t more balanced; it’s more fit. (Laughter) Lovely though physical exercise may be, there are other parts to life — there’s the intellectual side; there’s the emotional side; there’s the spiritual side. And to be balanced, I believe we have to attend to all of those areas — not just do 50 stomach crunches. Now that can be daunting. Because people say, “Bloody hell mate, I haven’t got time to get fit. You want me to go to church and call my mother.” And I understand. I truly understand how that can be daunting. But an incident that happened a couple of years ago gave me a new perspective. My wife, who is somewhere in the audience today, called me up at the office and said, “Nigel, you need to pick our youngest son” — Harry — “up from school.” Because she had to be somewhere else with the other three children for that evening. So I left work an hour early that afternoon and picked Harry up at the school gates. We walked down to the local park, messed around on the swings, played some silly games. I then walked him up the hill to the local cafe, and we shared a pizza for two, then walked down the hill to our home, and I gave him his bath and put him in his Batman pajamas. I then read him a chapter of Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach.” I then put him to bed, tucked him in, gave him a kiss on his forehead and said, “Goodnight, mate,” and walked out of his bedroom. As I was walking out of his bedroom, he said, “Dad?” I went, “Yes, mate?” He went, “Dad, this has been the best day of my life, ever.” I hadn’t done anything, hadn’t taken him to Disney World or bought him a Playstation. Now my point is the small things matter. Being more balanced doesn’t mean dramatic upheaval in your life. With the smallest investment in the right places, you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life. Moreover, I think, it can transform society. Because if enough people do it, we can change society’s definition of success away from the moronically simplistic notion that the person with the most money when he dies wins, to a more thoughtful and balanced definition of what a life well lived looks like. And that, I think, is an idea worth spreading. (Applause)

Richard Heinberg – The End of Growth, Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2012 (Ides at the House)


It’s my absolute pleasure
to be chairing this session, titled ‘The End of Growth’. Before we get started, there’s just a little bit of
housekeeping we need to go through. Please keep your
mobile phones on silent and if you do wish to tweet,
which I encourage you to do, please use the hashtag #fodi. I also want to mention, I don’t
usually sound like Marge Simpson. It’s a product of all
the pollen in the air. So… (CHUCKLES) ..sorry. Now, there will be time
for Q&A at the end of the session. There are two microphones
in the room. There will be one over here
on the corner here and there will be one just upstairs. So if you do have a question, I encourage you to actually
come to the microphones, stand in line
and just wait your turn. And also can you please keep your
questions succinct and short so that everyone
has a chance to be heard. So to today’s session,
which is obviously very popular. The issue of growth has been
much talked about in the media. We hear about growth in China,
growth in Australia, the lack of growth
in the United States and, of course, in Europe. And when globalisation and capitalism are predicated on continuous
and exponential growth, what does it mean for us
to see the end of that growth? Well, hopefully
our esteemed speaker Richard Heinberg will be able to shed
some light on this and challenge our perceptions. Richard is the senior
fellow-in-residence at the Post Carbon Institute and the author of 10 books. He’s written extensively about growth and I would like you to join me
in welcoming Richard to the stage. (APPLAUSE) Thank you for that warm welcome. Well… ..when we speak about economic
growth, what are we talking about? Generally, we’re talking
about growth in GDP – gross domestic product. GDP is essentially
the total amount of money we spend in a national economy
on an annual basis and it’s a good stand-in
for consumption. When GDP goes up, consumption goes up
and vice versa. Now, most economists would tell you that economic growth has been
going on for a very long time, it’s always a good thing and we can anticipate much more
economic growth in the future. I’m going to challenge
each of those assumptions over the course
of these next few minutes and I want to start
with the one that says economic growth has been
going on for a very long time. Actually, as this graph shows, if you look back over the past few centuries you see that even though empires have risen and fallen, GDP per capita barely budged until we get
just to the last 200 years. Now, these last 200 years have been
really an extraordinary ride in a number of ways because also we see
that human population has grown from under 1 billion
to over 7 billion today again in just 200 years. That’s an extraordinary and completely unprecedented
rate of growth. A third trend that we see in just the last couple
of hundred years is increase in energy consumption. And I’m going to argue in just a couple of minutes that this last of the three trends is key, that cheap energy has driven economic growth and it’s the lack of cheap energy that may cause us to turn the corner. OK, now I want to pay homage here to the authors of this book
‘The Limits to Growth’. It was published in 1972. I was 21 years old at the time. I read this book
and it changed my life. I realised for the first time that the world
was on an unsustainable path. It was, of course, a report
of a group of scientists at Massachusetts
Institute for Technology who used computers to model the likely interactions between population growth,
resource depletion and pollution. Their ‘standard run’ scenario showed a peak and decline
in world industrial output some time in the first half
of the 21st century. Now, this report was immediately
vilified by many economists who believed that economic growth was necessary and that there were no limits to it. Interestingly enough, the CSIRO did a retrospective analysis of ‘The Limits to Growth’ report in 2008 and this is what they concluded – that effectively
we’re right on track. (AUDIENCE TITTERS) So good job. (LAUGHTER) I want to unpack this ‘Limits to Growth’
scenario a little bit in up-to-date contemporary terms
using these three factors – energy, debt and climate. Now, you’ll notice debt
is something that wasn’t addressed in the 1972 report. They didn’t look
at the financial system and its contribution
to global economic activity, but as we’ve learned
over the past four years this is something we can’t ignore. So let’s start with energy. And I said at the outset
that energy is key. Well, why is that? It’s because without energy,
nothing happens. Many conventional economists will say
that energy is 10% of the economy because we spend
10% of GDP on energy, but really that doesn’t capture it because if the energy switches off, if the lights go off,
if the petrol pumps run dry, then the economy
doesn’t decline by 10%. The economy goes away. We have depended upon energy since…since we’ve been human
and before. Energy enables us to do
everything that we do. And up until
the Industrial Revolution, we were using renewable
energy sources in various forms, but there were limits
to what we could do. With the beginning
of the Industrial Revolution, we had developed
certain basic technologies – we had developed metallurgy and gears
and a simple heat engine – and the ability to extract first coal
and then oil and natural gas and as we did so,
all hell broke loose. Think of it this way. Maybe you’ve had the experience
of running out of petrol in your car and having to push your car
off to the side of the road. That’s a bit of hard work, right, even if you’re just pushing
your car only a couple of metres. But imagine pushing your car for kilometre
after kilometre after kilometre. That would really
be a lot of work, right? Well, how much? It turns out that
a single litre of petrol contains about as much energy as you would expend working hard
for maybe three or four weeks. Let’s say a month
just to use a round number. So a month’s work for… How much
are you paying for petrol right now? A little less than $1.50
or right around $1.50? A month’s hard labour for $1.50? You can’t get labour that cheap
anywhere in the world. And, of course,
that’s why we’ve mechanised every process of production
and transport that we possibly could over the course
of the last few decades and that has given us
enormous economic growth. When you hear about
labour productivity, that doesn’t mean people working
longer hours and working harder. In most instances, it means
people using more fuel-fed machines. Well, oil is the most
economically critical of the fossil fuels because virtually all of our transport energy comes from oil. But oil is also a finite resource, as we’ve discovered
in my country, the United States, over the course of the last century. The US is where the oil industry
got its start in 1859 and it’s hard to imagine today… Of course, today the US is by far the world’s foremost
oil importing country, but in the early 20th century the US was the world’s
biggest exporter of oil by far. Now, oil discoveries in the US hit a peak and started to decline all the way back in 1930. 40 years after in 1970, US oil production began to decline. Now, this is the template. This is what we have been seeing
and will see in every oil-producing nation and, in fact, many other
former oil exporters like Indonesia and Great Britain are now oil-importing nations. Actual world oil discoveries have been declining since about 1964. So it’s not just
a couple of years’ bad luck. This is a long-standing trend. Actual world oil production
has been stagnant since 2005. Now, if you add in
some other liquid fuels like biofuels
and propane, butane and so on, you can see a little
up-tick on this graph, but if we’re just talking about
regular, old, conventional crude oil, the stuff that made
the economy go in the 20th century, we seem to be stuck in neutral. Well, why is that? It’s because the oil industry itself
is changing. Back in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, it was the days
of the Beverly Hillbillies – we could find oil in onshore areas
in enormous pools in the ground, it was relatively cheap
to drill for the stuff and the amount of energy
that we got back for every unit of energy
that we invested in exploration and production
was enormous, something on the rate of 50 to 100
to 1 energy-profit ratio. I think the battery in my clicker
is starting to go. Uh-oh. This is not good. OK, here we go. So this is what the oil industry
looks like today – drilling in a mile or two
of ocean water where a single exploratory well can cost a half a billion dollars
and still come up dry. Other new sources of oil
include tar sands in Canada or tight reservoirs in North Dakota. Yes, there’s more oil there. We’re not about to run out of oil, but we’ve been extracting it using
the low-hanging-fruit principle. So we get the cheapest, best
and easiest stuff first and leave the more expensive,
harder to get, more environmentally risky stuff
for later. Well, guess what. It’s later. Here’s Australia’s situation, as I’m sure you all know well. Your country was an oil exporter for a couple of years back in the 1980s, but as Australia consumes more oil these days, it has to import more oil and, of course, the line…
the queue of oil-importing nations is lengthening with each passing year and there are some bullies who want to elbow their way
to the front of that line. Let’s go here. Ah! So there is a very strong link now between the economy and oil prices. The vertical grey bars are recessions in the US since 1970 and as you’ll see, there have been several
oil price spikes since 1970 and they correlate very well with
the beginnings of these recessions. Now, there have been recessions that aren’t correlated
with oil price increases, but the reverse is not true. There hasn’t been
a single occasion since 1970 when we’ve seen
a rapid increase in oil prices when we haven’t seen a recession. Most famously, obviously, just 2008, we saw the price of oil skyrocket
up to almost $150 a barrel and just a couple of months later
in September 2008 of course the famous GFC –
global financial crisis. Now, this is our situation
in a nutshell. The oil industry now needs prices
over $100 a barrel in order to justify bringing on a new
barrel-of-oil’s worth of production from unconventional sources, whether it’s ultra-deepwater,
tar sands or whatever, but meanwhile we know
from recent economic history if the price of oil goes above $100
and stays there for very long it starts to undercut
economic growth. So just on the basis
of this one factor alone – global oil prices – there is reason to think that we may be hitting
some kind of fundamental limit at least over the short term until we can find
something to replace oil, but that’s going
to be hard to do for a while and, in fact, I’d argue that there
aren’t any good substitutes for oil from an economic standpoint
on the horizon. But that’s not the only thing
that’s happening. We’re also seeing
a global debt crisis. Now, what is that about? Let me explain it to you
with a story. The story starts in
the early part of the 20th century. The problem then was overproduction. With cheap energy
and powered assembly lines, it was possible to make consumer
products in larger quantities than people were
accustomed to buying them. So how to solve this problem? Well, one strategy that
was hit upon was advertising – talking people into
wanting more stuff. And there were subsidiary strategies
like planned obsolescence – making consumer products that would reliably break down
before they really had to so that you would
have to replace them or making consumer products so they
would change appearance every year and everyone would
want to have the latest model. Now, this is an ad
for a 1910 Studebaker. A 1910 Studebaker cost about $900. That doesn’t sound like much
to pay for a new car today, but in 1910, $900 was a lot of money. It was much more money than
people were accustomed to paying for, well, what was
at that time a luxury item. So even though factories were capable
of turning these things out by the thousands
and tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands, it was hard for people to buy them. So how to solve that problem? Well, the solution
was consumer credit – making it easier
for people to go in to debt to buy things they couldn’t
otherwise afford. Consume now, pay later. It was a way of stimulating
economic growth and, of course,
it was very successful. Another thing we did
was to change the monetary system. In the early 20th century, there was a link between
precious metals – gold and silver – and money, but there were limits
to the amount of gold and silver that could be brought
to the market at any given time so over the course
of the 20th century those links were severed so that today effectively
money is debt and debt is money. If you go to the bank
and take out a loan for $10,000, the banker doesn’t
scurry off to the vault and look for $10,000
that somebody deposited there. No, as soon as the loan is approved, $10,000 appears as a deposit
in your account. That money was
created out of nothing. And when you pay back that
$10,000 loan, the money disappears. It’s magic. It’s…it’s a very good system for an economy that’s growing rapidly because it means we can just create
as much money as we actually need. Now, I want to describe for you the contents of a paper by economist Robert Gordon that is kind of incendiary. It’s making the rounds right now. Bear with me. I’ll describe it
as quickly and simply as I can. He’s suggesting that there have been
three periods of economic growth during the industrial era. Now, the first segment was characterised by coal,
steam power and railroads. It took place
during the 19th century, the early years of the 20th century. The second industrial period was characterised by oil and the machines that use oil
like automobiles and airplanes and also by electrification and the machines that we invented to
take advantage of electrification – obviously electric lights, but also refrigerators
and air conditioners and so on. Then there was a third period
of industrial growth that started in the 1980s and that was characterised
by computers, eventually by cell phones
and the internet. Now, Gordon argues
on the basis of very clear data that it was the second
of these industrial periods that brought by far
the lion’s share of economic growth and that by the 1980s, the introduction
of oil-powered machinery and electrification
and electrical appliances, this phase was reaching a point of diminishing returns
in the industrialised countries. People had already bought
their first automobile, their first air conditioner
and vacuum cleaner and so on and from then on it was just a matter of replacing
ones that already existed. There was a very high level
of consumption and economic activity, but it wasn’t wanting
to grow very much. Now, the third period that
begins to take off in the 1980s with computers and all the rest, yes, it brings another bit
of economic growth, but not nearly as much
as took place earlier. Now, the significance of this
is that many of us, I think, are relying upon
technological innovation to maintain the same level
of economic growth that we saw in the mid-20th century. If Gordon is right, then that may
have been a one-off event, in fact. Oil after all is an amazingly
powerful energy resource that has unique characteristics. It’s energy-dense, it’s portable, it’s unlike anything that we know
that might be a substitute. And also you think of the power of
the technologies that it unleashed – automobiles, air travel and so on. Where’s the encore? It doesn’t seem to be in the wings. Another thing started in the 1980s
and that was globalisation and it also had an impact because suddenly
as a result of container shipping and satellite communications it became possible for companies
to outsource production. So workers in the already
industrialised countries like the United States were now competing with workers
on the other side of the planet. This had the effect
of capping real wages for factory workers
in already industrialised countries. So in the United States,
the average hourly wage in inflation-adjusted terms
for factory workers is no higher than it was in 1973. So by this time
consumerism is 70% of the economy and if people don’t actually
have more money in their pockets how are we going
to keep the economy growing? Well, the answer hit upon
was more debt – make it even easier for people
to take on even more debt so credit cards, subprime mortgages, home equity lines of credit, car loans, student loans,
and all the rest. If you’re taking out that $10,000
loan that we talked about earlier, that’s an obligation
for you to repay, but from the standpoint of the banker
who’s making the loan, that same loan is an asset. So as the economy
is suffused with more and more debt, that means that there
are more and more assets for the financial industry. And, of course,
securitisation and derivatives also come into the picture
around this time so the financial industry
is actually growing at something like three times
the rate of the rest of the economy. This is… The lower blue line is US GDP and the red line is the amount
of debt in the US economy. And here we’re not talking
about government debt. We’re primarily talking about household debt,
corporate debt and so on. So the financial industry is taking on more
political clout within the economy as it’s growing
faster than manufacturing, faster than agriculture
and all the rest. It becomes a different
kind of economy, in fact. Here’s another picture
of the same thing. And as you’ll note, government debt actually was
growing slower than household debt throughout this period
right up until 2008. And what happens in 2008? With the housing crash, suddenly trillions
of dollars of value disappear from the economy and the central bank –
the Federal Reserve – and the government step in as the lenders and borrowers
and spenders of last resort in order to keep the economy
from imploding upon itself. You have a similar situation
here in Australia with levels of private debt
compared to GDP. Now, you didn’t have
the same experience with the collapse
of the property bubble, but…perhaps just wait a while. (LAUGHTER) These were the words of my
dear former president George W. Bush. On September 24, 2008, he said, “If we don’t loosen up some money,
this sucker could go down.” Now, by the words “this sucker”, I believe he meant to say
the entire US financial system and, by extension, that of
the rest of the world as well. Some money was indeed loosened up. The Federal Reserve
was recently audited as a result of an act of Congress for the first time
in its history since 1913 and it emerges
that the Federal Reserve pumped $16 trillion
into the global economy after 2008 in order to keep it afloat. $16 trillion is a lot of money. It happens to be more
than the entire annual US GDP. And yet even with all of that, and the US is deficit
spending to this day at a rate of $100 billion a month. Now, of course
there’s a great hue and cry, a great concern
about that in Washington because, you know, you can’t
keep borrowing money forever, but if the government
stops deficit spending then where’s the economic engine
going to come from? The economy just isn’t
picking back up on its own. (LAUGHTER) We hear about bail-outs
and Greek bail-outs, for example. Now, are the people of Greece
being bailed out? Are the people
of the US being bailed out? No, what’s actually happening
is that… ..in order for the banks to receive the payments
on their existing loans… They effectively made a bet with subprime mortgages and home equity lines of credit in
the US based on inflated house prices and in Europe with loans
from banks in Germany and France to countries like Greece. The bet was that there would be plenty
of economic growth in the future and therefore it would be easy
for these people or countries to pay back these loans. When that turns out
not to be the case, when economic growth isn’t happening
and the payments can’t be made, well, these loans turn out
to be toxic assets for the banks, but rather than seeing the banks fail because they made bad bets
and their assets turn out to be toxic more money is created out of nothing
by central banks and by governments to make the payments, but those loans
are on the backs of the people. So the Greeks now are working
six-day weeks and 13-hour days with the hope that their economy
will start to grow somehow and they’ll be able to pay back
ever and ever larger debt. It’s not going to happen. We have hit limits to debt. You know yourself
if you take on so much debt that you can’t make the payments and the bank doesn’t want
to loan you any more money then you’ve hit the wall. That’s what we’re doing. That’s what is going on
in the very simplest terms right now across the world. But that’s not all that’s happening. Of course, climate is changing and I’m not going to argue
that climate change is currently right at this moment
choking off world economic growth, but I will argue that
over the course of this decade climate change is going
to come in from the wings and deliver the coup de grace
on world economic growth. We all know the story. Global carbon emissions are increasing. Global temperatures are going up. Believe me, they are going up. Yes. And by how much? Well, we know with
the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere right now that we will certainly see
at least two degrees or warming and just with the current
degree of warming, amount of warming, we’re already seeing
extreme weather events like the drought that’s
hitting my country right now and causing billions of dollars
worth of damage to crops throughout
the American Midwest. We’re also seeing just with
the current amount of warming the collapse of the Arctic ice. The North Pole is becoming ice-free over the course of just a few years. Almost certainly by 2020, we will see an ice-free Arctic
during summer months and this is setting off
a self-reinforcing feedback because as dark ocean water
is opened up in summer months that absorbs much more
heat from the sun, which melts ice even sooner, which opens up more water
to create more heat to melt the ice even sooner
and so on. So we’re almost certainly looking at even more warming than… ..than two degrees. We don’t know exactly how much. But another worrisome thing
is that as the Arctic is warming it’s letting loose methane
that’s been trapped in ice either in permafrost on land on under the oceanbeds and over the short term,
over a decade time span, methane is 10… Excuse me. 100 times as powerful
a greenhouse gas as CO2. So this is yet another
self-reinforcing feedback that could bring us to…who knows? 10 degrees, perhaps more. If we get to 10 degrees,
if we get to 20 degrees, it’s game over
for civilisation as we know it. But long before we get to that stage, I believe we will see
weather events extreme enough to effectively reverse
economic growth as we’ve seen it
over the past few decades. So we see these
three things converging – oil prices, limits to debt
and climate change. All together, this is our situation. We’re on a speeding train. It’s going at a pretty fast clip, but it’s never going
quite fast enough for our taste. We want it to go faster
with every passing year because we want more jobs, governments want more tax returns so they can provide
more services to the citizens, investors want
higher rates of return. So we want that train
to speed up all the time. And, of course, it’s exhilarating until we get to the end of the road. And here we are. You know, nothing goes on… Nothing grows forever
on a finite planet. Think of it this way. Imagine a tiny hamster. A baby hamster grows very rapidly
for the first portion of its life. It actually doubles
its body weight every week for the first several weeks. Now, suppose we had a magic hamster that could somehow continue
doubling its body weight every week for one whole year –
52 doublings. How big a hamster would we have? Would it be 50 kilos or 500 kilos? Well, the New Economics Foundation
in London has done the math for us and it turns out that it would
be a 9 billion ton hamster. Now, how can that be? How can just 52 doublings get us to such
an extraordinary value? Well, that’s what
exponential growth is all about. It can be expressed
in terms of doubling times. That’s what we’re trying to do
with economic growth. It seems so innocuous –
2% or 3% or 5% per year. But think about what China’s doing – growing its economy in recent years
at 10% per year. What’s the doubling time? Well, the math
is very easy, actually. It turns out to be seven years. So after seven years,
China’s economy is twice as big. After 14 years,
it’s four times as big. After 21 years
from the moment we started, China’s economy
is eight times as large. So how many times
can we double China’s economy before it runs into
fundamental limits? No-one knows the answer
to that question, but one might start to wonder is even one more doubling possible? Well, how does all of this
relate to Australia? It’s not for me as an American to come to your country and tell you
what you should do with your country, but I think as an interested
and sympathetic outside observer it appears to me that
you all face a kind of crossroads. It would appear that
you’re banking your future on extracting and exporting resources to a growing Chinese economy, but does that really make sense
as a long-term strategy? After all, China
is facing some problems. China’s economy is actually slowing down right now and it’s entirely possible that this decade, China will face real problems with maintaining its economic growth. So Australia is part
of a larger system. China makes its money largely by exporting
manufactured goods to the United States, Europe, other importing nations. So as those countries stagnate then China exports less, which means China needs
less iron ore, less coal, copper – all of the things that Australia is exporting to China. So if China’s demand goes down, that means that
commodity prices soften and that then in turn will have
an impact on Australia’s economy. This is already occurring.
This is not hypothetical. When Martin Ferguson said
that the resources boom is over… Of course, talk about
a dangerous idea. (LAUGHTER) He was immediately forced
to retract and fudge and so on, but, you know, I think he was telling
us all something we need to know. Meanwhile, Australia’s population
is still growing very rapidly. The Australian Bureau of Statistics is telling us that the nation’s population could double or triple by the end of the century. Is this something
to be concerned about? Well, maybe so. I mean, after all, if the economy
is slowing down and maybe stagnating and maybe even contracting
over the course of this century and meanwhile population
is continuing to grow, that means that
per capita consumption, per capita GDP would plummet. Is that any kind of future
for your children and grandchildren? Maybe it’s time to start
thinking about population. Maybe it’s also time
to start thinking about building resilience
into your economy. Now, what are we talking about
with resilience? In many cases, resilience is
the opposite of economic efficiency. Economic efficiency
sounds like a good thing. After all, energy efficiency
is almost always a good thing. Well, economic efficiency’s
a bit different. When I explain this
to American audiences I use the following analogy. If you can grow corn
cheaper in Iowa than anywhere else then you should grow
all of your corn in Iowa and nothing in Iowa except corn. It makes good economic sense.
That’s economic efficiency. But it makes for a less
resilient food system because if the Iowa corn crop fails, as it’s doing right now, then nobody has corn
and Iowa has nothing. If you want a more
resilient food system then you need more
dispersed inventories. You need a more localised food system rather than a globalised
and centralised food system. It may not be
as economically efficient, but in hard times, it’ll be much easier
for everyone to get by. Well, we are facing hard times. Let’s be real about this. The 21st century
is not going to look like the 20th century all over again. It’s not the Jetsons,
it’s not the Beverly Hillbillies. It’s going to be a time
of belt-tightening. It’s going to be
a time of retrenchment. Now, that doesn’t mean
it’s the end of the world. We’ve had hard economic times before
and we’ve gotten through them. But it will go much better for us if we prepare, if we understand
what’s happening and why and make the necessary adjustments. Getting off growth will go much
easier for us, for example, if we get off of GDP. GDP most economists will acknowledge
is a perverse indicator. All it’s telling us
is that we’re spending more money, but we may be spending money
on things that make us miserable. Why not adopt indicators
like a genuine progress indicator or gross national happiness,
as the people of Bhutan have done, that actually gives us
useful information about the quality of our
household lives and community lives, the quality of our environment
and so on? How about developing
alternative currency so that if one major currency like the US dollar
or the Australian dollar has a few hiccups along the way we have some alternatives to that, perhaps a currency that’s not
based on interest-bearing debt? Maybe we need to rethink
how corporations are organised. You know, right now most corporations are organised so that
their first priority is returns for shareholders. So corporations have to grow or die and if a corporation stops growing then it’s likely to be
taken over by another and liquidated and so on. How about family-owned
or worker-owned businesses that can continue to provide work
for their labour force, can continue to provide
good products for their customers without necessarily having
to grow year after year? And as we do these things we should be thinking about
what we’re going to prioritise. You know, do baby bonuses make sense
under these circumstances? I don’t think so. You know, we do need alternative
energy sources, solar and wind, but they will provide
a different kind of energy from what we’ve been used to. They are intermittent sources. The sun isn’t always shining,
the wind isn’t always blowing. They’re not going to support the same
kind of consumer growing economy that we’ve seen
during the last few decades. So as we transition
to renewable energy sources, which we certainly must do
as fast as we can, we have to expect to have less energy and especially less energy
for transportation. We will be less mobile in the future. Nobody is planning
on electric airliners to ferry hundreds of people
from continent to continent. It’s not going to happen. And if we use biofuels
for Boeing 747s, that fuel is going
to be much more expensive than the kerosene
that we’re using right now. We will be less mobile
so let’s plan on it. We can make this transition. We should be building
or retrofitting our buildings so that they don’t require
external energy sources like the passive house movement
in Germany is doing. And, finally,
we’ve created a food system that depends upon fossil fuel inputs for pesticides, fertilisers,
herbicides and so on. That’s a food system
that’s almost designed to fail under circumstances
that are entirely foreseeable. So we need to re-localise
our food systems and extract fossil fuels
from every stage of it. Finally, we need
to rethink economics itself. Economics as a discipline
grew up during this anomalous period, a brief eye-blink of time
in human history, when we had rapid
fossil-fuelled economic growth. And so economists internalised
some ideas about the world that I think are pretty unrealistic, like the idea that the entire natural
world is a subset of the economy – it’s just a pile of resources that we extract,
turn into consumer goods, which then become waste,
which goes away, wherever ‘away’ is. But the reality, of course,
is exactly the opposite – the entire human economy
is a subset of the ecosystem, always has been and always will be. So why don’t we design
our human economy to function like a healthy ecosystem? We have to understand that growth
and population and consumption is fundamentally unsustainable and when I say ‘unsustainable’, I don’t mean
insufficiently eco-groovy. I mean it can’t go on. Now, obviously it can go on
for a few decades because it has, but not much longer. So we should plan
for how big an economy nature can support over the long term and how big a population. Renewable resources
have to be harvested at less than the rate
of natural replenishment – how obvious and yet
we’re flouting this principle with regard to forests and fisheries. And non-renewable resources have
to be recycled wherever possible and the rate at which we extract them
from the earth’s crust always has to decline if we’re going to aim
for a condition that’s sustainable. Very simple principles. Now, can we follow those principles
and still build one of these? I don’t know. But if these are the most important
invention in all of human history, as we seem to all have agreed
that we can’t live without them, well, shouldn’t we be thinking
about how we can make them not from depleting, scarce,
non-renewable resources using slave labour and lots of
fossil-fuelled transport in between, shouldn’t we be thinking
about how we can make them from recycled and renewable materials
using well-paid local labour? Can we do it? I don’t know,
but we should try. You know, if you’re starving, a little more food
can be a very good thing, but we in the industrialised world
have gotten to the point where it’s like you’re full,
but you’re having another hamburger. It’s not good for you and it doesn’t feel good and, in fact, economic growth
is no longer feeling that good to us. There are all kinds
of psychological studies showing we in the western world… Even in the industrialised
parts of China people are miserable
because of the pace of life. So can we back off on the accelerator and actually be happier,
healthier and better off? There’s a lot that
we have traded away for the sake of rapid
economic growth. That means that if we aim
to stabilise our economies in a sensible way, downsizing the financial system in relation to manufacturing
and agriculture, reorganising our priorities. We can be happier. We can live more fulfilled,
integrated lives. Well, that’s what
we should concentrate on, that’s what we should aim for and if we do, the future
may look actually brighter. Thank you very much. (APPLAUSE) (WHISTLING AND APPLAUSE) I’ll just put my mobile phone
down here. (CHUCKLES) Oh, thank you, Richard. That was very interesting
and highly illuminating and a lot of dangerous
ideas in there. We have time now for Q&A so if you do have a question please make your way to the
microphones which are being set up, one just over there
and then one up the top. But I’m going to kick off. Richard, do you think –
in your view – the United States will find its way out of this current economic
situation that it finds itself in? Um, I’d like to answer
with a resounding yes, but I can’t. (BOTH LAUGH) I think the US
and actually most of the world is going to be driven
to adaptation by crisis and the current political
discussion in the US about the economy
and about energy, about our future, is pretty abysmally wrongheaded. But, you know, it’s hard
to find a politician anywhere who’s willing to stand up and say, “Hey, look, we’ve had
enough economic growth. “Let’s rethink our direction.” But when crisis comes, we’re almost forced
to think dangerous ideas. That happened in 2008. We saw magazines like
‘The Economist’ and ‘Time Magazine’ suddenly questioning capitalism. I mean, who would
have ‘thunk’, right? So as crises recur,
I think it’s really important that we contextualise them,
take advantage of them. A crisis is a terrible
thing to waste. (LAUGHTER) Well, and also what you said before, which I actually thought
was quite a dangerous idea, was the notion that
to downsize the economy and looking at shrinking
manufacturing… Manufacturing here, obviously, has been very much at the forefront
of the national debate. It’s a dangerous idea. I think it would take
a lot of political courage to actually step up
and say something like that. Well, see, what we need
to do first of all is downsize the financial industry and we can do that by… Good luck with that. (CHUCKLES) We could do that
nationally or globally with a tax on all
financial transactions and then use that money to help households
make the transition and also to build up our
renewable energy infrastructure and help society as a whole
move into a survivable future. Alright, let’s take some
questions from the floor. I can see someone upstairs. -Please.
-MAN: Thanks. In your discussion, I don’t recall you
addressing the globalisation of the movement
of capital and knowledge to places like China and India
and other developing countries as a cause of some of the changes
that you were describing. You also didn’t address
whether developing countries have still got a right to anticipate
and demand growth within their countries. Can you address that? Thanks. Sure. Yeah, you know… (SIGHS) I’m not suggesting that
the end of growth is an option. What I’m saying is it’s happening and it will happen
regardless of what we do. Now, the less industrialised
countries I think can adapt best by completely leapfrogging the whole
fossil fuel industrial paradigm of automobiles and highways and so on and go straight to a more localised
renewable-energy-based economy. China I think is making
an enormous mistake by becoming the world’s largest
automobile market and building highways
at a frenzied pace. Not only is it unsustainable, I think it’s going
to lead the country off the cliff. So do less industrialised countries
have the right to grow further? Well… ..certainly they have the right
to make life better for their people. How they do that
I think is going to be a matter of using some
intelligence and strategy and not just trying
to emulate the US and Australia and what these countries have done
over the course of the 20th century because that’s a path to failure. -Down here on the floor.
-MAN 2: Yeah, thank you. A wonderful presentation
with a lot of data, but I think just a few
speakers around the world can tackle the fact that,
at least for some of us, this system – capitalism
or the free enterprise system – doesn’t work at all because it’s focused on money and
it’s a money-based economy basically. Some of the speakers
just speak about solutions like we have to do things
that make us happy… PERSON: A question, please! So why don’t you
generally speak about something like the economy
as we know it now – the free enterprise system –
doesn’t work at all. We should get out of this idea and then find something else, like, for example,
a resource-based economy? If you know, what’s your thoughts
about the ‘Zeitgeist’ movie? Yeah. Well, you know, I generally
try to avoid the word ‘capitalism’ simply because as soon as you use it people think they know
what you’re talking about, but at least in my country,
in the United States, it results in an enormous
amount of… ..of confusion, actually, because people think that
if you’re against capitalism somehow then you must be for
state socialism or communism. I don’t think that any of the
economic systems of the 20th century will actually serve us
in the 21st century. We’re going to have
to reinvent the economy. Now, whether that means
abolishing private ownership of all means of production… I kind of doubt if that’s really
going to be the way we go. It certainly wasn’t the path
to health and happiness for millions of people
in the socialist world during the 20th century. The ‘Zeitgeist’ movie
I think has some very good ideas, but there are a number
of organisations that have come up with I think very good critiques
of our current economic system and alternative plans and that’s only one of many
that I would point to. I’m just in Year 10 studying commerce so if the question’s a bit off-topic,
sorry if it doesn’t make sense. But is our addiction to
cost-effective economic growth a path to deconstruction of what it was designed to create? I’m sorry. I don’t…
Could you restate that? So is our addiction
to cost-effective growth a path to deconstruction
of what it was designed to create? Right, OK. Well, yeah, in a sense I guess so. The whole idea of economic growth was to make us richer and happier and it has made some people
certainly a lot richer and if you look at GDP per capita,
as we saw in the very first slide, we do live in
the wealthiest societies that have ever existed
in all of human history. I mean, an ordinary Australian
or North American lives like a king or queen in energy terms
and in terms of personal consumption compared to people in previous
centuries and millennia, but are we happier as a result? That is another question. And I think once basic
human needs are satisfied, once we have enough energy to keep ourselves warm when
it’s cold outside and cook our food, once those basics are covered and we have enough to eat
and shelter and so on then there’s not
that much correlation between further consumption
and satisfaction in life. So economic growth I think right now actually is undermining the very things that
it was designed to foster. Richard, I’d like
to ask you a question. Obviously, Australia is focusing
very much on finite resources, digging things out of the ground
and exporting them to China, as you mentioned in your speech, and, obviously, they do run out. Where in your view
then should the focus be for the government and other sort of people
in those positions? Well, Australia’s going
to have to plan its economy for the longer term, right? So that means developing
an internal economy that can function with a resilience over decades and we should be planning
for a society that can persist for centuries. You know, right now
Australia’s a boom town economy. We know about boom towns
in the United States. You know, there are ghost towns
all over the American west where there was a silver mine
back in the 19th century and a saloon and the saloon was prospering
as long as the silver mine and then the silver mine
started to peter out and the whole town
just dries up and blows away. Well, what’s the long-term plan for long-term
sustainable agriculture? For example, Australia
has very poor thin soils so that means a long-term plan would be to build topsoil
rather than mining topsoil, which is what industrial
agriculture typically does. So Australia should be thinking
about really the basics – of topsoil, water, food production – and making its cities,
its buildings to last and not to require
external energy inputs. Australia has the potential –
lots of potential – for renewable energy. So developing that rather than continuing
to mine the fossil energy sources that are the energies
of the 20th century. Should Australia
allow foreign ownership of its agricultural and arable land? Hmm. (LAUGHTER) Well, one… ..one has to think
that that’s a very bad idea. I see a few people wanting to clap,
but no-one is. Please. Please make your way
to the microphone. MAN: Two questions. Leaving aside
the climate considerations, a lot of serious commentators
are talking about very recent finds with natural gas
and fracking technology and some sort of oil finds
that you alluded to and there’s talk of America becoming
energy independent within a decade. Does that change at least one of the points
of consideration that you raised? Second question
is in light of your comments and the CSIRO report you mentioned, the “sceptics”
of your sort of viewpoint seem to use the Club of Rome
and ‘The Limits of Growth’ and there’s a person’s name
that comes to mind, Paul someone, as almost a weapon
against this viewpoint, as if that’s been totally discredited and yet that would stand
in complete contradiction to what you’re putting out. I’m going to have to answer
this very quickly because we’re running out of time. First of all, the fracking gas
and unconventional oil in the US is being wildly oversold. We already have a study
on our website – postcarbon.org, a free
PDF download you can look at, a 75-page study by one of North America’s
principal geologists – showing that is that the… Natural gas prices have been
driven down by a fury of drilling that happened in 2006, 2007, 2008. Now, these new gas wells – and it’s true of the
unconventional oil wells as well – they deplete very rapidly. So you drill a new
oil well in January, by December the rate
of production from that well has already fallen by 40% so you have to drill again
and again and again. So if you’re drilling
thousands and thousands of wells then you can keep production flat
or maybe even rising, but they’re drilling
the sweet spots first. So what we’ve seen so far
is the best it’s ever going to get and as time goes on, even over the course of the next
two, three, four, five years we will see the end
of the sweet spots, the decline in the existing fields and are forecast
on the basis of very good data is that US oil production, rather than the US becoming
self-sufficient in oil will actually begin declining again
within the next two to three years. Now, yeah, Paul Ehrlich
and ‘The Limits to Growth’… You know, this is all
a public relations strategy on the part of
the growth-based economists. Paul Ehrlich, for example, had a famous bet
with the economist Julian Simon. Simon bet that
commodity prices would fall, Ehrlich bet that they would rise and Julian Simon won the bet. “So the economy can grow forever,”
we conclude from that. Well, it was just a matter of timing. If they’d made the same bet
5 or 10 years later Paul Ehrlich would have won. Commodity prices have
generally increased since 2000 partly because
energy prices have gone up, partly because we’re drilling,
digging deeper for lower quality ores all the time and the way we do that
is with more and more energy and if energy gets more expensive,
it undermines the whole process. So, yeah, I mean… ..basically the ‘Limits to Growth’
people and Paul Ehrlich were right. The data is in their favour. That’s all we have time for.
I’m really sorry. WOMAN: We haven’t had a woman
ask a question yet. (LAUGHTER) Oh, alright, you’ve twisted my arm.
One more question. (APPLAUSE) OK, it’s all about
make-up, obviously. Very quickly, it’s a brave
policymaker or government who controls growth. The only example I can see
that’s been successful is the one-child policy in China, which is so culturally kind of against what
we could possibly cope with. I’m just sort of
putting that out there. Is that what governments… Is that the kind of brave step governments and policymakers
need to start taking? Well, with regard to population, many countries have made
effective efforts to reduce the rate
of population growth and in most cases that involves actually doing things
to raise the social status of women, especially in poor countries. So, yeah, if we’re talking about GDP, it’s true there
are very few countries that have deliberately
put the brakes on growth, but with regard to population
it’s a different story and, in fact, the countries
that have taken steps to reduce the rate
of population growth have seen their economies
improve as a result. If you have a poor country
with large average family size, a high rate of population growth, then a typical family spends
all its income on food and shelter. It has nothing left over
at the end of the day for education for the children, for formation
of a small family business or anything like that and so they’re mired in poverty
generation after generation. It’s only when
the rate of population growth begins to slacken off that there’s the possibility then
of improving people’s lives. (MAN SPEAKS INDISTINCTLY) I’m sorry. MAN: The ageing of the population… The ageing of the population is… It’s a problem that I believe
has been overstated. Now, once you have
rapid population growth there are going to be implications
all the way down the line, but it’s not something
you can continue doing forever so we’ve got to make plans for how
we’re going to get off of that curve. Please join me in thanking
Richard Heinberg. (APPLAUSE) -Thank you.
-Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And just before you go,
I just wanted to let you know if you do have questions, Richard will be signing his book
in the Western Foyer. And also, Richard,
was there anything else… Yeah, I wanted to offer
a brief commercial. Many of you saw a little flyer
on your seats or next to your seats. There’s an Australian composer
named Kris Spike. I happen to be a rather enthusiastic
amateur violinist myself and I played
some of his compositions. There will be a performance
of his compositions here at the Opera House
in a few weeks and I would recommend that you go. Thank you, Richard. Thank you.