We have Byron Reese and Chris Hoffmann. Byron is the CEO of Gigaom and he’s the author of The Fourth Age. Chris Hoffman is an author, innovator and TEDx speaker. Both of these gentlemen are very well-versed in innovation, technology and quite a bit of thing that we have to predict for the future.
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Humanity And The Future Of Innovation Technology with Byron Reese
I am with Byron Reese who is the CEO and publisher of the technology research company, Gigaom. He’s the Founder of several high-tech companies. He’s the author of several books including Infinite Progress and The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers and the Future of Humanity. It’s nice to have you, Byron.
Thank you so much for having me.
I’m very interested in some of these future predictions and all the innovation that’s going on. I’ve had many interesting guests on my show. When I was speaking to Jurgen Schmidhuber about the future of technology, he has a very interesting view of the computers taking over to the point where we’re not going to be here in the future. It’s going to be a computer-driven world eventually but that’s not going to happen for a long time. We’re here trying to deal with what we’re dealing with. That’s why it’s going to be fascinating to cover some of the stuff that you talk about in some of your talks that I was watching and in your books. Before we get to that, I would like to have a little background in case anybody hasn’t seen your work or read your books. How did you get to the point of where you’re this expert futurist?
I’ve always been a tech guy. I’ve started a number of companies and had a variety of outcomes with those. Along the way, I would get invitations to speak and I would accept those. Oftentimes, because I have a technology background, people would ask me about the future. I read a quote once by Gene Roddenberry who said, “In the future, there will be no hunger, there will be no greed and all the children will know how to read.” It was that quote that set me off figuring out, did I believe that or was that something that rhymed? I spent a huge amount of time writing the book, Infinite Progress, which was trying to ask the question of how does the future happen and can you see it come out?
I picked up that thread in The Fourth Age and talk specifically about artificial intelligence. It’s interesting what you said, that view that in the future is going to be all about computers. They’re going to take over whatever that means and all the rest. What I learned is that what’s going to happen with artificial intelligence doesn’t require any particular technical knowledge to know. People disagree about it because they hold a different set of beliefs. That particular belief begins with the assumption that people are machines. People are either machines and everything in you is mechanistic and you’re a self-contained chemical reaction, self-sustaining. When it is in fact people are machines, then someday we’ll build a mechanical person and then that person will be better and better. That would be the future.There are all kinds of things that people can do that no machine can ever do. Click To Tweet
If you don’t hold that view, if you don’t believe people are in the end machines and there are a lot of reasons not to think that, you could think people had a soul or we’re conscious and computers can’t be conscious or whatever. If you reject that hypothesis that people are machines, then that future simply won’t happen. What it means is that there are all kinds of things people can do that no machine can ever do. I have a podcast about artificial intelligence and I’ve had about 100 guests. I ask every one of them, “What are you? Are you a machine or are you an animal? Are you a human?” 95% of the guests literally say, “I am a machine. What else would I be?” When I took that same question to my website and ask the general public, “What are you?” 85% of the people say, “I’m human. I’m not a machine.” That’s a huge disconnect.
What would you say if you were asked that?
I find it very interesting that we have these brains, but we don’t understand how they work. We don’t know how a thought is encoded. We have these things called the mind. The mind is everything your brain does that it shouldn’t be able to do. Your heart doesn’t have a sense of humor. Your stomach doesn’t have a sense of humor but somehow your brain does. We don’t know how the mind comes about and we don’t know how consciousness comes about. We know what consciousness is. It’s the difference between you can feel the warmth, but all a computer can do is measure temperature. It doesn’t feel warmth or cold, it can measure temperature.
The consciousness is the last great scientific question we don’t even know how to pose. I find it hard to believe that we have these brains we don’t understand, these minds we don’t understand and a consciousness we don’t understand. We conclude that we can make all that or we’ll be able to build all that. The case has not been made. It’s an article of faith among a lot of people to start with the assumption that people are machines. They say, “We’ll build mechanical minds and then they will be more powerful than ours.” It ends up trying to scare a whole lot of people unnecessarily because most people don’t hold that view of what humans are.
It is an interesting thing to debate and I write a lot about curiosity and perception. Some of the things that you’re talking about fascinate me. From that perspective, my gut reaction was the machine answer. I have other degrees outside of my business degrees. I had a certified medical rep certification, which is a two-year Masters in anatomy and physiology. When I was a pharmaceutical rep, I learned a lot about that type of thing. Our perception of what we know or our beliefs, they change over time. It used to be the brain was the main focus and now they’re focusing on your gut impacting your brain. What if they find that the gut’s more powerful than the brain and then what if they find something impacts the gut that’s more impactful? They keep changing things. People think they know the answers to things, but they don’t know the answers to things. I love that you say we don’t know. You don’t know sometimes. People don’t know what they don’t know. It’s very challenging to come up with an all-inclusive answer to things, but we can predict things.
Dr. Ellen Langer was on my show who’s the mother of mindfulness. She teaches at Harvard and she’s very well-known there. She was talking about how she had to change her belief system from what she thought was the truth. She gives a story about a guy who asked her to watch his horse while he got him a hot dog. She thought, “Horses don’t eat hot dogs.” He comes back, gives the horse a hot dog and the horse ate it. Then she realized that horses don’t usually eat hot dogs. We have to adjust our thinking that we think everything’s all or nothing. We think we know an answer to something, maybe we don’t know. I like to keep an open mind to some of this stuff. You talk about a lot of things. I loved watching your speaking reel. I’m a big Roddenberry, Star Trek fan. That’s great that that’s the positive thing that led you into all this. What’s interesting is the exploration of what is technology. I teach for sometimes up seven to ten universities. I teach online courses and one of them is for a technology school. I know that we get into Moore’s Law and a lot of things technology driven in that school. One of the things they ask is what is technology? That’s a hard question. What isn’t technology is probably as hard, don’t you think?
I think of it very simply. Technology is a trick we learned about a million years ago to multiply what humans are able to do. Its core characteristic is it amplifies human ability. The reason that’s important as a human, your body uses about a hundred watts of power constantly. If you’re dropped on a desert island, you would feel the limits of that hundred watts. With that little bit of power that each of us has, the history of humanity has been there’s never been enough of the good stuff for everybody. There’s never been enough food, never good enough medicine, never been enough leisure, never been enough education, all the rest. It would still be that way, except that we figured out this trick, technology, for taking our hundred watts of power and energy. We’re amplifying it to be able to do so much more. In the United States for instance, you consume your 100 watts plus 10,000 more constantly. That’s why we had the standard of living we have.
That’s why I have so much confidence that we’re going to be able to end the things like poverty, hunger and disease. You made a passing reference to Moore’s Law. The interesting thing is old technology seems to do this. It doubles on a predictable scale. They might be every two years, it depends on technology, but technology always keeps improving. It will improve indefinitely until we know everything there is to know and that is a long way away. All the ones that are purely technical, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of problems that aren’t technical like hatred, envy, greed and all of that. The range of technical problems like hunger, disease and poverty, we’ll live to see the end of those much sooner than anyone I think would expect. Aging is probably a technical problem. You only age and grow old for four reasons and they all look technical.The consciousness is the last great scientific question we don't even know how to pose. Click To Tweet
If you live another 25 years from now, you may never die. It brings to mind the old Star Trek episode where she tries to get sick, so she gets infected from Kirk on purpose because there’s so much population. Do you see that as a future problem because people will live forever?
Let me clarify that. I often say, “You’ll never die, but you’ll die at around 60, 70.” That’s how long it will take for some freak Wiley Coyote accident to befall you, like an anvil falling out of an airplane or something. You’re not immortal, you just don’t age. What you have to do is look up into the sky and realize that we live in a universe that sure looks like it’s got a lot of room in it. My favorite big universe piece of trivia is that if you take a grain of sand and put it on your fingertip, then you hold your fingertip out at arm’s length and look up at the sky, the grain of sand is blocking your view of 30,000 galaxies. That’s how big the universe is, it’s got plenty of space. I think we’ll carry on for other planets. I believe humanity will have a day when there are a billion people living on billion planets. I believe very deeply in us. When you look back, there was a time about 75,000 years ago that it’s believed that humans were down to a thousand mating pairs. We were an endangered species and somehow, we made it from there to here. Along the way, we invented all these things like habeas corpus, human rights, trial by jury, individual liberty and all of the rest. The great arc of the human story isn’t even to the halfway point yet. The best is yet to come.
I love this sand explanation. Going back to Moore’s Law and the power of doubling every year, can you tell your chess story?
I didn’t make it up but it’s a fantastically good way to imagine what a big deal it is. All of these technologies double on a predictable basis, whether it’s two years or twelve or whatever. Humans are terrible at understanding what a big deal it is because nothing in our lives behaves that way. You don’t wake up with 2 kids, then 4, then 8, then 16 and 32. Nothing in the real world behaves that way. We’re bad at it. The story is about 1,000 years ago when chess was invented. The man who invented it took it to the ruler and said, “I have invented chess.” The ruler said, “What would you like for a reward?” He said, “I’m a humble man, just put a grain of rice on the first square of the chessboard and then two on the second square, then four, then eight and sixteen. I want the rice on the 64th square.”
I ask people how much rice would that be? The purpose of the illustration is you are going to guess too low. Go crazy wild and what it turns out is it’s more rice than it’s ever been grown in 10,000 years of human cultivation all put together. When the ruler found that out, he had the man put to death. That’s another little life lesson to be had in that. The point is nobody’s brain goes there. Nobody says, “I thought that’s more rice than has ever been grown in the history of humanity.” We’re up there on square 60 and 61 over the chess board and when we double, it may have taken 4,000 years to make the computer you have on your desk but in two years it will be twice as good. If that’s not good enough to solve the problem, wait two more years, it would be twice as good, then twice as good and then twice as good forever.
You gave some examples in some of your talks, you showed some linear lines of things that have changed. It was stable for a while but then eventually everything’s shooting up. It’s 5,000 years ago that we went from the wheel to get to the moon, but you say things don’t happen in a linear fashion. It’s going to be fascinating to see what will happen in our lifetime. If you live the next 25 years, what do you think are going to be the biggest changes? Is it going to be the end of hunger, the end of poverty or something else that you think will be sooner?
I do think that that is right about when change comes, it comes very rapidly. We weren’t halfway to the moon 2,500 years ago. If you think about it this way, when we landed on the moon, we only broke the sound barrier years earlier. The person who did that, Chuck Yeager who knew one of the Wright brothers. What happens is forever we basically have stone knives, bear skins and then the Wright brothers break the sound barrier and went to the moon. Chuck Yeager is alive and he knew one of the Wright brothers. That’s how close we are to that history. Simultaneously, a whole lot will change and very little will change. The whole lot is you’ll see the end of hunger. That isn’t even a wild prediction. The UN believes that as well. The world doesn’t strain to feed its people. The United States already throw away enough food to feed all the hungry people in the world. You’ll live to see the end into poverty. Economic growth comes from technological events. We still live in a world where half of the people live on less than $3 a day per capita. That’s a big prediction.
We’ll live to see the end of the war. War is itself a technical problem. In one of my books, I gave 45 reasons why there would be no war in the future. If you had to sum it up to one, is if war ever seizes to be profitable, it will end. A lot of things are bringing that about. Other things won’t change at all. We probably won’t work any less because it’s economics. As we have become more productive at work, we’ve worked the same number of hours. We don’t progressively work less. We still read Shakespeare. They still make movies about Shakespeare plays. If you lived 400 years ago and the reason we do that is we recognize all those people, emotions and we know Iago, the Lady Macbeth, Macduff for that matter and all the rest that all still feels so real to us. I don’t think any of that is going to change the basic rhythm of life, families, rivalries, jealousies and all of that. That’s us and we don’t ever change. A lot of the sources of human misery will end, but we won’t change at all.Look up into the sky and realize that we live in a universe that’s got a lot of room in it. Click To Tweet
A lot of people are concerned about what will change in the next few years. Everybody’s trying to become updated, but they’re worried about artificial intelligence taking over their jobs. I’ve talked about it on my show. I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence. A lot of people discuss, can you make these robots empathetic or have certain parts of our emotional intelligence? Some of the things that people will have that maybe hard to duplicate. I also have talked to people who’ve created artificial curiosity and some of the things that I’ve studied. Where do you think the emotions come in? Can we have artificial general intelligence? Can we have emotional intelligence in robots? What should we be thinking about and what should we be worried about as far as our jobs of losing them?
I don’t worry about any of that stuff candidly. There are two different technologies. One is artificial general intelligence, that is a robot or an AI that’s as versatile as a human. It is creative and emotional and all of that, and then there’s narrow intelligence, which is what we know how to do now. That’s machine learning and all of that. When you hear people who are afraid of AI like Elon Musk, they’re talking about general intelligence, which we don’t know how to build. Nobody knows how to build. It’s all based on the assumption that we’re machines, to begin with. The only thing people are afraid about with narrow AI is job stuff. I don’t think people should be concerned in the least. I would say it this way, which is the half-life of the job is about 50 years. Every 50 years we lose half of all the jobs. It’s been going on for about 250 years that way.
If I were to show you 250 years of unemployment data put it on a wall for the US, what you’d notice is it never goes outside of 5% to 10% except the depression, which wasn’t caused by technology. You have to say about 250 years, it’s never been outside of 5% to 10% and yet we replaced all animal power with steam power. We invented the assembly line. We harnessed electricity. How can it be that every 50 years we lose half of all jobs and we never ever have systemic unemployment? I know the answer to that and it goes like this. What people say the reason they’re worried about AI taking jobs, AI is good at making new high-end jobs like a geneticist. They say however, it destroys these other low skilled jobs like order taker at a fast food restaurant. They said, “Do you think that order taker is going to learn how to become a geneticist?” The answer’s no, that’s not what happens at all.
What happens is a college biology professor becomes a geneticist. In high school, a biology teacher gets the college job and then a substitute teacher gets hired on full-time at the high school all the way down the line. The question is, that person who lost their job, can they be retrained to do this job tomorrow? Can everybody on the planet do a job a little bit harder than the job they have now? If your answer to that is yes, which I believe it is, then for 250 years this is all that’s happened. Technology’s creating great new jobs at the top, destroy jobs at the bottom and everybody shifts up a notch. You were talking again about an economy that destroys half of its jobs every 50 years. I don’t have any reason to believe this is moving any faster than that. That’s a lot of job destruction. All that requires is that everybody can do something a little harder than what they’ve got now.Technology is creating great new jobs at the top, destroying jobs at the bottom, and everybody shifts up a notch. Click To Tweet
When I wrote, The Curiosity Code Index, to go along with my book about curiosity, my intention was to determine the things that hold people back from being curious. Help them to open up to more ideas so that they can go to that next level of job and be aligned better and be more engaged. I agree with what you’re saying in the past, there’s going to be a computer operator to operate the computer. There was a new job and it wasn’t as much of a difference of how high they had to go. We maybe need to go higher than we needed to go in the past because there’s a computer operator robot that operates the computer. We have a couple of steps, maybe more. Do you think that this could be a little bit more of a curve? You had your original chart where it showed flat then all of a sudden it shot up into the air. Is this one of those things that could just shoot up into the air where we get exponential growth? Maybe it was half the jobs every 50 years or whatever you said in the past, but could it be dramatically different?
It’s hard to see that happening. There’s this study that is often cited from Oxford. The people say 47% of all jobs are about to vanish because of automation. If you google 47% of jobs, you’re going to see the web scream at you. That’s not what they said at all. What they said is, and I went to great pains to point this out, 47% of the things people do in their jobs can be automated. It’s very different and that’s not particularly news. OECD did a study and they’re not unpolitical political. They said, “What percent of actual jobs can be completely replaced by automation in the foreseeable future?” They think it’s 9% and I would say that’s the case. It’s very hard. First of all, robots need power. They aren’t dexterous. AIs can only do these incredibly narrow things. They do a very narrow thing incredibly well.
People are like, “If they can play chess, that’s a smart thing, they can do everything else.” No, that program can’t even play Tic-Tac-Toe. It’s very hard. The big thing is there’s an infinite number of jobs out there because jobs are made whenever you think of a way to take something like a lump of clay and make it worth some more, like turn it into a vase. Technology always increases productivity. That’s what it does. It amplifies your ability. Technology always makes people more productive. That’s always good for people. You can never argue making people more productive is bad. If you believe that you should lobby for laws that require everybody to work with one arm tied behind their back because you would lower productivity, you would need a bunch more people to do everything to create all these jobs, but those jobs will be low paying because everybody’s productivity is down.
The outlook that you have is interesting. I love the positive nature of how you see the future. I love the whole Star Trek way of seeing things the way Roddenberry did. I know that your book was described as entertaining and engaging by the New York Times. That’s impressive. It’s even on JP Morgan’s 2018 Summer Reading list and Gary’s Book Club pick for CES 2019. You’ve got a lot of attention with this book and a lot of people will find it fascinating. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind telling everybody how they could find you and your book and find out more?
I’m the easiest person in the world to find. I’m @ByronReese on Twitter. You can go to ByronReese.com. I’m @ByronReese on Facebook and LinkedIn. I got in early enough that I was the first Byron Reese to grab all these things. Go to Amazon and type that and you’ll see my books.
Thank you, Byron. This was so interesting and your videos were great. I hope people take some time to look at what you’ve done online. You do a very good job of presenting it in an entertaining way and I enjoyed having you on the show.
It was great. I hope you invite me back some time.
I definitely would like that.
Tapping Into Curiosity And Creativity Through Technology with Chris Hoffmann
I am with author and innovator, Christopher Hoffman. He has done TEDx Talks, network television appearances and he’s the author of Heart in Gear: An Engineer’s Erotic Journey to Freedom. It’s nice to have you here, Christopher.
I always like to follow up on people who do similar things to what I’m interested in. You deal with creativity, which fascinates me because that ties into what I’m interested in, in terms of curiosity and how it all leads to innovation. How did you get interested in that and give me a little background on you?
I spent fifteen years in the auto industry designing big heavy plant sized machinery. You’re talking, working in a room with fifteen other guys in white shirts. At night, I’m playing in a punk rock band in clubs in the late ‘80s in Detroit. That was an interesting lifestyle. I enjoy the mechanical engineering part because it’s a relationship with the Laws of Physics, instead of being in marketing and branding where I am talking about whether it should be peanuts or fruit flakes or something. I like the way you have to make contact with something in yourself to make sure you don’t fail. If you fail, it costs a lot of money. I moved out to the West Coast. I did some consumer product development. I spent some time in research and development labs, doing creative training and how to think like an innovator.
I started my own company. I developed a one-wheel electric motorcycle, the RYNO bike. It has 22 million views on some YouTube videos. It’s a geek fest out there, people forward it. That’s been a lot of fun. In all of the arc of me trying to be a better innovator, reading books and there’s brainstorming where you pop it out, you bring it back and you expand it again. There’s never that much talk about the emotional feeling, when it gets time to get specific or how anxious people get when you’re confronted with, “Am I going to be judged for this? What’s my prototype going to look like? Am I going to fail?” It’s this emotionality in innovation that’s not often talked about.
It’s funny because I addressed that in my book about curiosity. I found four things kept people from being curious. You get fear, assumptions, technology and environment were the four factors that I found. The first one is fear. Fear is what you’re talking about. Many people don’t want to look stupid. They don’t want to suggest ideas. They’ve been shot down in the past or worried about judgment. All the things you’re talking about, which ties into all these emotions, which keep people from being creative and then eventually not innovative. They don’t suggest or look at anything. I’ve had people in the past used to say more, “Don’t bring me any problems unless you have solutions.” If you don’t know the answer to the solutions, if you don’t bring the problems, then what’s the problem? You’ve got a mixed bag there. I’m curious of what you do to help people get over that fear, that anxious feeling, that judgment to get them more creative innovative?
The way that I start is to frame up where we are right now. We’re all stuck in this matrix that we’re not always aware of. The first split is, are you in an operations-driven company? Meaning you get rewarded with bonuses and positive feedback for doing exactly the same thing at a high level of precision. Some company that stamps out washers or are you in an organization that’s innovative based where there are no rewards for anything other than wanting to be in a great creative team? That’s the first question you have to ask yourself. The other one is how are you being rewarded emotionally? How are you being validated by what you’re doing and where is that validation coming from? It can come from an operations-driven organization for example. There’s this being rewarded for loyalty to precision. Even in our culture, you talk about the patriarchy or men and the toxic masculinity, all that stuff. It’s stacked up in a dominance hierarchy. You’re being rewarded for your loyalty to your other dudes that say to each other, “We get to do whatever we want.”
The loyalty thread is a connection that’s hard to break when you start trying to make independent choices. If you keep following that, you realize how embedded this is in ourselves. If I’m aligned externally to my own validation, there’s this anxious feeling if I make somebody unhappy. There’s this please or dynamic that get set up, as long as I keep everybody happy, I’m rewarded with power and privilege. My power and privilege being tied directly to my ability to keep everybody happy is completely counter to curiosity and creativity. There’s a huge emotional shift that has to happen, where you help people to self-reference. How do we go out and find our own inner peace? How do we go out and do things? If I go to a dance class and I get good at dancing, I’m being fed by some activity that I’m self-generating. I start to fill up my empty bowl of self-validation with my own energy that is something that nobody can take away from me. These are all these emotional ground laying strategies that you have to cross through these meadows first before we even start talking about how to make contact with your creativity and your curiosity.The more that we start to enact self-generated activities, the more we start to become independent. Click To Tweet
It’s interesting because I’m looking at some of the emotions involved in perception. You talked about the perception of reward and of different things that motivate us. How do you find out what it is that’s going to make you emotionally satisfied? My idea of what’s rewarding would be completely different from yours, for example.
I’m curious about something that’s a little edgy for me. I’ve always wanted to go kiteboarding. I see people do that. How do they do that? To prove to yourself that I can go take some classes, get out there and accomplish, that is something where I set in motion something that nobody told me to do. There’s no chance of me hurting somebody else’s feelings. I’m only up against my own limitations. The more that we start to enact those self-generated activities, the more we start to become independent.
It’s so fascinating how many of these companies you mentioned so much about rewarding, it’s status quo thinking. You run into the Blockbusters and Kodaks of the world if you don’t watch out. With everything happening with innovation and technology, do you see a lot of people that are going to be aligned to different jobs? How do you determine what it is that’s going to rev them up and make them creative? How do they align themselves now? Do you think this is a chance to be more creative or more curious than we’ve ever been because we’re going to get out of a job we can’t help it or not?
The zeitgeist right now is people, men especially, are seeing emotionality as our inner compass. It’s our superpower. Our emotions inform us on where to put our energy and what to be attracted to and what to say no to. There’s this whole, how do we wake all that up? How it gets implemented is in that last 10% or 15% of the arc of innovation. There’s this, “I’ve got a great idea. It’s got values, it’s got some legs,” and then you get to that last little place where everybody wants to feel good about the accomplishment. They want the reward of getting it into the market. A minimal viable product goes out and we can start iterating with that. There’s this place where people pop out and you’re up against that anxious feeling and that’s where the magic happens.
That’s where you see, “I never saw it that way. I got this early feedback from the market. Let’s change this thing. It’s over there. I thought it was over there.” You need to be dynamic and flexible, be unattached to that needing to be rewarded feeling and stay in the uncomfortable ambiguity of that last drive across the finish line. Those are the people that make major innovations happen. That’s where people pop out. I will say in addition to that, it’s almost like being in a relationship with somebody else. You start dating somebody and you’re pretending. You’ve got certain parts of your ego that show up and then you eventually get down to this place in a relationship where it gets real. Are we going to get real here or not? People in relationship pop out because they can’t face the fact that, “I don’t get to pretend anymore and I’m going to have to face the reality. We’re going to have to get real. This thing isn’t going to feel right.” It’s the same thing with innovation. There’s this engagement that takes courage.
People feel very vulnerable to put themselves out there. It’s challenging. You talked about something and something you sent me that was interesting about peacocking. You talk about the bowerbird. Can you talk about that? I thought it was an interesting story.
The way that I present myself is I stand at the intersection between innovation and an open heart. What I’m trying to get through to people is there is this emotional sense of self that needs to be brought online. We can become an innovator that can imbue the product with something that resonates. That’s what matters. People are going to buy things because it resonates somehow. I track it back to peacocking. Everything in my mind that we’re doing creatively at all is some peacocking display. There’s this ugly little bird in New Guinea who has no peacocking feathers. What it does is, it builds this above ground nest with sticks and twigs but then decorates it with blue bottle caps, red flower pedals or something to create this pattern that somehow resonates is this erotic display.
The researchers watched this and they found that the young bowerbirds maybe are successful once a season. The older bowerbirds are killing it. How would a lifetime did this little bowerbird refine his little display to resonate it so highly? That is fascinating. If that proves that we can learn how to figure it out, how to do things that resonate. You take that and you overlay that on top of the development of the Jaguar XK-E. Malcolm Sayer, the designer was this aircraft engineer that got this gig by Jaguar to design this beautiful car. If you look at the car, it’s beautiful. For me, I believe that Malcolm in his body has a feeling. There was something in his body that he felt a strong resonance with. He pushed the car out on this styling until the car recreated that feeling. You look at that car and the car is Malcolm’s personal bower in my mind.People are going to buy things that resonate with them. Click To Tweet
The thing about this bower and how it relates to some of the people I’ve had on my show talking about curiosity. I can remember talking about artificial curiosity with the father of artificial intelligence. Even the robots are curious to get to the next level even when there are not extrinsic rewards in gaming like the Mario Brothers. It’s fascinating what makes us want to go to the next level to refine, like the bird that keeps getting better. Do you think we lose our sense of fear after the experience? You go, “What else do I have to lose at this point?” You know how older people sometimes will say anything and you’re like, “I can’t believe they said that.” You don’t take yourself so seriously. You’re more willing to fail as you get older or is that what I’ve experienced?
I don’t know if I have the stats. The older I get, the bolder I get. There may be people that the older they get, the more comfortable they get. They’re pouring concrete around their whole persona and getting a bigger house. They’re buying an RV instead of packing a tent. It depends on how you want to live your life but as far as I’m concerned, the older I get, it gets more and more sophisticated. I dress up in costumes sometimes to go to parties and they’re getting more and more elaborate every time I go. It allows this creative part of myself to do something that resonates in a way that I don’t have to meet this product metric out in the market. I just get to decorate myself and people go, “Awesome dude,” and get inspired. I entertain myself because I feel like it. I don’t know where to put all that but to each his own.
You’re an engineer based on the title of your book. That’s not typical of engineers who I have known. Do you still consider yourself an engineer type of thinking person?
I still pick up side jobs, contracting, doing automation and product development. I will be hired by a company to come in and disrupt a brainstorming session for $10,000. I’ll come in for an afternoon with your team and turn this whole thing on its ear. They’re happy to have it because I have a unique skill to keep asking these questions that get people out of their head space. It’s fascinating.
Tell me what your main point is in Heart in Gear? What can people learn from this?
The arc of all of my creative explorations and such has led me to a lot of insights and realizations. I’ve told a lot of stories and I was dating this woman for a couple of years and she goes, “These are great stories. Every one of these stories has this little moral and metaphor in it that people need to know.” I put together this book where in the background is running my one wheeled motorcycle company, Hero’s Journey. From the first prototype to landing $2.5 million in venture funding and then all the business trips to China, the massage parlors and the karaoke. That’s ridiculous going on in the background but after I left my marriage, I had all these erotic encounters with women that taught me so much about who I am as a man. Explain how you can go from being an up in your head engineer guy to somebody that rewires their heart, from up in their head into their heart is profound.
The outcome is I ended up being so much more open-minded and much more unattached. Here’s a concrete example, mid-career of my 40s, I was a total overachiever. I was this engineer guy that, if there was a word around the office that there’s an engineering manager position opening up, I would just overachieve to the point where they’d have to pick me. Everybody on the team is like, “Play in the sandbox.” I didn’t have the courage to go to my boss and say, “I heard there’s this position opening up, am I a candidate? Is there anything I can do to prepare to be considered for this?” I couldn’t do that because it would put me in a vulnerable position where they could say no. I couldn’t stomach the anxiety of putting myself in a position where somebody had a choice.
After going to some of these classes that I signed up for, to go to a snuggle party for example, talk about consent and realize if there’s something to ask consent at all. To ask somebody for permission, then say “No, amigo. Thank you for protecting yourself.” I realized I can ask for what I want and shut up. Let other people have an experience with my question and I’m not going to die. These are huge pieces of mortar that start to loosen up in the brick wall and you start to realize I can navigate and I’m not going to lose my mind. I can calm down and ask quietly for this thing that would be nice to have and not try to manipulate the chances of me getting it. These are all behaviors that once you start to realize that I could control my out of control emotionality, I could calm down and start thinking more clearly. My mind expands and my curiosity goes through the roof.
You paint a picture and I know you need to do that to do TED Talks. You have done TEDx Talks, you were talking about the importance of storytelling. I know you mentioned your erotic journey to freedom in your book and all of the types of things. You have unusual things on your videos that you discussed. How do you combine that with what you do with creativity? Are you known more for your videos about this type of thing or for your work with creativity? Where do you see yourself as your position?
I’m glad you asked this question because I’m right at this point in my career where I’m trying to pull this together into the middle somehow and it’s difficult. I’ve got these assets that sit out there. I’ve got this engineering website. It sits there well done. I’ve got my RYNO one-wheel motorcycle, new product development website sitting out there with all this traction. I’ve got my Heart in Gear, a manifesto on the culture that allows us all to thrive together a vision. The way that I’m trying to pull it together in the middle is this bowerbird story. We all have to get comfortable with the thing that resonates in us, which is our erotic imagination.
The more that we become at peace with the fact that we all are alive, curious, trying to move towards something and not be a creeper in the process, the more we’re at peace with our creative instincts. It’s tough to talk about that in this PC culture. I think it’s important for us to start having these conversations, even in junior high school. I’m on the front lines. I feel I’m uniquely positioned in a way, where I’ve got languaging around it, which doesn’t sound like a bunch of new age blah. It turns into actionable concepts. It’s a tough position to be in.
I’m curious about being an engineer, being a storyteller and getting up on stage, talking about uncomfortable things. What advice would you give somebody who wants to do that type of thing? Get up, tell a story but that’s hard to do sometimes with people.
The fear of somebody at the office planning your story on mine is pretty high. Come up with a pseudo name and hide it on Instagram or something. You can get out and do something that breaks the mold that you feel like you’ve been stuck in. When I was married, I had this whole story running in my head, “My ex-wife created this box for me to stand in. As long as I stood in this box, she could relax and feel comfortable and then everything worked.” As long as I stood on this box, everything worked. I realized it was me that created the box, it was me that stood in the box and allowed her to hide in the house by me giving up my power. The more we start to reclaim these things and get real, name what’s happening and say, “Do you see that too?” The more we can own our own experience and claim our life for what we want to do with it.
What does she think of you doing all these talks?
After a couple of years goes by and you get together once in a while to talk about your daughter. She finally said to me, “I just want to say I didn’t have the courage to call that thing, to split it up because it was totally broken. I was totally hiding in there and I had never created my own career.” She had gone back to school after we split up. She’s got a great career. She’s the manager of this whole office. She feels so much better and so much more empowered. My daughter too said, “Daddy, had you not gone off on your own path, we wouldn’t be having this conversation because I have grown a lot. Had you still been that head engineer guy, I don’t think we would be this close.” The heroic things we have to do in our lives to not only claim for ourselves but help other people. Take the money out of the house and put it in the bank so we can all be safe through a transition. Those are all acts of leadership.
It sounds like you’ve gone through some interesting transitions that a lot of people can learn about overcoming anxiety, fear and judgment. You’re on the same path as I’m trying to do, creating more innovative individuals and companies. A lot of people probably are curious about your videos and what you do and your book. If you could share how people could learn more about you, that would be wonderful.
Go to my website for my book, it’s HeartInGear.com. If you go to Amazon, put in Heart in Gear book and you’ll find my book. The reviews are pages and pages of heartfelt reviews from therapists and men’s coaches, “This thing is operating in a whole other level. I’ve never heard concepts described this way. I give this out to all my clients.” I have men that have texted me that are in tears because of the breakthrough that they’ve experienced through being validated for the same stuff that I had to go through. There are some pretty interesting videos there. I’ve got my YouTube channel, you could find that and my Medium. I’ve got a Medium page for a lot of my writings. My email is in there, I’ll respond. I’m happy to open up a dialogue, happy to put together any kind of insights. I’m trying to figure it out too.
Thank you so much, Christopher Hoffman, for being on the show.
I’d like to thank both Byron and Chris for being my guests. We have so many great guests. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can go to DrDianeHamiltonRadio.com. If you’re interested in information about Cracking The Curiosity Code and the Curiosity Code Index, that could all be found here. You can read the book, you can become certified as an HR professional, a leadership consultant or anybody else to give the Curiosity Code Index. Please feel free to check out the site for that. My main site for any speaking or consulting is DrDianeHamilton.com.
- Infinite Progress
- The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers and the Future of Humanity
- Jurgen Schmidhuber – past episode
- Dr. Ellen Langer – past episode
- Curiosity Code Index
- @ByronReese on Twitter
- @ByronReese on Facebook
- LinkedIn – Byron Reese
- Byron Reese on Amazon
- Chris Hoffmann
- Heart in Gear: An Engineer’s Erotic Journey to Freedom
- Heart in Gear on Amazon
- YouTube channel – Heart in Gear
- Medium – Christopher Hoffman
About Byron Reese
Byron Reese is the CEO and publisher of the technology research company Gigaom, and the founder of several high-tech companies. He has spent the better part of his life exploring the interplay of technology with human history. Reese has obtained or has pending patents in disciplines as varied as crowdsourcing, content creation, and psychographics. The websites he has launched, which cover the intersection of technology, business, science, and history, have together received over a billion visitors. He is the author of the acclaimed book, Infinite Progress: How Technology and the Internet Will End Ignorance, Disease, Hunger, Poverty, and War. Byron’s newest book, “The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity,” is described as “entertaining and engaging” by the New York Times, was on JP Morgan’s 2018 Summer Reading List & a Gary’s Book Club pick for CES 2019.
About Chris Hoffmann