Human beings spend our lives in a fog bank formed by our own beliefs, attitudes and experiences. If you and I are in the same room, at the same time, for the same event, we may have extremely different experiences.
I may view the event as threatening; you may consider it to be slightly amusing and a bit inconvenient. The difference is not reality; the difference is because we each view the world through our own personal fog bank.
Now imagine the potential of starting to lift that fog away. Imagine how human potential might be enhanced if we increasingly dealt with reality, instead of our own distorted view of reality.
I’m talking about an entrepreneurial opportunity bigger than Google. Let me explain.
Imagine a Google-scale venture, drawing on the sum total of human knowledge about human emotions and perceptions. The venture would create apps that make it easy for you to apply this knowledge in your daily life… on these five levels:
1. Provide you with self-insight: Instead of taking a self-assessment test and then forgetting it, imagine if you could have an ever-present, 100% confidential virtual assistant to warn you that [today at 11:15 a.m.] you are likely to be [overly cautious] and [too slow to act], and that your stated goals will be realized faster if you [respond to your boss’s email] by [3 p.m.].
2. Provide you with insight regarding your self-esteem: People are complicated, so much so that few of us understand why we act the ways we do. Much of it has to do with how we think others perceive us, and many of our conclusions are just plain wrong. This tool would provide much-needed objective feedback.
3. Support your most vital personal relationships: To paraphrase a popular book, if men are from Mars and women from Venus, we really need a translator. There is already more than enough data in existence to recognize common relationship problems at home, work and among friends. But the trick is to take this knowledge from the abstract and make it accessible in the course of your daily interactions.
4. Help you deal with groups: How does your company perceive you? What can you do to interact more comfortably with members of the opposite sex, or with subordinates? The opportunity is to help you take accumulated human knowledge and use it on a day-to-day basis.
5. Help groups deal with other groups: How many times, in how many places, has management clashed with labor? How many times have two political parties dragged each other down into partisan bickering, and both lost? It makes no sense to repeat strategies and tactics that history has proven to be flawed.
Across each of these five areas, this venture would help one person at a time. That is, even when helping groups deal with other groups, the focus will be on helping the individuals within each group. The culmulative effect will be that group interactions improve, but the method is to help individuals within these groups.
The venture I’m describing would draw on:
- A wide variety of sacred texts and ancient wisdom
- Modern knowledge in psychology, philosophy along with cutting-edge thinkers in related fields
- Hard scientific research in neurophysiology, genetics, quantum theory, noetics, and countless other disciplines
- Millions of studies and surveys of how people actually act versus how they claim to act
While it’s beyond the scope of this article to tell innovators how to solve the challenges inherent in this vision, it’s safe to say that such a venture would distill relevant data by revealing patterns, and that it would never stop evolving. In doing so, it would help humanity to evolve in a clear-headed manner.
As I implied at the beginning, the killer app here is the potential to clear the fog away from each of our eyes. Society has to make sobering decisions in the coming years, many of which we are ill-suited to make. Some societal issues are so complex that our public policy is to have no public policy. For example, this is true for euthanasia. As technology advances, we must acquire the ability to make clear-headed decisions about immensely complicated issues.
Each of these decisions involve human beings, and each of us struggles to overcome our own biases.
Just to be clear, we don’t need a software system to tell us what to do. We need a system to reveal our biases, so we can better see reality and better cope with an increasingly complex and interconnected world.
Ultimately, I’d hope that the venture I’m describing will:
- Become a highly positive tool to support human development and even evolution.
- Help create a space in which scientific advancement can continue to be safe in the hands of humanity.
- Develop a paradigm to leverage – in a healthy way – the increase of collective cognitive bandwidth that could result from the automation of basic needs.
- Support individual development to elevate the collective ethical health of the world population.
- Make vitally important information consumable across all levels of personal development.
It’s time to lift the fog away from our eyes. We have much to do in the years ahead.
Peter Torrellas is a former CTO of Siemens and is now Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Optym, a technology company dedicated to transforming the world through increasing efficiency in our built infrastructure.
Image: KrzysztofTe FotoBlog/Flickr