Happy New Year!
For those who want the short version of this post, here it is: thank you.
For those who want the longer version, read on. I’ve spent a bit of time these past days reflecting on this past year, so I hope you’ll indulge me for a few philosophical moments.
As I’m sure is quite clear, I love the banjo. And music.
I also have developed Brainjo, a learning system that incorporates the latest insights from the science of learning and neuroplasticity to help us maximize the musical potential of the natural marvel that sits inside our skulls. And much of Brainjo is delivered digitally.
On the surface, brain science, digital technology and the banjo may seem like a strange union. Science and technology conjures visions of the future, of relentless forward movement, the persistent march of human “progress” towards the next big thing. As if the past, or even the present, just isn’t quite good enough, and is in need of improving.
From this perspective, technology is the species-level version of the hedonic treadmill.
The banjo, on other, symbolizes a simpler era. It nurtures our yearning for a past that was less complicated, when the living was slower, when attention spans were measured in hours, not milliseconds.
And if you’re like me, you feel pulled in two seemingly opposing directions.
Pulled on the one hand towards the potential promise of technology to solve real problems, to do really cool things, and to make lives better for everyone.
Pulled on the other hand by a desire to unplug from it all so as not to miss this incredible real world we inhabit. And to distance yourself from the ways in which technology has made our world more contentious and unpleasant.
Often I must remind myself that these two feelings needn’t be in opposition, that I don’t actually have to pick a side.
While it may be true that, as our recent US election exemplifies, the explosion in connectivity brought by the information age can be used to highlight our differences, to divide us by focusing on the few ways we’re different while blinding us to the many ways in which we’re alike. This does NOT feel like progress. And I’d like there to be a whole let less of it.
But it’s also true that our ability to connect to each other through the ether can also be used to bring us together in ways we could’ve never previously imagined. To gather around a common interest and feel a real, authentic kinship to people halfway around the world. This does feel like progress. And I’d like there to be a whole lot more of it.
It’s also my opinion that the very best digital technologies are the ones that use the virtual world to enhance and enrich the stuff we value most in the real world. This, in fact, is one of the central missions of Brainjo.
Playing music, and playing the banjo, will always be primarily a real world activity. Many times it’s an activity performed with or for others. Moreover, it’s an activity that can instantly forge connections between us that transcend race, religion, gender, age, and geography.
Music has a way of cutting away all the silly trivial stuff that the lizard part of our brain tries to convince us is important, and, in a flash of clarity, realign us with the only things that really matter. For me, nothing is quite like music for doing this sort of thing (stargazing may be a close second).
It is my hope that Brainjo ultimately helps you bring more of that into your life.
Technology will not slow down. It has no central command center, and is a direct byproduct of the indomitable human spirit of creativity, ingenuity and determination.
How we use that technology is up to us.
Thank you for being part of the Brainjo family.
Here’s to an outstanding 2017.