Are you better than a mouse ?
Many ‘intelligent’ species can recognize patterns and can learn from them. For instance a mouse that receives an electric shock every time he sees a blue dot will quickly learn to expect a shock when the blue dot comes next. The Pavlovian dog knows to salivate on hearing the door bell, we learn to become stressed when (some of) our bosses walk in to the room and so on…
That’s all good so far.
Now focus on the image below. Take your time to absorb it.
The image above is something that is not possible in real life, and yet somebody could imagine and draw it too. [Hat tip: these guys]. It is this that separates us from every other species on this planet.
Let’s do a simple experiment: Imagine a black dog with a purple flower coming out of it’s left ear, standing on one toe wearing a pink skirt. Even though you’ve never seen this before it isn’t impossible to imagine so.
Take your dreams for instance:
One of the important functions of sleep is to commit the events of the day to our ‘permanent’ memory. During sleep, the brain will recollect events of the day, find patterns, merge them and commit them back to a more permanent memory. Infact, recollection of memory also works so. Our brain digs into separate portions of our memory to look for patterns similar to the one we’re looking for and fetches them for us when we need it.
You can imagine … Anything. Congratulations.
This ability of ours to create visions of things that do not exist is extremely powerful. We could become attracted to a vision when we haven’t even experienced it first-hand. Earth’s largest bookstore, All the world’s information universally accessible, Ultra marathons and our audacious goals at workplace are great examples. This forms a large part of our internal dopamine supply.
I respect such dreams and I believe that we’re not just born to just do the obvious. We’re here to change the perception of obvious.
There is a dark side …
There are also times when chasing a vision can turn bad, very bad. The Apple Maps team was probably delusional about their ability to launch a decent Maps product. On the extreme, some drug addicts see things that are just out of this world and harm themselves irreparably.
So how do you balance ?
It is important hence to be aware of the fine line between vision and reality.
So when Elon Musk imagines a colony of humans on Mars, he is doing exactly the above. Whether he’d be successful or not will largely depend on his ability to be *aware* of the difference between vision and reality. People who do this well are rare.
Knowing to be aware is an extremely important thing and it requires an more than ordinary sensitivity – to people, environment and laws (scientific mostly, since human-made laws are pretty arbitrary and transient).
So my point is,
I’ve seen enough people with the vision but with no connection to reality and hence lack in their ability to execute on their vision. On the front, such folks will exhibit other leading symptoms: they aren’t open to critique and have less desire to learn every day. I wish they’d have the awareness.
Your aim must be to change the world to a better one. Not just dream it so.