Ariel Garten (@ariel_garten) is the Founder of InteraXon, makers of Muse: the brain sensing headband. Muse is the award-winning headband that makes meditation easier. During guided exercises, Muse senses your brain activity and sends that information to your phone or tablet, giving you real time audio feedback… Ariel has researched at the Krembil Neuroscience Institute studying hippocampal neurogenesis, displayed work at the Art Gallery of Ontario, DeLeon White Gallery and opened Toronto Fashion Week. The intersections of these diverse interests have culminated into various lectures with topics such as “The Neuroscience of Aesthetics” and “The Neuroscience of Conflict”, featured on TVO’s Big Ideas. Referred to as the “Brain Guru”, Garten has also run a successful real estate business, spent time as the designer of a Canadian fashion boutique, and is a practicing psychotherapist. Garten regularly lectures at MIT, Singularity University and FutureMed. Her lecture on Ted.com has over 400k views and she gave this year’s opening keynote at Le Web (plus numerous times previously), Europe’s biggest tech conference.
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You can listen right here on iTunes In our wide-ranging conversation, we cover many things, including:
- The science of meditation and how it affects your brain
- Why Ariel is passionate about neuroscience and its ability to evolve our species
- How IoT and technical enhancements will shape humans of the future
- The mental health problem we’re facing and how to overcome it
- Why elite performers tend to be meditators
- The ways to consciously control and hack your brain
- How technological innovation will impact our evolution
- What brain scientists are just starting to understand
- The reason capitalist incentive structures drive many of our most pressing problems
- What is really the future for wearables
Get 15% OFF Muse when you use this link!
Producing this podcast and transcribing the episode takes tons of time and resources. If you support The Disruptors and the work we do, please consider making a tax-deductible donation. If you can’t afford to support us, we completely understand as well, but an iTunes review or share on Twitter can go a long way too! Ariel: I said this is the work of Dr Elizabeth Blackburn. She’s a Nobel Prize winning scientist and she actually talks about and this sounds [Inaudible] which is why reference at this is a Nobel Prize winning scientist and this is her Nobel Prize. In that voice and so her work talks about the fact that negative thoughts actually lead to cellular aging. So, when we have a negative perception of the world in a negative sort of viewpoint what ends up happening is we create cellular stress in one of the ways that you measure the cellular stress is the length of your telomeres. So telomeres are kind of like the shoelaces the little plastic knobs on the end of our DNA. They’re there to protect the DNA. When your cells are in a state of cellular stress those little telomeres those names decrease in size and see your DNA is much more readily subjective subjected to a damage through reproduction or through general copying. So when we meditate [Inaudible] work shows that meditators actually have increased length of their telomeres so their processes of cellular aging have actually been slowed. Matt: The ancients discovered many modernish sciences centuries before they would be rediscovered by Europeans. It turns out that technology thought innovation can oftentimes go backwards losses of information like these can lead to large societal and cultural cautious. And as we’ve seen in the past and we’re seeing today there can often be a backlash against science and progress. Today we’ll be diving into meditation neuroscience and the ability to self enhance ourselves to the point of superhuman performance. It’s a mind bender pun intended. Today we have Ariel garten on the program. Ariel is the founder of InteraXon, the makers of Muse a brain sensing headband. Muse’s an award winning headband that makes meditation easier through guided exercise, new sensors brain activity and sends information to your phone or tablet giving you real time feedback i.e. that that gets measured gets managed and improved. It’s incredible. I’ve tried this out at their headquarters and it was quite a experience meditating and having a bit of real time feedback. Ariels researched at some of the top neuro science institutes in the world. Displayed artwork at the Art Gallery of Ontario and Toronto, Fashion Week and works in the intersections of many diverse interests. She’d given numerous lectures on topics such as neuroscience and aesthetics and conflict and have been featured on several prominent television programs. She’s referred to as the brand guru. She’s run a successful real estate business spent time as a very successful fashion designer and a practicing psychotherapist. She regularly gives lectures at MIT, Singularity University and future med her lecture on Ted dotcom had over a quarter of a million views and she’s keynoted some of tech’s top conferences. This was a very interesting interview. Ariels incredibly energetic and incredibly interesting person and we had a lot of fun. Today we discussed the science of meditation and how it affects your brain. Why Ariels passionate about neuroscience and its ability to evolve our species. How IoT and technological enhancements will shape humans of the future. The mental health problem we’re facing and how to overcome it. Why elite performers tend to be meditators. The ways to consciously control impact your brain how technological innovation will impact our evolution. What brain scientists are just starting to understand the reason capitalist incentive structures drive many of our most pressing problems. And what the real future is for wearables and now without further ado I give you Ariel garten. Ariel: Okay sorry in a jump earlier than two days ago and even earlier than before that lets jump right to the beginning. Actually if you want to jump really to the beginning I’m a grandchild of Holocaust survivors. Are all four of my grandparents were Holocaust survivors. So along with that comes a different notion of kind of gratefulness to exist in this world not understanding of the trauma that came out of that. A disconnection from the trauma that they know that they experienced and I don’t I don’t know. There are some ways in which this sort of informs my thinking and informs my work so when he prompted me to go all the way back that’s probably where my all the it begins when we start just in my lifetime after my little embryo turned into an egg which formed into the human being that is me. I was very blessed to have two awesome parents who are both entrepreneurs. My dad super creative in real estate and my mom an artist so she would paint these incredible large canvas like large scale oil on canvas paintings and as a small girl I would sit there and watch her take a blank canvas and fresh she’d fill it in charcoal and scratches and then she’d fill it in with colorful paint and all of a sudden from nothing with this whole world of light passion and energy on this canvas and from that I learned that you could create anything you want if you have something in your imagination it is yours to bring to the world and you know the world was I felt when I was a child the world was my blank canvas to make stuff out of it and that making things was most valuable thing you could do of contributing objects and ideas and stuff to the world. Matt: We always been creativity and do it focused Ariel: Absolutely. I think as a child that was inculcated in me that to be creative and generative was sort of like one of the highest forms of being Matt: And how how is that carried through. I mean I can see I can see the parallels with what you’ve been doing but how do you see that in terms of how that carried 30 year career design Muse what you’re doing now? Ariel: So at first my creative explorations said they come up in many forms. I was very creative in exploring both the physical world. I made art. I was a clothing designer even in high school at a line of clothing that I stole to just stores New York and beyond. And I was also very fascinated by actually how the world works. So fascinated by like how the pieces of the world came together to create our perceptual experience. Why is it that this tape was hard you know why is it that that colors red we perceive it as red. And then once we can understand why we perceive the world in the way that we do we can start to change and shift the world. So my interest in this really played out through neuroscience and figure out kind of this way we can understand how we can make things as if we understand how we perceive them and experience them and experience ourselves. And I started him interested in brainwaves as something that had both really tangible real scientific information about the self as well as seem to have like kind of numinous sense. There is kind of weird other worldly energies that come off you. And I started collaborating with Professor Steve Mann says Steve. For those who don’t know as the inventor of the wearable computer and he was the guy who literally created Google Glass in the 90s well before Google ever did and he had an early brain can get her system that he had used at MIT in the 90s and he brought to the university Toronto and my like early boyfriend at the time was working in Steve’s lab and introduced me to him and we started to collaborate and that’s where I’m at James Fang and Chris Alemany the people who ultimately become the cofounders of means the company with en route to create and we started by making concerts where people could make music with their mind. So we would put a single e.g. lead on the back of her head and by Monnett by changing your brain state by focusing or relaxing you’d switch your alpha or beta waves and from there we’d take that and translate it into sound so you could literally hear what your mind sounded like. And then we started to take that idea and make it more complex. We put the musicians up on stage playing synthesized instruments and 48 people at a time and the audience each wearing an edgy lead. And then as the audience would modulate their brains made it would much like the outcome of the museum’s musicians synthesized instruments which were then much like the audience’s brain state again in a sort of regenerative loop. Matt: What’s double click on brain states can you explain a little bit more the science for people unfamiliar? Ariel: Cool. Let’s back up one step even further follow the hyperlink from brain state into EG and vibrating the web page on the EG pops up it says EG is electroencephalography so it’s the energy that comes literally comes off your head. So are neurons communicate electric chemically they send electrical signals to one another and those are modulated by molecules moving along a concentration gradient and those are polar molecules so there’s polar molecules move they actually cause a change in current. So our neurons communicate electrically to one another and the sum total of that electrical activity can be read on the surface of the head. And so when you focus for example the gross overall activity of your brain tends to move into to a higher frequency. So focusing that you tend to see increase in beta waves in the let’s call it 25 to 35 Hertz. And as you relax the sort of gross frequency of your brain drops to a lower frequency typically the alpha range and that’s around 8 to 14 Hertz depending on who you ask. Matt: And this is so an analogy would be deep sleep deep sleep being you’re in a deeper state. [Inaudible] Ariel: You got it. Matt: So the waves are significantly slower than when Ariel: In deep sleep you are in delta base for example and then that’s a very slow wave state so people can actually learn to modulate their brain state and their brainwaves state quite readily. When you focus your bid increases when you’re relax or else increases. And so we could take an electrode on the back of her head or any [Inaudible] actually and be able to see those changes and alpha beta state. Then if you associate a light or a sound or tone some sort of you know classical conditioning to them you can then by getting real time feedback because as you get into beta the light goes on. Know that you’re in beta stage and then start to reinforce and intentionally go into that beta stage to turn on the light for example Matt: hey matt I’m out here for a quick time out. I know this is highly technical and challenging if you don’t have a neuroscience background. Don’t worry Ariels around to break this down into simple science so that we can understand why in fact this matters how we can use our minds to impact both ourselves and our environment and much much more. Enjoy Ariel: And this early paradigm of being able to much late brain state to modulate something outside world was a paradigm that we started to play with and explore quite extensively. So from this early constructs that we created I got together with Chris Emani and [Inaudible] Kallman. Two of my buddies and we formed a startup and the first thing they said is OK well how can we show people the power of the mind to move physical objects. So we actually made a levitating chair in the main floor of Steve’s lab. So we got a winch from Canadian Tire put it in the ceiling connected it through our EEG system and ultimately your change in brain state your ability to relax and increase your alpha state would trigger the winch in the ceiling to rise so you could literally relax all and levitate Matt: and you basically had a technology you had a research focus and then you were like What the hell can we do with us? Ariel: Exactly. And then we’re like dude we can do everything with this. And we did. You know the silliest things you could imagine we brought in all of our engineering art friends and we would have in a hackathon in jambs you know what can we create. We created the control toasters and remember our friend Connor created a thought controlled Wheel of Fortune machine that would like spin like single doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo like one of the games and it was fortune. We created a star trek game where you’re like actually replicated that game in the episode of Star Trek The Next Generation where everybody’s minds get taken over all sorts of silly fun stuff until we sort of said okay whats the biggest thing we give our mind and the Olympics were coming to Canada next year. This was 2009. I started writing about 2002 2003 and we put together a proposal that we brought to the Canadian government to control the lights on the CN Tower and impromptu leagues and microfossils with people’s brains from across the country at the Olympics Matt: And I imagine that went over really well because TV networks always love something catchy Ariel: You got it dude. So we were this tiny tiny little startup literally three people in Trevor’s basement. And here we were given this Nassib contract by the Ontario government saying we want you kids with your unproven technology to be the feature showcase of Ontario at the Olympics. And you demonstrate our innovations capabilities to the world. So we very clearly had to ramp up very quickly and figure out how we could create a robust technology that in a very short period of time like two minutes you could teach to anybody in any language and train them to then be able to control in real time the lighting on Canada’s most massive icons Matt: Because otherwise you make all Canadians look dumb. Ariel: You got it. Matt: You need to pull it off. So. So you’re working on this. When does this eventually start morphing into into a business and how do you know what direction to go is it just gets in check? Ariel: So initially there was a lot of exploration in the realm of thought control computing. We actually coined the term thought controlled computing because people would say well what do you do. And to us those ideas you know my thoughts control a computer really clearly defined the interaction that we thought we were trying to create and we created some quite successful implementation of the technology you know not just sort of coined the term but really you know made some of the kind of foundation works or examples in the space people been working in the space for a long time probably since the 70s but kind of able to to quantify it in a really effective way and create an [Inaudible] in lots of ways for people to direct with us and then we stood back and said well we all saw control computing is not really going to help humanity in any great way at this moment. You know it’s not like you can just think something and something magical will happen. It’s a very binary system and you know short of somebody who’s disabled who’s unable to use their hands were not going to be able to really add tremendous value to humanity in a way that’s really going to be meaningful and we wanted to do something meaningful. My my philosophy throughout my whole life is if it’s not you know change in the world or helping somebody of them like the garbage it doesn’t matter it’s not worth your time. Matt: And when is that and where did you get the philosophy from? Ariel: I don’t know where I got the philosophy from. Actually it’s it’s maybe it was sort of the sense that I came into the world with you know the privilege to be able to go to university and have a nice life and live in a peaceful society and not everybody had those advantages. So if I was given those advantages I had to use them to my best advantage for the rest of the world. I was given this gift somehow of of like what I consider to be really optimal existence and the only reason that I felt like I could make life without was a reasonable thing for me to have was to then help other people with it. I have privilege so that therefore by definition I have to use this to spread it to others. Matt: How much of that was from culture. How much of that was from your parents and how much of that was from meditation? Ariel: I don’t think that much of it was from my parents. I mean a reference to my grandparents being Holocaust survivors so there always was this attitude of gratefulness and this you know that not everybody gets to live a good life and somehow you know we ended up in North America. We ended up not having a good life. And that’s something that you don’t take for granted. So yes definitely culturally that was there. I think it was it wasn’t really something I heard from my parents so it was a pressure that I put on myself and I don’t know where it came from Matt: Hey! Do you like fringe FM? What about Amazon. You want to win free 50 dollar Amazon gift card. We’re doing a review raffle giveaway now through the end of this month. Anyone who goes to iTunes Apple podcast and leaves a review or cringe at them. Ideally a good review. But if you don’t like the show that’s acceptable as well as a review. We want to encourage reviews because reviews help us rank higher. A big difference and to do that we need to reach people. So if you had a fringe start FM slash iTunes you’ll be able to open up in the iTunes app either on your computer or on your phone and leave review will be randomly selecting a winner over the course of the next month. We’ll have all of our entries come in and then we’ll announce it on the show. If that’s you you reach out to us with some form of proof and we’ll send you a free Amazon. If our gift card to use on whatever you want and yes we know we are bing with an Amazon gift card. But the reviews are incredibly important for us and the sign shows that rewards make action happen. So if you want to enter the contest just go to fringe dot fm slash iTunes and leave a review. Make sure that you take a screenshot and then if you end up winning he will get that free 50 dollar Amazon gift card and it will jump back to the episode. Ariel: Meditation was something that I actually got to later in life because all along my varied path I then became a psychotherapist. I went deeper into neuroscience and in those arenas also discovered the value of meditation something I was fascinated with earlier on but didn’t really have the knowledge or scientific backing. And then it wasn’t until I actually started building Muse which your audience doesn’t yet know what that is but I guess describe it early that I got into meditation. Matt: Why is neuroscience seemingly so far behind other sciences. And what do we need to do to put more of an emphasis on this especially as mental health is a massive challenge and the most developed countries these days? Ariel: dude the brain is really complicated. I mean asking why neuroscience is behind other sciences I don’t think that’s. I don’t think that’s the appropriate phrasing for the question. You can ask you know if you can say it’s an amazing that we’ve made tremendous gains in neuroscience and look how much further there is to go in there is it seems a tipping point or an unlocking factor in so many different arenas of science. You know if you look at the leaps and bounds that we’ve made in DNA you know DNA sequencing was excruciatingly slow and expensive process until we reached a critical tipping point. You know 10 or 15 years ago and then everything accelerates and becomes easy. All the pieces fit in you know the brain is something that is very difficult to understand because you were the organism trying to understand itself you know and the questions of the brain are in some ways as complex as as the questions of consciousness you know how does an organ how does an organ that is combined of you know molecules moving along a calm concentration gradient how those molecules moving on concentration gradient then get a will that can then exert their will upon those very small molecules in the concentration gradient. The complex problem. And you know what we the complexity of the question of consciousness for example also sends to all sorts of concepts and learning and memory like how to create meaning. Like that’s kind of like the basic question of language and that’s a very difficult thing to answer. You know for the same reason that consciousness question is difficult and we can look at the areas of our brain and say OK well you know we’ve now located the consciousnesses in area X Y and Z but that doesn’t necessarily tell you how it actually arises through the complex interactions and in other sciences we can do science on rats and in other rat models are good enough to kind of maybe suggest what could be happening in a human and even then they’re never perfect but we don’t have the same kind of one to one relationship to be able to do a study on you know language etc in a that we can do in a human. Matt: I’m going to say to[Inaudible] for Ariel here. This is very brilliant and something I and many others overlap in many sciences and in many fields it is simply more difficult to do research given the nature of the subjects and I’m glad that Ariel brought this up here to point out some of the challenges that certain fields like neuroscience face Ariel: when it’s extremely difficult to do studies in humans and then you can. It’s not simply as easy as localising a behavior to a part of the brain because parts of the brain also have multiple behaviors that they’re responsible for. You know we have about a 100 billion neurons and trillions and trillions and trillions of connections. Now it’s not a simple map to make nationally efforts that you know to to map the connectome to to map all of the connections with even a map the connections we don’t necessarily know how we derive meaning from. You know those are the computations at an order of complexity that’s that it’s extraordinarily difficult to manage. Matt: Yeah it’s it’s very interesting. I was more bringing up if you look into not so much neuroscience but psychology, psychology hasn’t really changed in terms of the tool that psychologists are given in the past hundred and hundred and fifty years. You kind of evaluate symptoms and then decide something there’s not a lot of testing that goes into improvements. So I was listening to a podcast recently with a psychologist and they were looking primarily into the effects of diets and specifically different and different nutrient deficiencies on mental health and functionality. I just was wondering why it seemed like there was so much it seems to be very much. There are a lot of moving parts. Why is it that in most fields we evaluate a lot of the moving parts and in neuroscience or psychology it seems like not a lot of them are taken into account? Ariel: So again I would challenge you on that. I mean in neuroscience there are thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of papers evaluating thousands and thousands and thousands of moving parts you know evaluating the difference in the D 1 receptor from difference in the D2 receptor evaluating tiny molecules that you will never know the name of and will never remember. There is you know hundreds of thousands of interactions that have been cataloged with an attempt to understand them but the complexity of the total problem is way too big to be readily understood. Matt: So what’s the best way to move forward then when something is so complex that you can only understand sections? Ariel: It’s a good question. And so I mean part of the approach that scientists taken is and this is true for all sciences to your Ph.D. on a extremely narrow thing and try to apply it and try to you know understand when a tiny little bit of the world you’ve got are people who are trying to make large connections you know neuroscience is now spanning the field of neuro computation of people looking at it from the Electrical angle from the neurophysiological angle from a psychological angle angle from the molecular angle. And people are trying to look at the problem from multiple angles and then you have people who are able to know where people are able to span across disciplines to be able to have a holistic view or bring you know different angles of it together. Ariel:I don’t know how to solve the problem you know the connectome was one suggestion of how do you know if we could just map everything then we’ll get it up and even with that decision Matt: as we move forward with everything being a piece ideally we’re working towards making people healthier happier smarter more successful more intelligent and then happiness is a big driving force. What would you say are the most important factors when it comes to mental health research and specifically what you guys are doing in terms of that move towards a higher speed? Ariel: So you know the tact that I have taken and there are you know many many many ways to approach this problem in terms of how to make ourselves better how to move humanity forward. The approach that I’ve taken is to look at meditation and to do so through a narrow scientific lens and to teach this in a way that’s really tangible and actionable and says to be I guess a great time for me to describe what news is and what it does to to sort of answer that question. Matt: Bingo. Ariel: So news is a brain sensing headband that helps you meditate. It’s a clinical grade EEG that gives you real time feedback on your meditation. So when you are the metaphor we use as your mind is like the weather center thinking distracted you actually hear it as windy or stormy and as you come to clear focused attention it quiets the winds and so in this way we take this sort of ancient invisible art that has a ton of data behind it as to why it’s so good for you and we make it something that’s understandable intangible and actionable and take the invisible process of what happens inside your mind and actually make it [Inaudible] is part of the reason we’re so bad at moving a hidden brain science and often moving forward in therapy is because you know the only way to do that is through introspection to be able to sort of pierce your own fourth wall and let’s look inside and be able to reflect what’s going on outside. So we tried to create a technology that facilitates that process that can help you actually know in real time what’s going on in your brain so that you can then understand it track it and change it.You know as as they say what you can measure you can change. Matt: Hey Matt here to tell you how you can say 15 percent on your very own news headband. I tried it out. It was incredibly powerful for me. I was in their office just in their little home they call it a muse space trying it out and focusing on meditating and trying to trying to clear the mind. It was definitely challenging but having feedback made it significantly easier and makes you realize wow I’m not actually doing that great of a job without something. If you want to get 15 percent off could in fringe dot fm slash muse and check it out. It’s a very cool product. It’s a very cool team and it seems to be incredibly well proven by science to make you more awesome as a meditator a person and to improve neuroplasticity. Again that’s Fringe.Fm/Muse and improve ideally. That’s that’s primarily what’s your focus on what’s present that a listener doesn’t understand or hasn’t worked that much into meditation and the science. Can you talk a little bit more about where it seems to come from and why it matters? Ariel: So meditation is one of the best things you can do for your brain like and stop. There are now thousands of articles talking about meditation’s ability to improve your attention decrease your stress improve your productivity manage your health and on and on. And the reason it’s so good is multiples multifold. So one of the first things that meditation helps you do is it helps you manage your thoughts. And so what we do is we when you meditate enough focus attention meditation your mind wanders. You notice it’s wandered into thought and you bring it back to a neutral object your breath. And in doing so start to disassociate yourself from her thoughts. So as human beings what often happens is we have a thought and then we follow it and follow it involved and follow it. And we don’t realize it we can actually gain control over our minds and change the course of our thoughts. Now often when we have these thoughts a good portion of them are actually negative and they cause a stress and then we end up in a rumination about that thought. So our Meiktila little part of our brain that is searching for fear and danger all the time is very easily activated. So if you’re for example sitting in traffic you make Julan might say oh this is traffic. There could be a danger here waiting to be late for work and it then becomes your Mikulas job to bring your this danger and to your awareness and do it over and over and over again. You pay attention to it steering traffic in your Majelis like you might be late in your life. That’s right we might be late. Let’s pay attention to this. And then her second trafficking unit does still like you’re going to be late and then you’re like Shit you’re late oh fur then says we’re gonna be late. And it’s its job. So we get very caught up in these anxious ruminating thoughts. Meditation helps you to do is to disengage from these negative ruminating thoughts so that they do not start to affect her physiology. They can not affect her behavior. They do not affect her thinking. And we can just take it as information and leave it so it lets you get off the thought train in its prime. Matt: It’s primarily driving forces from evolution this is what kept us alive. This is what helped us pass our genes on. We are whoever we pass them on with. It was primarily the type of mechanisms that helped people survive but were starting to evolve past the point of traditional evolution is that fair to say. Ariel: I think that we can say that that we’re utilizing tools that allow us to enhance ourselves to lead to faster and faster forms of evolution. You know we’re still subject to the forces of evolution. You know is sexual selection. The forces are still there. We’re just finding interesting ways to hack that process and to really fastforward it. So you know these old evolutionary drives to keep us alive. We can say hey and they [Inaudible]. It’s all good. We’re in traffic. There’s nothing that we can do about it. Let’s just switch to another topic Matt: They’re all up they’re all outdated it’s like storing storing fat in case you you can’t find food tomorrow. But in general that’s a terrible thing. Ariel: Exactly. Totally I did it. So meditation lets you it off the thought train. It also lets you get off the emotional rollercoaster. So our emotions are things that drive that they give us information and we tend to allow our emotions to drive us. And when you allow your emotions to drive us we all know that that leads to often very unwise decisions and unwise habits and behaviors particularly when we’re no longer living in this ancient environment in which you know our rewards and our fears. Nantel life and death in the same way. So meditation lets us get off the thought train disengage from murmur emotional rollercoaster. And when you do that you are able to see improvements in Matt: Warning we’re about to jump into some incredibly interesting and possibly controversial science and that were Nobel prize winning material here. How your thoughts influence your physiology your DNA and your life. This sounds crazy. So I’m giving you the warning Ariel: You’re thinking you’re able see improvements in your happiness in your day to day living. You’re also able to see improvements in your physiology because there’s this amazing relationship between our thoughts and our cellular Millea Matt: Our cellular what? Ariel: cellular cellular milia try to say that ten times fast. So this is the work of Dr Elizabeth Blackburn she’s a Nobel Prize winning scientist and she actually talks about and this sounds wibble which is why reference to this is a Nobel Prize winning scientist and this is her Nobel Prize in that voice. So her work talks about the fact that negative thoughts actually lead to cellular aging. So when we have negative perception of the world in a negative sort of viewpoint what ends up happening is we create cellular stress and one of the ways that you measure the cellular stress is the length of your telomeres. So telomeres are kind of like the shoelaces the little plastic knobs on the end of our DNA. They’re there to protect the DNA when your cells are in a state of cellular stress those little telomeres whose names decrease in size and see your DNA is much more readily subjective subjected to a damage through reproduction and we’re entered of general copying. So when we meditate [Inaudible] work shows that meditators actually have increased length of their telomeres so their processes of cellular aging have actually been slowed and [Inaudible] we think about we can say like oh you know think positively you’ll be happier you live longer. While the research bears out in so many places the people who have a positive outlook live considerably longer and end up ultimately being healthier. Matt: It is I saw very interesting TED talk though so it wasn’t necessarily the stress that was doing people in earlier it was directly correlated to belief in the fact that stress was negative for long term health which is very interesting and counter intuitive until you actually think about it because most stress is generally it’s generally not a problem. It’s only a problem when you get stressed about the stress and it becomes a becomes a flywheel them things escape. So for people that think a lot of the sounds will a yes it may that doesn’t mean it’s not true. So correlation does not prove causation but a lot of people here probably listen to [Inaudible] or probably listen to General high performer podcasts if you listen a good 80 to 90 percent of them are meditation or meditating and that alone makes it worth worth trying out. If so many successful people are doing Ariel: So I can spend a couple of minutes on the neuroscience of meditation flotsam or credibility here. Matt: Yeah let’s do it. Ariel:1 It’s been [Inaudible] If it happens in your brain it must be real. That’s a joke because thoughts that happen are reminders simply thought that doesn’t mean the world or world or perceptions do not create reality. Is there really bad meditation joke. wow. Matt: It is Okay. If you’re working there you assume other people are paying attention to that too but they’re not Ariel: These ways that meditation changes your brain so this comes out of the work of Dr. Sarah Elazar Harvard. She looked at long term meditators and looked at the number of brain areas the first when she looked at was the prefrontal or one of the ones that you looked at was the prefrontal cortex so your prefrontal cortex is the attentional control center of your brain. It’s the thing that is there to manage your day organize help you plan and actually manage what you pay attention to and also allows for inhibitory control or the actions that you’re not doing. Now the bad news is that as you age your prefrontal cortex actually thins yikes. The good news is if you’re able to maintain a long term meditation practice you can maintain the prefrontal cortex thickness as you age. So doctors ours were actually put long term meditators and controls in an MRI machine and she was able to see 50 year old meditators who at the prefrontal cortex thickness of a 23 or 25 year old Matt: And that’s basically like having elbow pads on when you’re rollerblading that you’re basically going to help you. Ariel: You got it. It’s an elbow pads of the rollerblade it’s like it’s literally the planning it’s the organizing it’s it’s the thing that makes us human and separates us from from apes and from the lessors. Matt: Let’s take a quick time out. What is meditation. Because this is something about I mean you can describe meditation you can describe yoga you can describe exercising their kind of terms that don’t necessarily have a meaning. What is meditation? Ariel: Sure. So meditation’s definition very clearly is a practice or training that leads to healthy and positive mind states Matt: That that’s super super opaque so how do I meditate if I want to start meditating? Ariel: So let me let me just break that down for a second and I kind of like you know I give it tuna pause it to practice her training that leads to healthy and positive mind states. So all it is is training your brain to be happy or healthy. It’s like very straightforward meditation is not some new thing. Meditation is simply to find a practice or a training that trains your brain to be healthy and happy. Now there are a number of different forms of meditation. So the most common form of meditation is a focused attention meditation. And there you are focusing your attention on a neutral object. Often your. So meditation is actually not about just having your mind go blank and have nothing happen. Meditation is actually mind training soon it focused attention meditation. You train your mind on you focus your attention on your breath your mind wanders you notice it wanders and then you bring it back and then you continue to focus on your breath as soon as you notice that your mind has wandered. You then choose to bring your mind back to your breath. So this is actually like distraction training what you’re learning here is to notice that you’ve been distracted and then to take your distracted brain away and focus your attention again so you’re really just working the muscle of your attention. And so if you bring this into the practical world if you’re writing a long document or reading a long document you’re going to be writing your mind wanders it wanders onto something you start procrastinating. You have to notice you procrastinate it and bring it back. What meditation helps you to do is the moment your mind wanders. You notice it and you bring it back to your work. As soon as you wander, you notice it and bring it back to your work. So you’re actually honing this muscle of attention and sticking on task and being able to get through things faster and better and easier. Matt: It kind of reminds me of when you learn a language you’re essentially adding an operating system to your to your brain every new language that you learn you think slightly differently and by being fluent in two languages you’re actively suppressing one while thinking about the other. So they’ve done they’ve done studies and they show that becoming fluent in another language quite literally is an upgrade to your brain because you’re actively suppressing while also thinking so you’re doing two things at one sort of meditation almost feels like that because you’re while you’re living your life you’re also kind of monitoring for thoughts. I don’t know what your thoughts are on that as someone who has actual credibility. Ariel: So yes this idea of inhibition and action simultaneously is actually really important one. So as I said meditation is not like letting your mind go blank. Meditation is like actively inhibiting a range of behaviors you don’t want to do and actively choosing to engage in other ones. And when you are when you do that you actually simultaneously you definitely build flexibility into your brain. So yes you’re you’re correct I don’t know that I would. Yeah. Okay so in the active let’s not talk about a crawler to meditation so meditation is the practice or the training of your mind. And from that practice or training emerges a skill called mindfulness. You might hear about something called like a mindfulness meditation that means that it’s a meditation that is building the skill of mindfulness and mindfulness is moment to moment non-judgemental awareness of your thoughts feelings environment and bodily sensations when mindfulness when you’re choosing to do is intentionally be aware of the world around you. And when you do that you are actually becoming you know we feel like the aperture of your experience is widening significantly. You’re taking in more information simultaneously and you’re actually able to process it efficiently when you do that. Also what you said about you know meditating actively suppressing thoughts while you’re walking to the world. Yes so that’s kind of this scale of mindfulness that you built the ability to manage information manager where your mind is going and you know widen the pressure of your experience to include some things and act which is to exclude others Matt: That feels like it’s going to distract me from my smartphone. That seems problematic. Ariel: Well if you want you can widen me a picture of your attention to include your smartphone or you can choose not to. Matt: That was meant to be a joke and missed. Part of fringe FM is to get get innovative thought leaders on who are leading in their field. Your hands down doing that. But to find out what else they are interested in what other tangential technologies and related fields. Keep them super excited. So what was your stuff? Ariel: What with my stuff. So I have quite a few supplements and limitation I’m into generally like thinking about augmenting the human and wearable technology is and how we who and what we become when we augment ourselves with technology. How you create technology for the human. That’s the thing that’s really fascinating to me. Contact Gants Matt: contact dance? Ariel: contact dance. Yeah. Matt: what is this contact dance? Ariel: It’s a contact dance is a form of dance where two or more people sort of exercise this art by being in physical contact with one another. And there is there’s a system of interaction so that you can take weight from another person you can share space with one another person you can explore physical interaction in a way that’s really beautiful. Matt: Ok I thought you said contacts and like somehow alien civilizations or something you were you were reaching out to. I want to I want to talk a little bit more about the human IoT enhancement and where you see where you see us headed. So you’re working quite a bit with mindsets and you’re working with these new technology. What is the cutting edge when it comes to censor ourselves? Ariel: So there are so many edges when it comes to enhancing ourselves. I mean look at the field of wearables and people asked me things like oh you know art wearables just a fad. It’s like no wearable is where computing is going. Like there is no reason for a computer to be in one place when a computer can be distributed around your body. And in doing so you know by taking on information from the world around you and seamlessly feeding that information about the world to you and about you to the world and to yourself. So we’re going to be learning more and more and more about ourselves and some of the stuff is like in a pretty didactic it’s first rate hour. Like how much water have you had today. You need to have more water you can have a skin sensor that informs you when your face is sufficiently hydrated and some of it is really like nominal and emotional and not obvious that emotion stuff is more obvious like you’re feeling sad now you’re feeling frustrated. Now it’s you know tracker emotions throughout the day but then there’s the kind of fringy stuff around you know who you become or who do you want to be when you’re able to master your own mind and when you’re able to fully calm your body or when you’re able to kind of choose the way you interact with your own memories and your past and things like that they were always changing the way we interact with their past and our memories. So you know it sounds really scared weird but it’s it’s something that we already do through a therapeutic process.We’ll probably be able to do through devices Matt: And who writes the code for those of us and how do they affect you and do you have input into that? Ariel: Yeah these are fascinating questions that don’t have answers yet. Matt: How do you think we’re going to come up with answers as a society? Ariel: Unfortunately I think it’s the people who actually just do it who are going to be creating the answers. You know it’s not a place where you can have a philosopher that puts out a paper and then everybody follows at or there can be legislation and people follow it. It is going to be defined by the you know actors inside the companies who create these technologies. Matt: Move fast and break things right. Ariel: Yes and try to fix them. Matt: Yes. And and try to fix them. You see with the cost of technology this being something where only the only the well-off are able to benefit and thus have some type of runaway escape velocity? Ariel: Help not. I mean the way the technology goes things become inexpensive quite quickly. I mean much of the world much of the world has a smartphone. And most of the world has a cell phone and it’s not the kind of thing where OK. Well people first needed to get telephone lines and then they got cell phones. It’s the kind of thing where cell phone technology actually made it finally possible for somebody in a developing nation to have a phone. And nobody ever needed to run a telephone line to their tiny little village. So certainly unfortunately some of these technologies will be you know expensive and initially available to the rich. But you know hopefully we continue to have initiatives that try to apply this technology to the developing world and to people all around. And so much of you know trying to gain market share is around making tools that are inexpensive and accessible and making tools available for developers that we know so far have relatively rapidly seen the spread and deployment of technologies and that’s only going to enhance as you know people have access to things like the Internet and yes the whole world doesn’t have access to the Internet. Yes and yes it’s probably a good thing that they do but that even is a contentious issue. But I think where you know there’s it’s funny within technology there is this glorious idea of democracy. You know technology allows for the democratization of everything. Airbnb has made it you know cheap to travel around the world. Uber [Inaudible] no longer need a car you can get anywhere you know doctor has all these things. On the other hand we can’t forget that it’s still out of the hands of many. But often these innovations leapfrog in such a way that they end up ultimately possibly being more accessible than we would have imagined at the [Inaudible] Matt: And they’re awesome. And they also have the effect of occasional user bring democracy because as power as part as power changes hands those those smaller things coming into effect. What are you most worried about today? Ariel: I feel like there is said there’s I’m very optimistic. I am highly highly highly optimistic not just because it’s good for your health. I do worry that there’s this very kind of know the nationalistic US and the backlash that pushes in the face of the inherent good that people have when they come together and they trust one another. And so there is a real dialogue now about Mexicans. Build a wall. You know Matt: These [Inaudible] and that’s how they get to pay for it too. Ariel: And they get to pay for it yeah. Yeah. And a sense of othering and a rule by fear that really like laughs in the face of a sadly of the kind of human social progress that you know my good is oriented towards a world in which we want to be able to come together and trust one another and break down barriers and in which scarcity thinking and hegemony begin to dissolve when you realize that these things are only created and these are only projections like yours. There’s more than enough resource there’s more than half of all of these things but we create political structures that really make that distribution inequitable and uncaused behaviors that cause you to try to try to protect them which is just this negative feedback process? Matt: So to summarize capitalism and democracy have the wrong incentive structures. Is that a fair. Is that a fair summary? Ariel: Sure sure. I’m not counting. No I’m not against capitalism. I mean I certainly participate in that and participate in the benefits of it. But the way that capitalism currently runs certainly does not benefit the most people and the way these incentive structures are created causes a set of behaviors that you know inherently alienate and frustrate one another. Matt: If you could change one thing what would you change. You can change too if you want once pretty hard? Ariel: Well the problem is that we have to believe in reality is enough I give an answer like you know basic living income for all model after model has proven that that’s a very difficult thing to guarantee and like it it’s not clear where the money comes from or how this works like nobody’s actually come up with a better a better structure and I’m not going to pretend I’m smart enough to know what it is so I can say nice things like you know world peace or basic living income. But there is not a realistic model that demonstrates how we how we get there how gets paid for and how we know bipartisan support is going to lead to that. So you know I’m my own little corner of the world who is if we can get everybody meditating then we can start to dissolve the fear and scarcity thinking that it generates generally inappropriate behavior that sees another is lesser. But I don’t I don’t have a magic reality wand to actually propose a real solution. Matt: Yeah that’s a hard question. I imagine if we could take some of that defense budget and spend it on actual things that matter we could do we could do a bit of a better job but I like what you’re doing as an entrepreneur is it. Is it down to entrepreneurs startups and businesses to make the changes that we need in large part. Ariel: Yes if there is something you think you want to see in the world just go out and make it. It’s not as hard as you think. Just go out and make it happen. And the good news is you know good ideas other people want to get onboard with good ideas other people want to help and support you cause. That’s good. Yes let’s make that happen in the world. So you may find it easier than you think to make your wacky great idea happen Matt: If you weren’t if you weren’t building news what would you be doing any great wacky ideas? Ariel: My next next pop will be environmental setup. Matt: environmental startup environmental startup interesting yet. Why? Ariel: So a couple a few things that I’ve been kicking around in my mind. One is a platform to teach women the tools for entrepreneurship and business because there’s some you know basic fears that women have around that women can have around being in or starting a business that can actually be pretty effectively managed through and sort of taught a set of behaviors. So that’s that’s one potential future startup. The other is a round environmentalism in the way that we use single use plastics is hilariously painful. It’s just like you drink a bottle of water and you throw it in the garbage and you do it over and over and over again and that’s with no understanding of the life cycle of the plastics and the thought that you’re like. I recycle it it’s fine. If it is recyclable so it’s fine. But in reality it is not a real understanding of the recycling process how much actually gets recycled what the load is to do that etc.. So I’m not against consumerism but there is this level of hilariously blind consumerism that is probably easy to tweak on a number of levels and it’s a problem that we need to attack them much more effectively Matt: Do you think to market [Inaudible] Do you think this needs government regulation on certain things? Ariel: So at the G7 they tried to pull through a ban on straws and they couldn’t even pull a ban on straws and [Inaudible] like literally by definition the smallest piece sprinklings plastic there is now straw there is a lot less plastic than that other than maybe ketchup packages. So yes you know legislation at the government level is very effective in that legislation at the government level and typically leads to a lot of innovators coming up with solutions very quickly. Sure as 100 other kinds of straws that are not that are not plastic we can also definitely push at the at the level of the entrepreneur. But in order to do that you need big businesses to sign on to really effectively push those changes through the ecosystem and you need somebody else to adopt your packaging solution and to change all of their processes to drop that packaging. So you know we’d be much better off if somebody like an Amazon said okay here’s our packaging policy in Russia. Everybody needs to follow or inheres or shipping policy in Russia. Everybody needs to follow. Secondly it was a great power comes great power and sadly a change from the bottom from entrepreneurship is definitely helpful to generate those novel solutions so that there are the options that people can prove them out quite you know on their own within their business their small business. But without adoption from the top it’s literally pushing rocks uphill. Matt: So this [Inaudible] win? Ariel: China is going away a lot. Matt: They’re the only ones that can really push it and control and seem to be doing an incredible job with that and just saying we don’t have enough people this is what we’re doing. Work we’re curing climate change we’re cutting all of our emissions we’re doing these things now. Ariel: I really hope China wins. I have no problem with China wins it. Matt: It’s such a dichotomy in terms of in terms of both sides. I’ve lived and I’ve lived in both cultures they’re both very interesting pros and cons [Inaudible]. It’s a major complicated future where we’re headed. Interesting Places what what topics would you most like to see covered on the podcast and who would you like to hear speak about that? Ariel: You should actually probably interview Steve [Inaudible] Matt: OK. If you are if you make the connection I’ll make it happen. Ariel: I’m happy to Yahi innovates across multiple domains. Matt: We’re running a bit short on time. What is one thing that you would like to leave people with? Ariel: So I’d like to leave people with the understanding that the stuff that happens in your mind is not what you actually have to live with. So the thoughts, the anxieties, that worries the emotions we have the opportunity to actually curate and manage that space quite effectively and we are all incredibly capable productive human beings who can really accomplish what ever we want. You can see whatever we want in the world’s comes to life at least on a small scale [Inaudible] if not grown from there. And any thought of limitation in your brain is something that you can actually really effectively work with and move aside and so that you can galvanize the tools the teams the people the stuff that you need to make your ideas come true. Matt: There really are no limits. I’ve tested out the tests not amused by the way guys it’s it’s quite interesting. It’s like listening to to a rainforest and the feedback is based off of how actively your brain’s moving it’s it’s quite a piece of work. You guys have put together an impressive Ariel: thank you very much. Matt: What’s your goal is how do you know you’ve conquered the world? Ariel: I don’t want to conquer the world or just want to make it happier and healthier. So right now we sell literally all across the world you’ve is translated into French, Spanish, German, Italian and Japanese are coming. So we have people all over the world musingly of over 5 million minutes of meditation with news. So that’s a pretty good. You know we’ve accomplished a first set of goals. We have hundreds of research institutions that use Muze like Mayo Clinic uses it with breast cancer patients and on and on and on and we get feedback every day about how we’ve changed people’s lives help them get over anxiety over you know sadness change at work and improved their daily existence. So I think I think I feel pretty great about that. The next summer [Inaudible] is to make it even more broadly accessible so that medication and the management of your own mind is something that everybody can do everyday. Matt: Mind over matter. Guys I have a challenge for you. Google guided meditation has a 32 minute video by the honest guys. Listen to that until you have to stop. And if you don’t feel better afterwards you can know that it’s probably not. It might not be for you but if you feel better afterwards that’s pretty much proof. Then in and of itself that there might be something here. Ariel: Awesome Matt: thanks thanks for coming on today. Ariel it’s been fun. Ariel: My pleasure. Matt: And new listener before we go. Consider supporting fringe FM
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