The Monroe Institute

Where good ideas come from

September 23, 2010



The sudden appearance of a great idea, an epiphany, says Steven Johnson, is often the result of a "slow hunch" developed over time—and more than likely includes a group process.

Give your mind a jump start with this thoroughly engaging video from TED.com.

People often credit their ideas to individual "Eureka!" moments. But Steven Johnson shows how history tells a different story. His fascinating tour takes us from the "liquid networks" of London's coffee houses to Charles Darwin's long, slow hunch to today's high-velocity web.

Steven Berlin Johnson is the best-selling author of six books on the intersection of science, technology and personal experience. His forthcoming book examines "Where Good Ideas Come From."



Discovering New Planets!

September 21, 2010



From www.kottke.org

I thought that this might interest all you Starlines-lovers out there!

Using the properties of previously discovered exoplanets (that is, planets outside of our solar system) and their dates of discovery, Sam Arbesman and Greg Laughlin predict that the discovery of the first Earth-like exoplanet will likely occur in early May 2011.

"Of course, it's a bit more complicated than that, but here's an overview of what we did. Using the properties of previously discovered exoplanets, we developed a simple metric of habitability for each planet that uses its mass and temperature to rate it on a scale of 0 to 1, where 1 is Earth-like, and 0 is so very not Earth-like. Plotting these values over time and taking the upper envelope yields a nice march towards habitability."

The authors don't address this directly in their paper, but I wondered what the Moore's Law for planetary discovery might be -- e.g. every X years (or months?), the habitability of the most habitable planet discovered doubles. So I emailed Sam Arbesman and he said that his quick back of the envelope calculation would be "half a month or so"...which is an astounding pace.



A Machine Turns Plastic Back Into Oil

September 18, 2010



Robert Monroe, founder of The Monroe Institute, was fond of noting that revolution is evolution at high speed. Were he alive today, just 15 years after his death, I think that even Bob would be impressed with the velocity at which life is roaring forward. Critical mass is approaching on several fronts—the environment, technology, space exploration, neuroscience—not the least of which is the acceleration in human consciousness development.

Given current trends, it's not surprising to see a wealth of creative ideas and solutions percolating into existence. Here, Akinori Ito with the Blest Corporation in Japan, explains his process for returning plastic to it's natural state—petroleum.



Web Video Powers Global Innovation

September 16, 2010



Take a large crowd, some bright light, a big scoop of desire, and Voilà! — Crowd Accelerated Innovation, inspired action that raises the bar by orders of magnitude.

TED's Chris Anderson says the rise of web video is driving a worldwide phenomenon he calls Crowd Accelerated Innovation -- a self-fueling cycle of learning that could be as significant as the invention of print. But to tap into its power, organizations will need to embrace radical openness. And for TED, it means the dawn of a whole new chapter ...



Child-Driven Education

September 16, 2010



I hesitated posting another TED.com presentation in The HUB because we've been mining content like crazy from TED, but this is just too good not to spread around!

Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education is an astounding statement about learning, group and peer teaching, the power of curiosity, and the capacity of the Internet.

Education scientist Sugata Mitra tackles one of the greatest problems of education -- the best teachers and schools don't exist where they're needed most. In a series of real-life experiments from New Delhi to South Africa to Italy, he gave kids self-supervised access to the web and saw results that could revolutionize how we think about teaching.

Sugata Mitra's "Hole in the Wall" experiments have shown that, in the absence of supervision or formal teaching, children can teach themselves and each other, if they're motivated by curiosity and peer interest.



Navigating by the Stars

September 14, 2010



I came across a blog post today on A Design So Vast, and wanted to share it with you, because I think that a lot of us wonder about "the territory of the Soul"...

“Besides realizing that two glasses of wine can make you drunk, I have had this revelation: that you can look at something, close your eyes, and see it again and still know nothing – like staring at the sky to figure out the distances between stars.”

- Ann Beattie, Jacklighting

Sometimes when I look at the night sky I find myself breathless, and dazzled, and then, quickly, dizzy. I look around, trying to focus on the stars, but the sky gets blurry and I feel disoriented. This is what Ann Beattie’s words always makes me think of, and it’s how I feel right now.

The days fold into each other, collapsing into a series of moments both transcendent and mundane. Each evening I have a bittersweet taste on my tongue and a vague sense of deja vu – this again? These same demons, these same questions, these same stars blinking in the black sky, inspiring and elusive at the same time?

I consider myself deeply fortunate to have bumped into Bruce from the Privilege of Parenting out in these wild cosmos. His steady, thoughtful support and insightful comments and emails are nothing short of sustaining.

Today he emailed me with some thoughts, the last of which was this:

You are making your soul. It takes a long time and it’s damn hard work, so hang in there.

I love this image. I haven’t thought about the struggle and the joy that I write about so often this way before. Frankly, I’d always assumed the soul is something we’re born with. Maybe, actually, our soul is something we construct. This makes such sense to me, suddenly. My thirties so far have been a journey of letting go of the assumptions – about right and wrong, desire and duty, direction and velocity – that so strictly guided my first thirty years. The single biggest thing I’ve let go of is my belief in the critical importance of movement, the primacy of having a destination.

The map by which I so surely navigated for thirty years somehow broke as I made my way into the summer of adulthood. This was terrifying. Unmoored and lost at sea, I spent several years in the fog. And, if I’m honest, I am still there. I think, ultimately, that being lost is the fundamental state of life, and that my work is learning to be comfortable with that. What I know now is that the landmarks and lighthouses that marked my way were all evanescent anyway.

Maybe, returning to Ann Beattie’s quote, I’m navigating by the stars now. I’m in the territory of the soul, and it often feels perilous and lonely. It’s slow work, soul-making. I think of something I wrote in January, about the ways that life is both linear and cyclical; it strikes me that the making of a soul is a fundamentally non-linear enterprise. For me, who for so long was such a strictly linear person, this is deeply uncomfortable. In the discomfort lies the way forward, of that I’m sure. So on I go, circling and circling, staring at the stars, blinking, trying not to panic at how dark it is and how unsure I am about where I am.



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