Generation Tomorrow – Beau Lotto & Isabel Behncke Izquierdo, Zeitgeist Europe 2013

>>Beau Lotto: I want to ask how many of you
think that when you woke up this morning,
you saw the world as it really is. Especially,
it sounds like, after last night’s party.
No one thinks they saw the world as it really
Do you ever think, when you open your eyes,
you see the world as it really is?
What do you see?
So we have one realist, right? Is anyone — okay.
We’re going to do a quick demonstration to
show you, right?
I want you to look at this diamond and I want
you to — most of you probably see it spinning
from left to right, okay? Is that what everyone
sees? Yeah.
I want you to look at it differently. I want
you to imagine it differently. Blur your eyes,
looking around it. At some point, it will
flip and go in the opposite direction.
Has anybody been able to get it to flip? Put
your hands up so I can see. If I tell you
it’s an IQ test, does that help?
[ Laughter ]
>>Beau Lotto: “Oh, yeah, I see it,” right?
This sets the stage for what our principle
aim of this talk is. In fact, it’s the aim
in all our talks. It is that we want you to
know less at the end than you think you know
now. Right? And we always succeed —
[ Laughter ]
>>Beau Lotto: — right?
So what is it that we want you to question?
We want you to question what we think the
aim of education actually is.
What is the aim of education? To learn how
to find the right answer. Surely that’s what
education is about.
Which is why education focuses on the process.
If you think of the science education, we
focus on the methods section of a paper. We
teach children how to run an experiment, right?
As if that is actually what science education
— that’s what science is, in fact, about.
This aim and focus on process and on answers
is also the same focus of business.
All right?
And we want to challenge that idea. Rather
than answers being the future focus, we think
questions are the future focus.
>>Isabel Behncke Izquierdo: Our world has
changed and it will continue to change and
Some of it in ways that we can see, but crucially
in ways that we cannot yet imagine.
For example, did you know…
[ Music ]
[ Video starts ]
[ Music ]
>>Isabel Behncke Izquierdo: Because our world
is inherently and ever-more rapidly changing
is because — is why we need to shift our
focus to adaptability. New worlds require
new ways of being.
And what is it to be adaptable, to be able
to change and thrive in a new context?
>>Beau Lotto: So what is at the heart of adaptability?
In fact, it is the heart of the creativity.
It is the basis of innovation itself. And
everything begins in the same way with changing
perceptions. Everything begins with perception.
What you know, what you think, what you believe,
the clothes you wear, who you fall in love
with, everything begins with perception.
So when you open your eyes, what do you actually
perceive, right? One of you thinks that you
see the world as it really is. What is it
that you’re actually seeing?
To demonstrate this, I just want to play the
game. And the game is you have to read what
you see, okay? We are going to do it all together.
I’m going to count you in, all right?
So one, two, three.
>>>Can you read this?
>>Beau Lotto: Brilliant.
One more time. One, two, three.
>>>You are not reading this.
>>Beau Lotto: It is like in school, right?
One, two, three.
If you are Portuguese? One, two, three.
(Speakers off microphone.)
>>Beau Lotto: So you all failed, right, because
I said, “Read what you are seeing.” And that
says (sound effects). Right? There are no
words there.
And, yet, you put an “H” between the “W” and
the “A” to make “what”? Why? Because your
brain is actually encoded with statistics
of correlating letters in the English language.
So when you’re provided with that context,
your brain fills it in according to what has
been useful before.
What is true for language is even true for
the simplest thing that the brain does, which
is seeing likeness. So what do we perceive
when we open our eyes? We don’t see the world
as it really is. We don’t see information
because information is inherently meaningless.
We only ever see meaning of relationships.
It is that meaning that we literally see.
So, again, to show you the case of color,
I want you to keep track — just keep your
eye on this particular square (indicating).
You will see four gray tiles on the left,
seven gray tiles on the right. Yes, they’re
all gray. Agreed?
Now, I’m not going to change those tiles at
all. All I’m going to do is change their meaning
and see what happens to your perception. And
just keep your eye on that tile. It’s not
going to change.
What do you see? Do you see four blue tiles
on the left? Yeah? Seven yellow tiles on the
Okay. Do you see these four tiles as blue?
And you see seven yellow tiles? Yes?
You don’t see any gray tiles. Those blue tiles
and yellow tiles are physically the same.
This is your perceptual reality.
The previous side is your physical reality.
What you’re seeing is the meaning of those
tiles, what it would have meant for your brain
in the past.
So when it comes to perception, we’re just
like this frog, right? The frog is getting
[ Video playing ]
[ Laughter ]
>>Beau Lotto: It is generating behavior in
a way that was useful and it is doing pretty
well, yes?
[ Laughter ]
[ Video ends ]
>>Beau Lotto: I have seen that so many times.
I love that video. Right?
And when things don’t go our way, we get a
bit annoyed, okay?
Now, some of you are probably thinking, “No,
I’m not like a frog,” right? So we’re going
to do another experiment, and I’m going to
show you two shapes, all right? You have never
seen these shapes before. These shapes do
not have names, agreed? Okay.
I’m going to show you two sounds, two words,
that you’ve also never seen before. They have
no meaning. The first one is KiKi. The next
one is BuBu. Now, you independent, free-thinking
individuals have to decide which of these
shapes is KiKi and which of these shapes is
BuBu. Now, be independent, be creative.
Now, how many people say the sharp shape is
KiKi? Yeah. And how many people think the
round shape is BuBu? Yeah.
Just like 95% of the population around the
world. All right?
So this creates a huge problem because how
if what I see is grounded in my history of
what I’ve done before, how can I ever see
differently? How can I ever step outside that
experience and see the world in a new way?
Well, all perceptions begin the same way,
with a question. Everything begins with a
question, right? The problem is questions
create uncertainty, and we hate uncertainty.
If you’re not sure there is a predator, it’s
too late. Seasickness is a consequence of
uncertainty. When you go down below in a boat,
your eyes are telling you are standing still.
Your ears are telling you, you are moving.
And your brain cant’ deal with that conflict,
and it literally gets ill. We hate it, right?
What’s more, the most important questions,
the questions that challenge our preconceptions
of what we thought to be true already are
the most interesting. That’s where we get
paradigm shifts. They are also the ones that
create the most uncertainty.
So asking a question is incredibly scary.
It is fearful, right? It is risky.
>>Isabel Behncke Izquierdo: So how do we deal
with the fear and stress of uncertainty?
Fortunately, evolution has come with a solution
to this, which actually also happens to be
the only human endeavor where uncertainty
is actually celebrated. It makes it fun. It
makes you want it, not fear it.
So think about it. The whole point of a joke
is not knowing the punch line. Why again it
is exciting is because you don’t know how
it will end.
And that solution is play. And, for example,
in uncertain environments in nature, the animals
that are most intelligent and socially sophisticated
are also the ones who are more adaptable and
crucially the ones who are more playful.
Well, now notably, playful throughout their
lives, playful as adults, i.e. retaining life-long
curiosity, creativity and brain plasticity.
Now, evolution’s solution to uncertainty,
play is better understood as a way of being:
A way of being that celebrates uncertainty,
a way of being that encourages diversity.
Therefore, leading to creativity because it
enables you to challenge your assumptions.
Play is a way of being that is open to possibility.
If we want to imagine and — imagine a generation
tomorrow, we will need the playful exploration
— playful exploration and curiosity.
Play is a way of being that is cooperative.
It’s cooperative in fun ways. It underpins
social bonding and underpins the mechanisms
that keep societies and communities cohesive.
It’s a way of being that is intrinsically
motivated. This means that the motivation
to play comes from within. This is crucial
for education. And I am going to show you
a couple of examples.
This is a young female called Fuku (phonetic),
a bonobo. She is playing with the water on
her own. There is no external goal. The activity
is done for its own sake. She is not being
paid to do this. She wants to.
Now I will show you how strong the innate
motivation to play can be. Watch the guy on
the right. He really wants to play, but the
guy on the left doesn’t want to play. He’s
serious. He wants to eat. But he really wants
it so much that he will continue to try. The
guy on the left is wanting to eat. He’s trying
to get roots. The guy on the right knows where
to position himself.
[ Laughter ]
>>Isabel Behncke Izquierdo: And continues
to try even in the face of adversity.
So imagine you challenge this force into kids
wanting to learn and ask questions by themselves.
You can do it for free.
Now, it is not so simple to create these kinds
of safe environments because fear and stress
are the most powerful enemies of play. So
what do we do?
Fortunately, trust is a powerful antidote
to fear and stress. I will show you a little
example. Here you will see a female that,
if I may say so, literally has this male by
the balls. Only that he appears to enjoy it.
This is a very serious point because male’s
genitals are the most vulnerable part of the
body, so he is offering this vulnerable part
and the female is not ripping him apart. So
play creates trust. So play requires trust,
of course, but it also creates it, which means
that in order — I mean, and in a nutshell,
in order to create these safe environments,
we need to play.
>>Beau Lotto: So just to conclude then, the
current focus of education is on efficiency.
That’s actually the current the focus of businesses.
The most successful businesses we assume are
the most efficient.
We suggest that the future focus of education
and of business is being adaptable. How do
we become adaptable? It’s through asking questions.
How do we create an environment that enables
people to ask questions? There is only one
human endeavor where that is possible, and
that is through play. Play is a way of being.
And just to finish off here…
>>Isabel Behncke Izquierdo: Here I will show
you a problem of learning, how to step into
uncertainty. This puppy has never gone down
the stairs. So how to lead others into venturing
to the unknown.
There are two approaches to this problem.
And I will let you to decide which one is
the one your company takes. So watch closely.
[ Video playing ]
>>>Come on.
[ Music ]
>>>Good girl. Yay!
[ Video ends ]
>>Isabel Behncke Izquierdo: So that was one.
This is the second one. Do notice how the
kitten looks for reassurance before stepping
into uncertainty?
[ Video playing ]
[ Laughter ]
>>Isabel Behncke Izquierdo: It’s crushed.
[ Laughter ]
>>Isabel Behncke Izquierdo: So what is to
be a good leader in education or, indeed,
any other endeavor? We suggest that it has
to do with your ability to create the safe
environments where others can ask new questions.
It has to do with your ability to lead others
into uncertainty. So many thanks.
[ Applause ]

2 thoughts on “Generation Tomorrow – Beau Lotto & Isabel Behncke Izquierdo, Zeitgeist Europe 2013

  1. Spielberg once mentioned: We are better intuitive beings than we are intellectual beings. Seek Questions more than answers.Questions create perception, Meaning changes our perception. but also uncertainty. Though uncertainty can be celebrated as Isabel says, if we encourage it through Play.

  2. you might consider the use and value of the humor response, the laugh reflex — and also, maybe Layla by Robert Pirsig, in which the author defines static and dynamic quality, the latter being the ability to adapt – also, maybe, extreme motivation (danger) forcing successful adaptation – and in fixed belief systems in hindering adaptation

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