nid%3D3882%7Ctitle%3D%7Cdesc%3D%7Clink%3DnoneAuthor & neurologist Robert Burton visited IFTF today and treated us to a conversation building from the principles of his book, On Being Certain:  Believing You’re Right Even When You’re Not.

He’s currently working on a new book:  A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind; What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves.

Together with our staff, Bob talked about the conundrum of how the mind is the tool we use to study the mind, the knowledge of E=MC² versus the feeling of knowing that 2+2 = 4, the relationship between the conscious and unconscious mind, and even dipped our toe into the neuroscience of forecasting.

Lots of fodder to consider, but one thing I found particularly interesting was the topic of the self, and how we locate the self in our own understanding.

It made me think about discussions of the global brain in a new light.  I would love to see a mashup of Pierre Teilhard de ChardinPeter Russell, and Bob Burton when it comes to our understandings of the self & the brain, looking ahead to the coming decades.


Do you know of other experts at this nexus with whom it might be interesting to connect?  If so, please be in touch (@Rachelkeas or  Thanks!

PS–Friend of IFTF Mark Schar was also part of the conversation today–he just finished his PhD in an area akin to innovation intelligence at Stanford, so we were all proud to say “Congratulations Dr. Schar!”


Also posted at IFTF’s blog FutureNow


Came across an interesting visualization of how we make decisions by HopeLab (I believe it was presented at the Wisdom 2.0 conference last week).

What I like about it is the way it visualizes the many filters we place on our understanding of reality.

At sundown this Friday, March 4 the 2011 US National Day of Unplugging will begin (powered by Reboot).

Think slow, think sabbath (Abraham Heschel is my favorite thinker on the Sabbath, with his discussion of sanctified time).

To nudge themselves into changing their behavior, some participants will purchase a sleeping bag for their phone.

Others may use the recently-released Sabbath Manifesto app in order to help them to live in tune with the principles of this effort:

1.  Avoid technology

2.  Connect with loved ones.

3.  Nurture your health

4.  Get outside

5.  Avoid commerce

6.  Light candles

7.  Drink wine

8.  Eat bread

9.  Find silence

10.  Give back

As IFTF continues to explore the balance of slow and fast in our lives at our upcoming Ten-Year Forecast conference, we will continue watching this space.  For more on the Sabbath Manifesto app, see NYT article:  “An App That Reminds You to Unplug.”


Thanks to Jason Tester for the link!  Note:  Also posted on the IFTF blog, FutureNow.

IFTF Ten-Year Forecast Director, Kathi Vian

My colleague, Kathi Vian is the type of person who can engage with the seed of an idea that you have, talk with you about it for an hour, and leave you with enough food-for-thought for a year!

As I continue to narrow in on what my research wants to be (have given up on force-fitting it into what I want it to be), I have zeroed in on this question, at least for today:

What is the changing role of religion in the human project?

In some senses, the sacred has gone underground in the past decades. It has been splintered and siloed to the point where it is not really factored into the basic decision-making processes of business and policy.  I am beginning to form a forecast around the innovations and disruptions that are plausible under these kinds of conditions.

Back of the napkin forecasts?:

  • the health & well-being impacts of spiritual practices will be an all-around game changer in the next decade.
  • techno-spiritual practices will be a zone for innovation
  • extreme religious communities will use technology in highly disruptive ways

At the end of the conversation, Kathi (in her infinite wisdom), suggested a possible title for this inquiry that has really stuck with me:  The Disruptive Sacred.

Jesse Bering, columnist for Scientific American has a intriguing book coming out February 7, 2011 titled, The Belief Instinct:  The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life. You can see a preview in this Scientific American article:

One of the important, often unspoken, implications of the new cognitive science of religion is the possibility that we’ve been going about studying the God question completely wrong for a very long time. Perhaps the question of God’s existence is one that is more for psychologists than for philosophers, physicists, or even theologians. Put the scripture aside. Just as the scientist who studies the basic cognitive mechanisms of language acquisition isn’t especially concerned with the particular narrative plot in children’s bedtime stories, the cognitive scientist of religion isn’t much concerned about the details of the fantastic fables buried in religious texts. Instead, in picking apart the psychological bones of belief, we’re going to focus on some existential basics. Perceiving the supernatural isn’t magic, but something patently organic: a function of the brain.

Can outsiders understand a religious tradition not their own?

This question fascinates me.  I wrote an essay on this very question when I was studying at Trinity College Dublin’s Irish School of Ecumenics.

For example, can a Christian scholar of Buddhism ever truly understand the sublime, mysterious and endless depths of that religion if she herself is not Buddhist?

Can he grasp the constructs of an entire worldview if he is still an outsider of that belief system, even if an historian and scholar of it?

So when I saw Lesley Hazelton‘s TEDX Ranier talk titled On Reading the Koran, I was intrigued.  In 9 1/2 mere minutes, Hazelton tackles a book that is easy to misquote, the Qur’an, and describes her journey as “an agnostic Jew reading someone else’s holy book.”

Punctuated by descriptions that evoke rolling laughter every 3 minutes or so, her story about her journey through the Qur’an is packed with insights.  Among them:

  • She, as all who read someone else’s holy book, was at times “disconcerted by its otherness.”  In my opinion this is one of the most important things to acknowledge, to name your own perspective and situatedness as you approach the text
  • the Qur’an is incredibly easy to misquote, and often it is described in the “highlighter version” (proof-texting) by both Muslim fundamentalists and anti-Muslim Islamophobes
  • the musicality of the Qur’an is meant to be heard moreso than read, felt moreso than analyzed, as she learned years ago in the Sinai desert when she listened to Bedouin elders reciting hours-long narrative poems from memory
  • People overlook how the Qur’an often describes God as subtle…”The whole of the Koran is altogether more subtle than most of us have been led to believe”