Ellen Jackson:
Hello and welcome back. This is episode 56 of the potential psychology podcast and my question for you today to kick off this episode is, "Do you meditate formally or informally? Do you take mindful moments or practice relaxation exercises or just pay attention to your breath?" Maybe you do yoga or maybe you do some other activity that requires you to pay less attention to what's going on in your mind and more attention to what's going on in your body. [inaudible 00:01:15] I said it's not one question was it? It was about 15, but the reason I ask is because I have been practicing my meditation lately with the assistance of technology.

Ellen Jackson:
And I've never been very successful at establishing a formal, regular meditation practice despite knowing and experiencing the benefits. And I've often felt a little bit guilty about that because I am a great proponent of mindfulness meditation and I regularly encourage other people to practice it. But I've not felt like I've done a particularly good job of doing it myself. And maybe as a consequence I've felt like a bit of a meditation failure and a fraud. And maybe you have some of these complicated feelings about meditation too. Anyway, my new technology, which I'll tell you more about in the coming weeks because I'm interviewing one of the co founders of the organization that created it, is helping me not only with my meditation practice, but it's also helped me to discover that despite not having what I think is a solid regular meditation practice, I'm actually better at it than I think.

Ellen Jackson:
So the tech itself, which is a brain sensing headband that you wear while meditating and that talks to an app that's on my phone, informs me that I can actually pretty quickly and effectively calm my mind and reduce the busyness that's going on in there, which is the aim of meditation. And that's one of the beauties of using technology in this wellbeing space. It can give us feedback on things that are going on in our bodies and in our minds that perhaps we're not otherwise aware of or we have no access to. And I'm just dabbling in this neuro tech space as it's called, but my guest today is taking it to a whole new level and that's what we're exploring in this episode. He himself needs no introduction as you already know him. He's a past guest of the show, but let's introduce him anyway.

Ellen Jackson:
Today we are welcoming James Garrett back to the show. James is a psychologist from Academic, an entrepreneur, a podcaster himself, host of the Deep Change podcast. He's a brain hacker, which we're going to hear a bit more about in a moment, and he's our first ever return guest to the show, which I'm very excited about. Welcome James.

James Garrett:
Thank you. So glad to be here Ellen.

Ellen Jackson:
It's really lovely to have you here. In fact, I re listened to our last interview not that long ago and we did actually revisit it here on the podcast a couple of weeks ago. And not only did I thoroughly enjoy it just as much as the second time around. I still, I learned stuff again the second time around. It's really interesting re listening to things that you've recorded in the past and the interviews that I've done with all my guests whether it's because they are ready to learn or we're synthesizing other information or with just bits that we've forgotten. So thank you. I've got just as much, I'm listening to you the second time as I did the first time.

James Garrett:
Yeah, yeah. No, I completely agree. Every time you listen to something you catch new things every time.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah, it's very cool. So I'm excited to talk to you again today, particularly because you have been emersed in a very exciting project since early this year. The Deep Change project. Can you tell us a little bit about it please?

James Garrett:
Yes, so the Deep Change project is an attempt to rewire my own brain in 201. I'm fascinated by this question of how far we can push neuroplasticity, and I figured the only ethical way to do this is to do it on myself.

Ellen Jackson:
So is the subject in this experiment

James Garrett:
That's right. I'll be the guinea pig, and in some sense I am doing this kind of year long scientific experiment. It's not technically scientific because it's an incense sample size of only one person, but it's an embodied experiment. It's a lived experiment and I think that it really matters because I think that's what people want to do themselves. In some sense, I'm asking the question, "What are we capable of as humans? What is human nature capable of? How malleable is it?" If you're an introvert and for whatever reason you wanted to become more of an extrovert or somewhere in the middle of an ambivert, could you do that?

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah.

James Garrett:
Now or if you don't like the way fear holds you back in certain situations, can you meaningfully erase fear in the brain? These are questions I think that have pretty deep implications. And given everything I've read about neuroplasticity, the answer seems to be yes from the science. So you have the kind of scientific backing of it, but you don't necessarily have these kinds of lived experiments of it. And again, these kind of trying to do this kind of and have one sample size where again, scientists aren't necessarily going to push the envelope. Science is all based on averages. I'm not interested in averages, I'm interested in the exception and to see who we all can become. What the exceptional version of you looks like. What that 2.0 upgraded best version of you actually looks like. And I'm trying to do that with myself this year.

Ellen Jackson:
Okay. And I love that notion of the embodied experiment. And yeah, that connects because I think often that happens with our research and our science, doesn't it? That we have academic papers and it's there on paper, it makes some sense maybe, there's evidence to support it, but what does that actually mean for us as human beings? As individual human beings, how do you bridge that gap between what I might read or what a scientist might tell me or what I might hear them discussing, I need to be on the radio, for example, and then my day today life. So you're bridging that gap using yourself as the test subject.

James Garrett:
Very much trying to.

Ellen Jackson:
Okay. And why? What was the goal for you?

James Garrett:
There's a few different goals. Well, there's a few different factors that are sort of emerging all at the same time. One is personalized data. We have access to our own bodies and brains in a way that we've never had before. EEG for example, is giving us access to the electrical activity of our brains in easy to wear wearables, that this is new stuff for most people, but the technology and the tech are actually there. We can actually look at our own brains in this way now. FMRI, looking inside of our brains, and the blood flow in our brains is a little bit lagging, but it's coming. There's Open Water, a company called Open Water in San Francisco is working on mobile FMRI right now. I have had an MRI myself, I'm doing more FMRI in a couple of weeks and it's still more expensive.

James Garrett:
But ultimately I think what people want is personalized health. People want to know, they want control of their own health. They want to understand their own brains and bodies. And so for me, the confluence of sort of personalized data, the rise of neurotech or brain tech, which is this entire sector of technology devoted to enhancing the capacity of our brain. And then the sort of second cognitive revolution in the sense in the last 10 or 15 years, we've learned more about the brain than we ever, ever knew. And so you put all those things together and it's creating this really amazing opportunity that can again get sort of get in the driver's seat of our own brains.

James Garrett:
Our brains are these powerful machines that don't come with a user's manual. And the neuroscience is giving us the user's manual, the tech is giving us this sort of extra kind of high gear that we can kind of go into and then we could kind of monitor it and see how this is moving along. And I guess I'm a passionate believer in human potential and I think we're on the cusp of actualizing human potential on a level that we've just never seen before.

Ellen Jackson:
Which, and I remember when we spoke last time, we were talking about this notion of being in the driver's seat of our own brain. And at the time I think that the tool for what of a better term, and this is probably could be almost two years ago, I know we spoke, Oh, I think months ago maybe, I don't know. So mindfulness is kind of the tool, and practicing meditation, mindful meditation. So this time around you've been able to upgrade as you say, and it's actually looking at all of this new technology, which is super exciting.

Ellen Jackson:
I mean it's almost still a bit sifi to me. Maybe that's because I'm getting older. It looks that way, but it's incredible. And I'm going to ask you shortly about what are the different actual forms of technology and these kinds of biofeedback stuff that's rapidly available to all consumers ordering on Amazon and it's on your doorstep kind of thing. So that maximizing of that technology and then being able to really come to grips with this as you say, what's going on in the brain and the body, which is very exciting.

James Garrett:
Yeah, it is. It is something that since we talked last that, yes, I have been much deeper immersed in the neurotech or brain tech and been experimenting with a lot of these different devices, a lot of these different wearables. And the iPhone revolution is an interesting kind of case study because roughly 10, certainly 15 years ago, 10, 12 years ago, phones just didn't, they were flip phones. At best they were blackberries which had access to the internet, but more of these kind of gorgeously designed kind of transformational type of interfaces the way they are now. So this literally happened in a decade that they become so knit into our lives that it feels almost impossible to live without them. Everything from GPS to the access to email to texting to constant access to social media, to just needing an answer on Wikipedia or Google, wherever you are.

Ellen Jackson:
The Weather app, I use my weather app every time. [crosstalk 00:11:49].

James Garrett:
These computers are of course in our, are wildly powerful. But what's so fascinating I think is they presented all of these opportunities and downsides with distraction and addiction and other things, behavioral addiction that we just also didn't see coming. So in some sense this brain tech kind of emergence has of course very similar upsides and potential downsides. And I think if navigated responsibly, the upsides are a lot bigger than the technologies that we've seen to date.

James Garrett:
And what I mean by that is, it has much greater capacity to augment human potential than some of these other technologies. Think about it, right? If we could get our brains, for example, so I just spoke with Daniel Chao, who's the founder of Halo Neuroscience and Halo uses brain stimulation. It's transcranial direct stimulation, so it's marketed toward athletes and musicians and it's a headband that goes over your motor motor cortex. It looks just like a pair of Beats or Bose headphones, but it has actual thumb, things that touch your scalp and actually emits a mild electric electricity into your scalp and into your motor cortex. And essentially what this does is stimulate your motor cortex so that it's more plastic, more malleable, more changeable.

James Garrett:
They call it neuro priming, which is another way of saying kind of making the neurons in a more activated state, which then again leads to more rewiring more quickly. It's just faster learning. So the best studies on this are showing that we learned 50% faster when in a post steam state or post priming state. So it's interesting because Daniel Chao, he thinks of this as, "What if our brains could work the way kids' brains do?" Think of the implications. If I could learn a language as fast as my two year old learns a language, or if I could learn a musical instrument or if I could learn any number of skills that I'm interested in mastering as fast as kids do. Kids brains are like sponges. Reverse that and make an adult brain like a kid brain, it's pretty powerful stuff.

Ellen Jackson:
I would love to be able to let a second language. That would just be cool. I did it. I tried it. I tried it at school for years and years and years. I'm not sure I got [inaudible 00:14:23] far. But yes, I've often looked at my own children and thought, "I could get you to learn another language now while you're kind of two, three [inaudible 00:14:31] missed the boat." What a gift.

James Garrett:
What a gift, right? What a gift. And it's this kind of deep power that I think some of this neurotech is introducing and saying, not only is this going to be possible, this is the future, and there's nothing to be afraid of. Obviously again, I think we need to navigate it responsibly, but here's what's coming. You thought the iPhone revelation was big.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah, and it's funny, I hadn't really thought through the connection to our phones with, because most of these gadgets, from my understanding, I call them gadget, sorry, I shouldn't neurotechnology. Most of them as tools, we need that feedback that we get, the display, the interaction part is often through our phones, isn't it? That's how they work. So we might have the headband or whatever it is and then the data is displayed to us via a phone because it's a tool that we all generally already have. So the two are really going hand in hand because I can imagine it would be much harder if we didn't all have that already embedded in our everyday life, our everyday practice and we know what X look like and we know how that were X, then it would be much harder for these other folds that the wearables, the devices, the biofeedback things to become as every day as they look like they might become.

James Garrett:
That's exactly right. The iPhone is for sure the interface. Smart phones are going to be the interface that the technology, whatever it is, the wearable that is speaking to maybe storing the data on or talking with the cloud. But it's an interesting way to look at it because, so Elon Musk who, this is like the next generation. Something that I'm still getting my wrapping my head around, which is brain machine interface. Most of what we are going to be talking today is not that, it's just the next step. This is the next step, which again, I'm not deeply expert in this yet. So Elon Musk has founded this company called Neurolink, which is trying to create something of a neuro lays, which is essentially a sort of cortex on top of our cortex, kind of computerized cortex or augmented capacity or brain power.

James Garrett:
They're much further along in their development than I thought they were. And they just did a big announcement a few weeks back. And even they are interacting with the iPhone as the kind of transmission-

Ellen Jackson:
Oh, interesting.

James Garrett:
So yeah, the iPhone is not going away, but it's interesting because one of the things that I think people get caught up in these trends of like virtual. So virtual reality is also another one that's going to hit us pretty big here. So VR, it's obviously going to be big in gaming. It's obviously going to be big and kind of immersive experiences, which again, a lot of people are interested, and also nervous about maybe a little bit. I think these things have a lot more potential to be addictive, but also transformative, more transformative. The brain learns through experience, deep experience.

James Garrett:
So again, there's ups and downs on it. But by and large, my assessment of kind of what we've done with technology to date is kind of most of the social media economy is based on the neurochemical dopamine. So we get a little dopamine hit every time we get a new like or a new notification. And it's not necessarily meant to make us better humans. The systems are designed to hijack our attention. That's actually what they're designed to do. And so I think this a little bit like the dumb dopamine economy. Like what we've created to date with our technologies is sort of a dumb dopamine economy. Meaning we're a little bit zombie like when we're kind of endlessly scrolling through social media and what we're trying-

Ellen Jackson:
It's a reactive.

James Garrett:
Exactly. What we're trying to create is the smart serotonin economy. We don't want to be kind of mindless zombies. We don't want our phones to take us away from spending time with our kids, for example. We want our phones to help us be better parents. Be morally, emotionally attuned. Be actually more deeply engaged in their lives. We want this sort of smart serotonin economy to emerge and that is what brain and neurotech are doing. They're actually taking technology and thinking of it, "Okay, so what are our highest ideals as humans? Who do we want to actually be and become, not what's going to turn $1 billion company?" These are very different questions.

James Garrett:
And it's not to say that those things can't be one in the same. I actually think they can but, the early days of the internet were about big dollars. All the venture capital, the whole system in the way it was set up was really about Tristan Harris and others who've spoken about this eloquently, but they call it ... Tristan Harris calls it a race to the bottom of the brainstem. Which is just to say that technology was set up in a way to make us more and more addicted or to hijack our attention. From a macro perspective, societaly we don't collectively necessarily want that. And I think over time the companies that keep doing that to us make us these worst versions of ourselves.

James Garrett:
We'll actually start being punished financially because we realize I don't necessarily want to be on a platform that's diminishing my attentional capacity because humans' unique capacity is to direct our attention. That's what makes us uniquely human. It's also what unlocks neuro-plasticity interestingly and at the heart and soul of the mindfulness meditation space, right? So I want technologies that augment that capacity not to diminish it. And I'm going to start rewording those companies with my dollars that actually help me become this better version of myself.

Ellen Jackson:
And that's so fascinating because I have a fundamental belief that human beings are very adaptable. Whether it's the optimist in me, but I think I hadn't really thought about it until you framed it up like that. That these technologies that they've always sort of been a little bit ahead of us. We can do this, so why don't we do it? We'll create this app, we'll create this tool, we'll create this bit of whizzbang tech, whatever it might be driven by as you say, the internet and what it was capable of. So we were sort of responding to what the technology did.

Ellen Jackson:
It feels now like we're coming to grips with where there might've been some unintended consequences for human beings as a result of that technology where things have not gone as well as maybe we've liked to or we just didn't think it through as a specie so to speak. And now we've got an opportunity to kind of catch up and really adapt to it. We've got this amazing tool, we can see what can be done with it. We can see where it can go wrong. Let's turn that around and start to actually capture the positives from it. Where it can as you say, we actually enhance human potential. Where can we enhance learning and growth? Where can we enhance relationships and connectedness and the things that we know as people we really need and benefit from?

Ellen Jackson:
So yeah, it's a lovely idea that we're perhaps starting to take back control of some of this technology and use it for our benefit, which for me anyway, kind of sits with my human adaptability ideals.

James Garrett:
It's almost like we created the fast food internet.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah.

James Garrett:
We got a lot of junk. That's another way to think of it. It's a lot of passive entertainment. It's not that entertainment is bad, is not what I'm saying. I think entertainment's lovely and aesthetically really important for our sense of meaning and beauty in the world. But the challenge is that it's so addictive that it can become all consuming. And so too much of it, of any good thing is problematic. And so I think what we're trying to shift from is sort of a fast food internet to a more kind of whole foods, nutritious nutrient dense internet. Again, the idea is that we don't just want to tickle our dopamine receptors. What we want to do is become better humans.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah, absolutely. Which is exciting and I think it's a nice way to be able to frame it up. I think because there is so much fear associated with the internet, some of these technologies and because the headlines do like to scream about all the things that have gone wrong that had been unhelpful, that have been destructive in so many ways to be able to remind us all that. We're in charge here, it's not the internet, it's not the technology, we're human beings, we are in charge of how we use these tools, how we maximize these tools. And it is very exciting that there are so many people out there trying to look at these as scientific questions. And then I suppose they become partly commercial questions on the back of that. So James, can you tell us a bit about some of the tech that you have tested and tried and what you've discovered?

James Garrett:
Yeah, sure.

Ellen Jackson:
I know there's been lots of different things.

James Garrett:
Yeah. Just a few. So one of my favorites is Apollo Neuroscience. They're based in Pittsburgh. They're building some really amazing tech. I actually was using their beta product that it wasn't even out yet. It's not going to be out until this fall. But Apolloneuro.com is their website. They're a really interesting group that's basically building tech to neutralize stress and it's one of the smoothest pieces of tech. It looks like a watch, it feels like a cat purring on your wrist has that kind of low vibrational kind of feeling. It ebbs and flows like a wave. It low sound and vibrational frequency. It's kind of feels like a bass speaker. That's kind of sensation that it gives you.

James Garrett:
Anyway, It stimulates your vagus nerve, which is the kind of heart of your parasympathetic calming system in the body and activates a calming response. So I'm not totally sure if they're going to incorporate this in it's first release of the technology, but I know they have plans to look at heart rate variability, which is an indicator of stress. And as your heart rate variability starts dipping, which is a sign that your stress is going up, I think they're going to actually program it so you can make it automatically turn on and essentially neutralize your stress before you even get stressed.

Ellen Jackson:
So it's actually like a pre cognitive experience. It's actually tapping into physiology and setting your body up to respond and it attractive at that parasympathetic to calm the system down before you've even gotten to notice what's going on.

James Garrett:
It's bottom up de stressing. You're distressing from the body up instead of the top down, which is what they would teach you in like cognitive behavioral therapy, how to kind of manage cognitive distortions or something, or rumination that's kind of run a muck. So yeah, so it's a really interesting piece of tech. There's others like that. Vital Neuro tech is really interesting. Touch points are really interesting. These are all stress reduction. A lot of this kind of early tech is in this space of reducing stress because stress ends up being one of these root causes of a lot of other issues and challenges that we face. So there's that camp or area. There's a lot of really interesting tracking stuff. So my aura ring ... Which I'm always wearing.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah. I am saying this so ... We can't say James at the moment [crosstalk 00:26:12].

James Garrett:
Yeah, yeah. I know I keep showing it as if people can see.

Ellen Jackson:
It's quite a classy looking, isn't it? It's a deep gray, metallicy colored ring overly large cumbersome.

James Garrett:
Not that really just cumbersome, it looks almost like a wedding ring or something.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah.

James Garrett:
And it's got essentially how these infrared sensors. So trackers are one of the first ... There's really two leading technologies when it comes to I think brain tech. One is the meditation apps. Headspace and Calm, and these others. They've really led the way, they are the beginning of this kind of space. And the other are trackers which kind of come from the fitness space.

James Garrett:
You can start with Fitbit and then it branched into these other competitors and now there's a lot of sleep trackers, or a ring markets itself is really a sleep tracker. But it's doing a lot of other stuff too. It's measuring everything that Fitbit would measure. Activity, number of steps, heart rate, heart rate variability, which I really like. It's also measuring respiration, which is about oxygen levels. And again, they're able to do this, we know it's a little crazy too. But they can actually get that kind of data.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah, through through your finger.

James Garrett:
Through your finger. I know. Because the sort of leading respiration tracker is Spire, Spire health, which I've also been using. And there is a [inaudible 00:27:34] you do place on your abdomen or on your chest, which of course makes sense because it's a compressing thing. So I tend to trust Spire's breathing data a little bit more. Lead technology is probably the best out there for that. So there's this other camp of trackers, and tracking and just getting more data. Now it tracking is still, it's getting much better but there's other companies that are coming out with, it's going to sound maybe a little bit much, but nutritional trackers that are tracking things like a urine sample.

James Garrett:
You can do a urine sample, take a picture of the stick. And then see what nutrients basically you're deficient in or doing really well in including hydration. And then it will serve you up personalized recommendations for your unique nutrition needs for the day. So this is again, we're moving into a time where a one size fits all diet for example, doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense. Not only because we're all so different, our bodies are also different, but also because our needs day to day are so different.

Ellen Jackson:
Yup. And our goals are different aren't they?

James Garrett:
And our goals are very different. Exactly.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah. I'm just thinking for those people, there's some people who have chronic illness. So obviously this would be incredibly in such, like I know there are some trackers now for managing or understanding glucose levels for diabetes, for example, which is obviously helpful, but then they might be others of us who are not necessarily experiencing chronic illness, but are training for some performance pursuit, whatever at my be. So obviously there might be different nutritional needs. Their pregnancy would be another one. I'm thinking of. You have to meet nutritional needs then at different times. Yeah. And even just the day to day. I'm getting over a cold, what do I need now? I suppose is I'm in prime physical health today, maybe not tomorrow. It's a moving feast.

James Garrett:
Yeah, it is. It's just getting more and more sophisticated. So you have access to real time data, dynamic data. In some sense over time, we'll be able to ... The blood is really the best way to measure these things or one of the very best. And so over time I think we'll even have access to our own personalized data. Of course there was a big scandal with [Thoeranos 00:29:53] who was trying to do this with personalized blood data, but that technology will still come out eventually. We'll be able to get deeper and deeper in access to our own bodies.

James Garrett:
And it makes perfect sense because what we're really trying to do is, when you think of our bodies and our brains, they're really a black box. All we see are symptoms of deeper biological stuff going on. And so when you can see inside that black box, I still remember looking at my brain for the first time. It was literally breathtaking because you know that it's in there, but when you see your own brain and you know that's the thing running the show, that's your chief executive. For me the experience was sort of like awe, the emotion actually was all like, "Whoa." And I could see all the different parts in the cerebellum and my brainstem and my, all these doing the corpus callosum and prefrontal cortex, all of these different areas of my brain. Of course it's always a relief to see your brain and it looks healthy.

Ellen Jackson:
Make sure it's all there.

James Garrett:
Nothing wrong with it.

Ellen Jackson:
Got all the right parts.

James Garrett:
All the right parts need to be there. But there's also this feeling of like, "Oh, I have creative capacity when it comes to in particular that organ." And again, this was back in Deep Change project, which is how do I become my own neural architect? How do I become my own designer of my mind? Because cells, this is a quote from Jason Silvabet. Cells and in particular neurons, but also cells are a technology that turn experience into biology. So one more time, cells are a technology that turn experience into biology.

James Garrett:
So everything we experience, all of our habits, all of our emotional states, all of our things that happen especially repetitively, literally work their way back into the neural grooves of our brain in ways that make it more likely that we'll repeat that behavior in the future. And so as you get good at creating new pathways, and think of this as a new ways of being, new versions of yourself, even new aspects to your personality. You literally become a neural architect, you become a creator of your own brain. And it's that creative, that internal creation.

James Garrett:
We think of creation or creativity as we call it, as something external. You think of an artist or somebody who builds a company or creates something in the external world. This is kind of flipping that idea literally on its head and saying, "Oh, we not only have the capacity to create on the outside, which I think is one of the highest human capacities. We have the create capacity to create on the inside." And I think that's highly inspiring.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah, and I can just imagine that they're actually able to see your brain in action. That functional MRI experience would bring that to life so much more. It creates a level of tangibility, if that's a way by it comes home, it brings it home to you. If the science is there, if what we know about the brain and body connection and that human experience and the grooving and all of that. If that's all there and we know it is, and then I can see my brain, I can see how the blood flows and how different bits work, I can start to make the connection between coming back to what we talked about right at the beginning. I can start to make it real for me in terms of self experimentation and actually putting this stuff, embedding it into my experience.

James Garrett:
Yeah. It makes it concrete and tangible.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah.

James Garrett:
When you have access to your own data, and then what you actually get because you're getting real time feedback is you get deep resources of motivation. And the most interesting I think findings in the psychological research is Theresa Maples research at Harvard business school. She's found that a visual sense of progress, seeing yourself improving on something that's the deepest source of intrinsic motivation. It's mastery. Whilst you're getting better at something, when you have actual real time feedback, which is telling you that you're getting better. That's the magic elixir of motivation.

Ellen Jackson:
That progress principle, they call it, don't they?

James Garrett:
That's right. Yep.

Ellen Jackson:
And I guess then that's the point behind the whole tracking. Even in those early days of being able to track how many days you've used your meditation app and now progressing it so much further. Having that feedback to say, "Yes, you are making progress, yes you are making steps in the direction that you want to go. That then fuels that motivation to keep going. And little things like the apps on our phone can tell us that. I can actually provide us with motivation as well as the learning and the skills and everything else that we're getting from it.

James Garrett:
So think of doing your meditation and then being able to actually look inside your brain and watching your own neurons, creating new connections to neighboring neurons. Literally strengthening the pathways that you just did the 10 minute meditation that caused that strengthening. It's actually watch that is so empowering.

Ellen Jackson:
You seeing it work.

James Garrett:
Because it feels like it's working. It's like a mental six pack. It's like I'm doing all this work, all this meditation and what am I getting out of it? Well I can see progress, we can see how-

Ellen Jackson:
Because when we talk about physical health or physical fitness particularly, we do get feedback. We're getting feedback in our ability to lift something that we couldn't previously lift or changes in our physical body or we're able to run further and get less puffed. So we're constantly getting that tracking in that feedback when we engage in exercise that's oriented towards physical growth. But when it comes to mental grades, psychological growth, we don't always have that immediate visible, tangible feedback. Or when we do get feedback, it does require a fair amount of conscious reflection in order to kind of notice where that's coming. So this is starting to be able to give us tangible feedback on the stuff that we can't necessarily see about our brain, yeah?

James Garrett:
That's exactly right. And that's a major component too. I think this future that we're talking about.

Ellen Jackson:
Okay. Amazing. My mind is being blown as we speak. S

James Garrett:
I just wanted to mention the company that's doing those personalized health sticks because it's Vivoo. They're really interesting. They're on really early stages though.

Ellen Jackson:
Cool. Okay. We'll put the link to that in the show notes as well so that everyone can go and do their investigation as to, because there's so many things here isn't there? When you just to see so many different pathways, there's the stress reduction, the physical health or getting feedback on what's going on in our physiology or related to our nutrition, et cetera, et cetera. There's sleep, there is creativity and growth.

Ellen Jackson:
There's so many different arrays where this in different types of technology are starting to build and grow and take us on these different pods and we're all going to have different interests in different elements I suppose depending on who we are, what interests and excites us or perhaps what challenges we're facing in our lives at any given time. So we'll give everyone the option to explore as many things as possible. Are there any other of these technologies James, that you've tested that have kind of blown your mind or really excited you or given you discoveries that you really were not expecting?

James Garrett:
The other big category we haven't talked about yet is it acts more directly on the brain, which is brain stimulation, sometimes called trans. This big word, transcranial direct stimulation. Transcranial just meaning it goes through the scull and actually stimulates different parts of the brain. This is a technology that's been proven to be safe. It's a technology that is, I think the future of brain tech. There's a lot of different people working on this in a lot of different ways. There's even one lab working and a lot of research around this using ultrasound as a stimulator because ultrasound can get a lot deeper in the brain and a lot more specific in the areas that it's actually stimulating.

James Garrett:
Ultrasound has to be done under very, very tightly controlled conditions with people who really know what they're doing in order for there not to be any damage done to the brain. But they've figured out how to do it fairly soon. What they understand is completely safely now, but transcranial direct stimulation, the leader in this space right now is Halo Neuroscience. Halo, future Halo, and because of where you're stimulating on the brain, one of the best places in the motor cortex which looks like a rainbow cross your top of your forehead, literally exactly where headphones sit, a nice pair of headphones. And so there's a kind of product brain anatomy fit there.

James Garrett:
So that's what they started out with this, they built this kind of brainstem technology. Then they're marketing this specifically athletes who do repetitive motor movement and musicians who do repetitive motor movement. And I've been using it and I'm surprised for me ... I haven't been using it quite long enough to what would be their kind of natural learning increased. They expect to take four to six weeks, but I've been using it enough to know that every time I do use it I can feel it. You can feel it working. There's a little bit, you know when your foot is asleep and it has a kind of little pinprick feel?

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah, that tinkling.

James Garrett:
That's kind of what it feels like on your head. So it's not soft and gentle and cuddly. It feels like electricity.

Ellen Jackson:
Okay. Yes, yes.

James Garrett:
Which it is. And then after you use it, I do feel like I'm in a little bit altered state of consciousness. Not in a major way, but in a like, "Oh, something's going on there." I can feel the effects and I'm trying to use it to learn the guitar.

Ellen Jackson:
Okay.

James Garrett:
Which is what I've been playing around with. But ultimately this type of technology I think is, and there's some other companies who are working on doing this on your prefrontal cortex so you can meditate while doing brainstem. And again, the idea here is you might be able to make accelerated progress on meditation or the benefits of meditation that we know now that lifelong meditators have these amazing brains. Who are full of joy and compassion its surely intense states of bliss. What we all kind of want or we say we want, so we all want those outcomes, but does it really have to take four or five decades to get there? Four to five hours of meditation a day.

James Garrett:
Is there a way to reduce that time and effort. And not just 10,000 hours or maybe 20 or 30 or 40,000 hours that it takes to get there. And the answer seems to be yes. And so some of these technologies are very actively trying to reduce the amount of time it takes to reach these types of brains or gain in ourselves the types of brains lifelong meditators have. It's really just accelerated learning or getting the brain in a malleable, more malleable states so that we are meditating, it just simply rewires more quickly. And so I think that stuff is super exciting.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah, the older implications for that. I'm thinking about, I mean obviously you have the athletes, musicians, people who have particular performance goals. But then students trying to learn, particularly those really content heavy areas. If it's something like medicine or those sorts of fields or law where there's just a lot of learning that needs to be done. Could this actually accelerate that learning? And then I'm wondering about the people for whom this might be, and I don't know, but I'm guessing that they're starting to look into how do we aid perhaps people who struggle with learning disabilities for example. How can we use these sorts of technologies to assist where people have particular challenges? That's very cool. And as you say, you're obviously immersed in this world. You're exploring this technology on a daily basis and that has been one of the goals of the Deep Change project.

Ellen Jackson:
Actually try these things yourself and see what the outcomes are for you. And I'm sort of listening now and going, "Okay, I'll sort of just on the periphery of this, I'd heard about some of these things, but haven't gotten nearly as deep as you have," but I'm imagining now that this stuff's going to happen really fast.

James Garrett:
It's going to have a really fast.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah. When you think about, as you say, how embedded our smartphones have become in our lives in such a short period of time, and I think about my children and I know you've got one small child and another one on the way. What is this going to look like for them when they're even in their teens? The tools that they're going to be using, these sorts of technology that they'll just take for granted and use everyday. That at the moment still feels bit like the realms of science fiction for us.

James Garrett:
There's many possible roads as for what this future might look like. I don't think there's only kind of one possibility here. And some of those roads are maybe better than others. There are these challenging questions that this inevitably is going to bring up. Does this give some kids unfair advantages? If they can put on a brain tech piece and they can kind of tap into this flow state and laser like focus. Is that an unfair advantage when it comes to measuring something like an SAT or a college entrance exam?

James Garrett:
Will college entrance exam become obsolete because it's no longer a good way to assess ability? I think the disruption that a lot of this will probably cause is unforeseeable and unknowable at this point. But I think what I do know is that the only way ... You can either put your head in the sand and kind of hope that it doesn't get to you. Or you can meaningfully engage and try to shape the direction of the conversation and or the very companies and technologies that are being built. You either create the future or you're subject to it.

James Garrett:
And so I very much believe that we create the future, we build the future. And so I do think there is even an ethical responsibility for all of us to be part of this continued conversation for how do we navigate this? This is a complex future and we're not even getting into a lot of the really crazy issues around automation, self driving cars and all the stuff that's going to replace. Mass unemployment, and there's so much disruption coming in the future that we just have never as a human species, ever.

James Garrett:
It's like when I think of my daughter living the next hundred years and who knows what life extension, maybe she'll live much longer than that. But I think of her future and I think of, "Wow, okay, how do I prepare my daughter to live in what will be on the unsettling side?" I think it's very unstable and I think you've all know Harare's talked a lot about this, which is there's a lot of kind of dangerous here but then there's a lot of these kind of crazy mind blowing opportunities. How do we navigate that future together? How do we prepare our kids for that future?

James Garrett:
Daniel Pink's thinking on a whole new mind, his book a whole new mind on how to create kids who embrace because our directed thinking or he's very careful not to call it right brain, but sort of more creative thinking and flexible thinking and conceptual thinking and the aesthetics and beauty and meaning and things that we've traditionally discarded as being less useful or less valuable in our very knowledge economy and and L director left directed thinking or analytical thinking. I think he's right in the sense that, if you want, and maybe the best advice I could give to parents is if you want to prepare your kids to the future, give them activities that are open ended. Legos, give them the materials and raw building blocks of things to do stuff with, but don't give them activities where there's one right answer.

James Garrett:
That's a recipe for an economy in a society of the past. Knowledge workers were essentially that, they were just domain experts and there was always one right answer to answer to become an attorney. They're just really good at accessing obscure information that gives them the ability to charge high amounts of money for that information. Information has been democratized and we all have access to it now and so it's not enough. It's not a domain expertise as an important, it's actually, if you look at the creativity research, you've got to have domain expertise in order to be creative. So you've got to have domain expertise, you've got to have the cognitive thinking or that kind of creativity to think of it as flexibility in your thinking kind of toolkit, and be able to kind of move between different states of mind. Have solitude and collaboration, be both an extrovert and an introvert. You've actually, it's really cognitive flexibility I think, which is the meadows skill that we're trying to teach our kids, not just being the smartest kid in the class.

Ellen Jackson:
I don't know the answers.

James Garrett:
Yeah.

Ellen Jackson:
It's about finding. I had to find the answers I suppose, isn't it? In a different way of thinking. Which again is, wow. We could have a whole other conversation on that one James. It's fascinating stuff and I think coming back to the brain tech, it's using or having that as tools to be able to understand that creativity better, to be able to understand how our brains work, coming back to that idea that you mentioned early on and I know you mentioned in our last discussion about being in the driver's seat of our brains or harnessing the tools and the technology to learn more about that. To be able to facilitate that creative, flexible thinking, which I absolutely agree I think will be the way of the future for our children, but all of those fascinating ethical implications for all of that as well, which again is another conversation.

Ellen Jackson:
What might be the unintended consequences and what might be the challenges, but I completely agree that unless we actually hop into that driver's seat and grasp, really develop a deep understanding of what this stuff is so that we can drive it rather than react to it. It's probably going to be the case. I think it's time to ask you some practical stuff. Where can people find out a little bit more? I know you have a Facebook group for the Deep Change project that people presumably can join and follow along with the experiments because you do other things too. You have weekly challenges each week and you post articles that relates to these topics. You post videos when you're actually testing some of these products. Is that something that anybody who's interested can jump on and join in with?

James Garrett:
It is, yeah. So if you just search on Facebook Deep Change project.

Ellen Jackson:
Cool. I'll put a link to that in the show notes as well for anyone who's interested and your podcasts. So you are interviewing a number of the creating minds behind some of these products, is that right?

James Garrett:
Yeah. So a lot of them are these neuro tech founders and it's interesting because the more you talk with them, you realize the more there's a deep scientific kind of wellspring that they're drawing on an expertise. I guess in other words saying this is not just about the tech. I remember my interview with Amy Sarah and Dr. Saron, the founder of touchpoints and the whole interview was about stress and how do we manage it better and how do we keep it from overtaking us? How do we become skilled at becoming stress resilient? She has this gorgeous piece of tech that also is part of what she does, but a lot of these conversations you have with these founders are almost more the psychology and brain science behind the tech.

Ellen Jackson:
It's still about being human.

James Garrett:
Yeah, exactly. So I guess what I mean is, it's not overly techie.

Ellen Jackson:
Yep. The technology is a tool, but fundamentally it's conversations about what it is to be human.

James Garrett:
Yes.

Ellen Jackson:
And the challenges that we face. Wonderful. So people can listen in, I will add a link to that as well. What's next for the Deep Change project? Because this is as you describe it a year long brain hacking exercise. And we're only in August. What have you got coming up? Is it kind of planned or do you just work it out as you go along?

James Garrett:
No, it's very much planned, although there's plenty of spontaneity [crosstalk 00:51:38]. The next two months, so September October are kind of my ... I've been looking forward to these the whole time and it's because it's fear. I'm trying to make my amygdala, which is the size of an almond, the size of a key.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah. Okay [inaudible 00:51:57].

James Garrett:
I would like my amygdala to be present but be way less of a player in my brain. I don't think it really helps us most of the time. It used to, served a pretty important function in the past, but 90% of the fear we experienced in our lives is literally a waste of time and energy. And it holds us back. When you think of it, in a lot social, we're so tuned socially, we worried about people's judgements, we worry about people rejecting us and I have all the same fears. One of the interesting things that's come out of Deep Change project is I have deep fear of social rejection.

James Garrett:
Partly because I've been through all sorts of ... This is the surprising things about Deep Change project. I've been rummaging around in the deep recesses of my subconscious and finding all sorts of interesting, challenging things about my insecure attachments to my mom and other things and how those become so knit into your personality. So I think we have all these deep parts of ourself that merit exploring. And again, one of them is why we fear what we fear. And so I'm trying to eliminate fear. That's the big goal. I'm trying to go from fearful to fearless. That's kind of the 1.0 to 2.0 transition in September and October and you'll have to tune in to see what I do.

Ellen Jackson:
I will. I will. We will, we all will. And I will make sure everybody has the links and access points that they need in order to be able to do that. But I think that ... It just got me thinking as you were saying that James, that notion of moving from our 1.0 to our 2.0 and how we can think about that across humankind. We're all at this point, we want to be at that point. But again, that's such an individualized experience isn't it? When you think about, for you that might be minimizing that fear response or reducing that fear response. It just got me thinking, "What would my 2.0 look like? What are the things that I would like to do?" I'm actually just personally starting to dig into some of that now.

Ellen Jackson:
I'm coming up 47, so looking at what does 50 look like? And I don't want to get into stuff about mortality and all of that, but it does give you a greater sense that, "Okay, if I really want to leave with no regrets, if I really want to become that 2.0, what is that going to look like? And time starts to press upon you a little bit more so that might be an interesting challenging question for all of our audience, kind of ponder what does your 2.0 look like? What is that for you and what are you going to do about it? And I hope that James has given you some insight and some tips and some inspiration to think about that because it's certainly done that for me.

Ellen Jackson:
James, thank you again so much for being on the show. It is always a joy to talk to you and I don't doubt that you'll be back again sometime [crosstalk 00:55:02] conversations to have. But people can tune into what you're doing through the Deep Change project, the Facebook group. There is also the podcast as well and we'll follow along with interest to see what happens next.

James Garrett:
Thank you Ellen. So good to be on your show.

Ellen Jackson:
You're very welcome. Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing that great conversation with James Garrett with me. I have a little homework task for you today following that episode. I want you to really consider what your 2.0 looks like. So since James and I had that conversation, I keep coming back to that question. It's really stuck in my mind. What does my 2.0 look like? If I have the opportunity as I believe we all do, to shape and mold who I am, what I do and the life that I live, just as James is doing himself, over the next phase of my life, what's that going to look like? What could it look like? And what do I want it to look like?

Ellen Jackson:
And that is a question that's really got me thinking and I'd love it if you thought about it a little too. And if you want to, perhaps let me know what you think your 2.0 might look like. Drop me an email with a few thoughts or ideas. There's no pressure, no commitment. I just know that sometimes it really helps to get those thoughts out of your head in order to clarify and shape them. And I am more than happy to be your sounding board to do that. So you can email me at ellenjackson@potential.com.au. And if you'd like to join James and his Deep Change project, we have included the links to his Facebook group, his website, his courses, his podcast, and the fantastic resources that he's mentioned in our conversation today as well as some of the tech products that he's trialed as part of his year long brain hacking adventure and they're all in the show notes for this episode. So out there at potential.com.au/podcast.

Ellen Jackson:
And if you want to keep in touch with the podcast and everything that's going on in the world of potential psychology, don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter that's over there as well. potential.com.au/subscribe. And if you think perhaps there's someone else who'd love the show and our guests, please tell them about it. Better yet, email them a link to the shows so they can find it quickly and easily or share it on social media. Let's see if together we can help more people to thrive and flourish. So until next week, thanks again for listening. I'll be back in your ears shortly with another great guest and insightful conversation. In the meantime, please go forth and fulfill your potential.