Essay #4: Where is Evolution Pointing its Finger?


In the mission statement for this website I write: 

“Here in the 21st century, with exponentially expanding computer intelligence and worldwide digital connection as the driving forces, evolution is accelerating at a speed never before experienced in human history…

 We have left the world of logical, linear, one step at a time, sequential thought,

                    We have entered the age of the quantum leap.”


Two scenes from one of the greatest films to portray a quantum leap in consciousness set the stage for today’s essay. 

2001: A Space Odyssey was purposely designed to provoke, disorient and challenge.  In this essay let’s look  at the film as  powerful metaphor for the required  shift in emphasis from the left hemisphere of the viewer’s brain to the right hemisphere.

As previously discussed, our brains are divided into a left and right hemisphere.  They are separated by a bundle of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum through which the two hemispheres can communicate with each other.  The key to understanding their relationship, as masterfully explicated in Iain McGilchrist’s book, The Master and His Emissary:  The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, they each see the world from very different perspectives

The left hemisphere sees a material world which can be understood best by breaking things down into parts and figuring out how they fit together.  Very useful for creating advanced technology and organizing large systems.  But its weakness is a constant search for certainty–it’s  not comfortable with complex questions which require a tolerance for ambiguity and novelty.  It also has a tendency to get stuck within its own boundary.

The right hemisphere, which is physically larger and has more synaptic connections, seeks a “bigger picture” of the world and our place in it.  It’s capable of making intuitive, unpredictable leaps into new ways of perceiving and understanding.

As Iain McGilchrist writes,

“While making it clear that both the left and right hemisphere’s ways of looking at the world are important, “…I suggest that it is as if the left hemisphere, which creates a sort-of self-reflexive virtual world, has blocked off the available exits, the ways out of the hall of mirrors, into a reality which the right hemisphere could enable us to understand.”  This has resulted the modern society, both physically, emotionally and spiritually becoming “increasingly mechanistic, fragmented decontextualized world, marked by unwarranted optimism mixed with paranoia and a feeling of emptiness….reflecting, I believe, the unopposed action of a dysfunctional left hemisphere.”


2001:  A Space Odyssey can be seen as  a virtual celebration of the imaginative leap capabilities of the right hemisphere. Here is director/co-author Stanley Kubrick’s own description of the film in an interview with Eric Norden for Playboy Magazine:

“2001 is a nonverbal experience; out of two hours and 19 minutes of film, there are only a little less than 40 minutes of dialog. I tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeonholing and directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophic content. To convolute [Marshall] McLuhan, in 2001 the message is the medium. I intended the film to be an intensely subjective experience that reaches the viewer at an inner level of consciousness, just as music does; to “explain” a Beethoven symphony would be to emasculate it by erecting an artificial barrier between conception and appreciation. You’re free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film — and such speculation is one indication that it has succeeded in gripping the audience at a deep level.”

Note words and phrases Kubrick uses such as:

  • “nonverbal” (psychologists have shown that most communication between and among us is at the nonverbal, subconscious level, a region the “implicit” right hemisphere is more comfortable in than the “explicit” left which depends much more on written and spoken verbal language;
  • “free to speculate,” again a nod to the “implicit” where the right hemisphere subjectively fills in the gaps rather than the left hemisphere’s preference for exactness and objective clarity;



The Jump Cut / Synaptic Leap

One of the most unexpected, brilliant “jump-cut” edits in movie history is the rotating bone flung into the air by one of the prehistoric apes morphing into a futuristic space shuttle heading towards the moon.

The bone reflects the leap in intelligence of the leader of one of the ape groups after he and other group members flail nervously around the strange monolith (which helps induce the synaptic jump in the lead ape’s brain).  This ape discovers for the first time that the bone can be both a useful tool for digging and a powerful weapon for beating off other ape groups competing for territory around a life-supporting source of water.

The jump-cut edit to the modern space shuttle, from one point of view (the left hemisphere) is an exponential leap forward…who can deny the leap in tool sophistication between a primitive bone and a space shuttle to the moon?  From a technological perspective, yes.  But is it an equally large leap in consciousness?

We get the answer when we witness the lead American scientist, Dr. Heywood Floyd, under military orders, refusing to reveal to Russian scientific colleagues he has previously worked with any information about the discovery of another monolith found by American scientists doing research on the moon.  Rather than share the information in a collaborative effort, the American response is to keep the discovery secret, cutting off all communication from American scientists on the moon.  Floyd’s body language and verbal language  is incredibly stilted, emotionally void, tight-lipped, protective.

At the conference on the moon with fellow scientists, Floyd makes clear the need for absolute secrecy: If word got out that an artifact had been found buried by an alien intelligence, it was assumed people on earth would freak out.  How different is it from the primitive ape’s use of the bone to prevent other groups from using the water hole on the African savanna different from lead scientist Floyd preventing any other nation, or for that matter, the inhabitants of earth, from any information about the monolith?  Both moves come from the part of the brain which is dominated by a strict territorial imperative.  With the prehistoric apes, it was the need to dominate the water hole against any outside group–with the human scientists on the moon, it was the need to conform to  strict, bureaucratic protection of the existence of a higher intelligence.

So, one conclusion taken from this is  that while we homo sapiens have figured out how to make huge advances  in the usefulness of tools/technology, a primary attribute of the left hemisphere of the brain, there is not nearly the leap in consciousness that understands the advantages of collaboration and openness to the new and unpredictable–that which requires a leap in understanding,  attributes more conducive to the right hemisphere.


 Unplugging HAL

One of the most crucial, intriguing questions about the film has been “What made HAL go crazy?”  After making a computational error, the two astronauts are convinced the super computer, responsible for all the complex mechanisms of the space craft,  needs to be shut down. HAL, unknown to the two astronauts Bowman and Poole who made sure the computer couldn’t hear their plan to shut him down, can, however read their lips.  Out of self-protection (and to his computer brain, out of his instructions to guide the spacecraft to its intended destination, it murders one and refuses to let the other, Bowman, re-enter the spacecraft.

What caused HAL to break down and become a murderer? According to Kubrick, in an interview with author, journalist Joseph Gelmis:  “In the specific case of HAL, he had an acute emotional crisis because he could not accept evidence of his own fallibility.”


But I prefer the explanation given by Arthur C. Clarke, who co-wrote the screenplay with Kubrick, then gave his explanation in his sequel novel 2010:  The Year We Make Contact, (also made into a movie.)  Clarke, who had a background as an engineer/science writer as well as science fiction novelist, explains in the novel sequel that HAL broke down due an inability to resolve two conflicting algorithms inputted by orders of the humans in charge of the Jupiter mission. On the one hand, HAL was instructed to give astronauts Bowman and Poole accurate information to ensure the spaceship gets to Jupiter.  At the same time, those in charge of the mission feared that if the astronauts knew they were heading towards an alien intelligence, they’d freak out and not be willing to complete the mission.  So, HAL, after being instructed to give Bowman and Poole accurate information, was given the contradictory instruction to lie to them about the true purpose of the mission.

This breakdown in HAL’s brain when trying to hold two opposing algorithmic instructions  is analogous to the human phenomenon we’ve all experienced in our brains:  cognitive dissonance. This is the psychological pressure felt when holding two or more contradictory thoughts, values or beliefs at the same time.  Doing this while accessing the right hemisphere of the human brain’s capacity to use ambiguity and volatility to reach a higher level of understanding can actually lead to a more enlightened vision as will be noted towards the end of this essay.  And as awesome as the leap in AI has been since the turn of the new century,  computers can still not match the attributes of the human  right brain hemisphere.

So, in 2001: A Space Odyssey, according to Arthur C. Clarke, HAL pretends to make a potentially disastrous mistake regarding one of the spaceship’s mechanisms so that when the two astronauts left the spaceship to fix the exterior unit, HAL could cause their deaths and would no longer have to maintain the lie.  Bottom line:  It was the human error of inputting two contradictory instructions that fractured HAL’s computer brain.                            




A Metaphorical View

On the literal plot line level, HAL needed to be turned off since he had become a murderer.  But we can also consider the unplugging of HAL’s brain as reflecting astronaut Bowman’s need to cross over the Corpus callosum of his brain from predominantly left hemisphere (organized, focused, analytical, more predictable) to his right hemisphere (expansive, curious, more open to totally novel perceptions and sensations).

The left hemisphere of Bowman’s (or any human’s) brain could not tolerate Bowman’s mind-altering, totally mind-altering trip through the Star Gate set up by the monolith, which appears orbiting Jupiter right before the bizarre trip begins.

But before looking at Bowman entering the Star Gate:

It’s important to acknowledge the crucial value of the left-hemisphere in the big picture view of the Jupiter mission.  Without the ordered, sequential, organized mind-set of the two astronauts working with HAL, the exponentially superior brain at maintaining the mechanical quality of the spaceship,  Bowman would never have reached the Star Gate.

At the same time, without moving from the left hemisphere mode to right hemisphere (the Star Gate seen as a metaphor for the Corpus callosum, Bowman’s brain would have likely shut down, unable to deal with the disorienting, massive  evolutionary leap in consciousness his mind  experiences (a supersized version of cognitive dissonance).



Entering the STAR GATE        

At one metaphoric level, the unplugging of the computer/left hemisphere and the crossing over to the right hemisphere Stargate begins an accelerated evolutionary leap towards a newborn star child, a re-birth of Bowman (in human history a rebirth is represented by a Renaissance, “from Old French renaissance, literally “rebirth,” usually in a spiritual sense.”

When asked to talk about the final scenes, Kubrick responded, “No, I don’t mind discussing it, on the lowest level, that is, straightforward explanation of the plot:”


“When the surviving astronaut, Bowman, ultimately reaches Jupiter, this artifact sweeps him into a force field or Star Gate that hurls him on a journey through inner and outer space and finally transports him to another part of the galaxy, where he’s placed in a human zoo approximating a hospital terrestrial environment drawn out of his own dreams and imagination.”


We are now in the region of “dreams” and “imagination,” the province of the right hemisphere (Neurologically in our brains, Dr. Iain McGilchrist writes “…during REM sleep and dreaming there is greatly increased blood flow in the right hemisphere…EEG coherence data also point to the predominance of the right hemisphere in dreaming.”

Kubrick continues explaining the story line of the final Star Gate scenes:

In a timeless state, his (Bowman’s) life passes from middle age to senescence to death. He is reborn, an enhanced being, a star child…and returns to earth prepared for the next leap forward of man’s evolutionary destiny.”

It is the premise of this website and the webinar associated with it that we are on the precipice of an evolutionary leap…a leap induced by exponentially expanding computer intelligence, the fast approaching scientific breakthroughs in genetic engineering and brain implants along with the potential for unprecedented breakthroughs in philosophical wisdom and psychological expansion through the collaborative network of the World Wide Web.

2001: A Space Odyssey, despite being produced over 50 years ago, remains one of the most powerful symbolic experiences of this potential for ‘evolutionary leap’ premise and, central to our theme here, remains one of the most effective symbolic celebrations of the crossing of the corpus callosum from the predominantly technical, specialized, utilitarian, closely focused left hemisphere to the more big-picture, imaginative, empathic, paradigm-breakthrough qualities of the right hemisphere.





We are the first beings on the evolutionary path here on planet Earth with the ability to consciously direct our own evolutionary path.

So, in what direction are we being pointed? The insight from one of the most insightful historians on the planet right now, Yuval Noah Havarti, which we highlight on the home page of this website is a deep insight into the speed of change generated by expanded computer intelligence percolating through all aspects of our lives:


“In long run, people will have to continually reinvent themselves.”


What if we combine that insight with one from the mind of Marshall McLuhan, the provocative media theorist we quote often on this website?

        “We Shape Our Tools,

                And Thereafter Our Tools Shape Us”


2001:  A Space Odyssey points to both the crucial importance of computer intelligence and its ultimate failure without the overriding influence of the right hemisphere of the human brain.

It is quite a challenge to feel what astronaut Bowman must have been going through in his mind after entering the Star Gate and experiencing those strange, unprecedented transitions leading to his rising from his death bed, pointing at the monolith which appears close by.

In nature, here on planet Earth Bowman’s leap is perhaps best reflected in the astounding molecular transformation from caterpillar to butterfly.  In human terms, spiritual teachers throughout the flow of the Perennial Philosophy, speak to the necessary inner transformation within the psyche in order to reach a deeper perception of reality.

Reflecting on the dry, impersonal, tight-lipped, overly defensive scientists and engineers who populate 2001:  A Space Odyssey and the over-dependence of the left hemisphere limited world view which has brought our civilization to the precipice of systematic collapse (climate change) , I again point to an insight from Iain McGilchrist:


“When we remember that it is the right hemisphere that succeeds in bringing us in touch with whatever is new by an attitude of receptive openness to what is—by contrast with the left hemisphere’s view that it makes new thing actively, by willfully putting them together bit by bit—it seems that here, too, is evidence, if any further were needed, that the right hemisphere is more true to the nature of things.” 


The left hemisphere of the human brain is great at inventing new tools and technology; the right hemisphere more suited for re-inventing our perception of the world, particularly relevant when the “nature of things” feels like they are shifting dramatically under our feet.

2001: A Space Odyssey is a visually beautiful cinematic trip leading to the “re-birth” (Renaissance)   guided by an alien intelligence.

The question: Here on planet Earth in the year 2021, is the “nature of things,”  the pull of evolution, pointing us on a trip towards a synaptic leap within the right hemisphere of our brains, to “re-invent” the way we perceive ourselves and our place in the world?



Essay #3: What’s the Story?


Based on my research, the three most effective ways the human brain learns are:

        Trial & Error                 

                    Games (PLAY)


Of these three, other mammals share with us the first two. Trial & Error? The first time we as infants curiously touch a hot stove is probably the last time.

Scientists studying songbirds noted the young birds learned more from trial & error than by just observation. The advantages animals have over us is they are free to learn from trial and error whereas our school system metes out bad grades for mistakes, pressuring students to avoid them.

“By seeking and blundering we learn.”

            ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


One of the most cheerful, witty and smart encouragements for students to learn from blunders came in a letter written by the great novelist/satirist Kurt Vonnegut.  In 2006, a teacher at Xavier High School in Manhattan, a Ms. Lockwood, challenged her students to write a letter to their favorite author and invite him or her to visit the class.  Five of the students chose Kurt Vonnegut.  He was the only author to respond.

Here is his letter:

“Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs. Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances anymore because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six-line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut”

 What a brilliant tribute to the right hemisphere of our brains.


Human Brain Vs. Computer Brain:  What Can We Learn?







After trial & error, the second of the most effective ways our brains learn comes from playing games, which we also share with other mammals. Watching puppies, squirrels and tiger cubs playing is one of the most enjoyable scenes we experience, but there are deep hunting and life-saving learning patterns being developed at the core of play.

For us humans, as the 20th century was shifting towards the 21st, expanding computer intelligence upped the ante as to what we can learn from playing games with the new form of intelligence we created:  Computer intelligence (AI).

This was made dramatically clear in 1997 when IBM’s Deep Blue computer beat the reigning human world chess champion, Gary Kasparov.  It shocked the chess world.  Kasparov was considered the greatest human chess player of all time.  He had easily defeated Deep Blue just a few years before. But Deep Blue, with help from its human programmers, learned at exponential speed. As it engaged in the rematch with Kasparov, Gary was able to calculate 12-14 moves ahead under pressure, a great feat for a human brain.  Across the chess board, according to information on the IBM web site, “Deep blue could explore up to 200 million possible chess positions per second.”  And pick out the one most effective.

But it was more than just sheer, massive calculations that shocked Kasparov to his core.  As he later said in an interview for Time Magazine,

I could feel — I could smell — a new kind of intelligence across the table.”  


To try and soften the wound to human egos, a number of game enthusiasts back in 1997 rationalized that while chess is primarily a game of speedy calculations in a well-defined territory with well-defined potential moves, a computer would never beat the best humans at GO, the Asian game much more complex than chess which requires not just memory and speed calculations, but more mysterious qualities such as the subjective inner voice of “intuition” which a purely calculating machine could never match.

Those critics were proven wrong.

In March, 2016, in front of over two million keenly interested online spectators from around the world, the computer AlphaGo developed by Deep Mind, a British subsidiary of Google, easily defeated 8-time world GO champion Lee Sedol.

This freaked out the game world even more than Kasparov’s defeat.  Here’s an excerpt from the report of the outcome on the New Scientist web site at the time:

“As the game reached its conclusion, the reality of Lee’s defeat set in slowly across the venue, prompting quiet gasps of shock. This was stark contrast to Tuesday, when some Korean journalists had openly cheered Lee at a press conference.

The news, that artificial intelligence has defeated humanity’s best Go player, has sent shock waves through the international Go community. ‘I felt emotional and dizzy, and stepped outside for a minute,’ said Ben Lockhart, one of the top US amateur players, watching on in the press room.” 

Another commentator saw the defeat as even more apocalyptic:

 “It was hard not to feel sympathy with Lee as I watched this opening defeat. He carries the hopes of a nation – not to mention a species – on his shoulders.” 

At one point early on in the first match, AlphaGo made a surprising move, one not seen before in the long history of recording top level Go games.  Lee Sedol, confused and a bit shaken by the unanticipated move, took one of the allowed breaks and left the room.

One of the media commentators, a world-class GO player himself, reporting the match to the millions watching, stated, “I don’t really know if it’s a good move or a bad move.”

His fellow commentator announced, “I thought it was a mistake.”

Another world-class player watching the match described the computer’s move with a word we reserve for subjective, emotional human qualities, not rational, calculating ones.  He described the computer’s move as “Beautiful.  So beautiful.”

Hours later, Lee Sedol, admitting he was “shocked,” resigned.

Cad Metz, reporting the match for Wired Magazine, responded to that “beautiful” move:

“It was the moment AlphaGo proved it understands, or at least appears to mimic understanding in a way that is indistinguishable from the real thing. From where Lee sat, AlphaGo displayed what Go players might describe as intuition, the ability to play a beautiful game not just like a person but in a way no person could.”



An Even Bigger SURPRISE

As “shocking” as a computer able to beat a human at a game requiring what are considered subjective, inner mind skills , it could still be rationalized somewhat by the fact that AlphaGo had the advantage of 30 million moves by top level human GO players inputted into its memory and which it could access in seconds at any time.

But then some very smart folks at Google came up with a brainstorm—what if, instead of inputting any human games into a computer, it simply gave the computer the rules of a game and then have it LEARN only by playing itself millions of times?  (In other words, learn by trial & error, given the fancier term “reinforcement learning,” without any knowledge of how the most skillful humans in history played the game).

By 2017, computers were running at such fast speeds that one named AlphaZero (zero knowledge of how the best humans played the games) learned chess, GO and another complex Asian game, Shogi.

Learning chess, it only took AlphaZero a few hours to play against itself millions of times and analyze the most successful strategies. That was the sum total of its learning curve. A match was set up between Alpha Zero and the strongest chess computer program in the world at the time called Stockfish.

Here is an enjoyable description of the two computer chess opponents from an article in Popular Mechanics:

“On one side was Stockfish 8. This world-champion program approaches chess like dynamite handles a boulder—with sheer force, churning through 60 million potential moves per second. Of these millions of moves, Stockfish picks what it sees as the very best one—with “best” defined by a complex, hand-tuned algorithm co-designed by computer scientists and chess grandmasters. That algorithm values a delicate balance of factors like pawn positions and the safety of its king.

On the other side was a new program called AlphaZero (the “zero” meaning no human knowledge in the loop), a chess engine in some ways very much weaker than Stockfish—powering through just 1/100th as many moves per second as its opponent. But AlphaZero is an entirely different machine. Instead of deducing the “best” moves with an algorithm designed by outside experts, it learns strategy by itself–Its programmers merely tuned it with the basic rules of chess and allowed it to play several million games against itself. As it learned, AlphaZero gradually pieced together its own strategy.” 

Note those portentous words about this form of computer learning: “gradually pieced together its own strategy.” Once the rules of the game were inputted and instructions given to engage in a massive trial & error learning process, humans were being taken out of the learning loop

The result? As reported by Popular Mechanics:

“The head-to-head battle was astonishing. In 100 games, AlphaZero never lost. The AI engine won the match (winning 28 games and drawing the rest) with dazzling sacrifices, risky moves, and a beautiful style that was completely new to the world of computer chess.”

(Note:  At the highest level of human chess, most games are drawn, neither player winning.  To win 28 out of 100 and lose none against the most successful computer chess engine in the world at the time was astonishing.)

So, what does this brief history of computer intelligence playing games have to do with the right hemisphere of the human brain and helping to bring about the Next Renaissance?

4 Takeaways 

  • AlphaGo’s remarkable achievement is confirmation of one of media theorist Marshall McLuhan’ key aphorisms: “The medium is the message.” By playing against itself and learning what moves best achieved the goal of the game, then soundly defeating the chess program that in seconds could access and compare a data base of 60 million human chess moves by the greatest human players of all time, Alpha Zero showed that the underlying “process” or “medium” of learning  is more powerful than analyzing the best content available. (for deeper look into this oracular aphorism and some of its potential meanings for us  here in the 21s century Digital Age).


  • The chess journalist writing for Popular Mechanics, William Herkewitz, analyzing the novel, brilliant strategy of AlphaZero, describes it: “Again and again, this magician-like chess engine makes early sacrifices like these as part of an extremely long-term strategy whose benefit won’t become clear for dozens of moves into the future.”  This strategy is similar philosophically to some of the greatest human psychological and spiritual teachers with regards to “sacrifice” and the “bigger picture” of what is most beneficial in the long run.


  • Virtually all media observers viewed the stunning defeat of Gary Kasparov by Deep Blue in 1997 as a blow to the human ego and limited their view of games to that of a “zero-sum game,” a game in which in order for one person or team to win, the other person or team has to lose. But Kasparov, after initially displaying his bruised ego by angrily accusing IBM of cheating, came to a “Big Picture” perception some twenty years later, writing in the Wall Street Journal,“It is no secret that I hate losing, and I did not take it well. But losing to a computer wasn’t as harsh a blow to me as many at the time thought it was for humanity as a whole. The cover of Newsweek called the match “The Brain’s Last Stand.” Those six games in 1997 gave a dark cast to the narrative of “man versus machine” in the digital age…Twenty years later, after learning much more about the subject, I am convinced that we must stop seeing intelligent machines as our rivals.”


  • As confirmation of Kasparov’s “big picture” insight, the intelligence built into Deep Blue to defeat him is now being used to help doctors solve difficult and puzzling cancer cases. As doctors work with computers to solve complex cases, the human ego had to go through more gyrations.  As one male doctor admitted his initial reactions to Deep Blue’s diagnostic skills, ‘Oh my God, why didn’t I think of that?’ We don’t like to admit it.” How Watson is Transforming Health Care


The Metaphorical Learning Tool:  Stories                                              


If someone uses the phrase “sour grapes” or “slow and steady wins the race,” we immediately tap into the meaning behind those phrases which emerge from two of Aesop’s fables written over 2,000 years ago.  Teaching tales have immediate and enduring learning power.  One famous example:

A Zen student is quite pleased with the progress he feels he’s making, especially after being invited to have tea with the Zen master.  The teacher pours himself some tea, then starts pouring some into the student’s cup.  He keeps pouring until the hot liquid spills over and onto the lap of the student who jumps up angrily. The Zen master looks down at the overflowing cup and says to the student, “Your mind is like that cup.”


The pessimistic takeaway from Big Blue demoralizing the human world chess champion and AlphaGo shocking the Go game world is that it signals computers are taking over the world and will eventually make human intelligence negligible.

But there’s a story which points to a very different conclusion, one in which the most creative, unpredictable, enlightened leaps of understanding of the right hemisphere of the human brain integrates with the highest levels of computer intelligence.

The story is the plot line of the 1983 techno-thriller movie War Games.  At first the movie appears to be a relatively predictable teenage adventure flick, but soon, as described by renowned movie critic at that time, Roger Ebert, the story

“weaves a complex web of computerese, personalities and puzzles; the movie absorbs us on emotional and intellectual levels at the same time. And the ending, a moment of blinding and yet utterly elementary insight, is wonderful.”  

The final scene combines all three of the three effective learning strategies, trial & error, games and stories into a significant teaching tale for the 21st century.

Brief Plot Line:

A bored teenage computer whiz named David Lightman, played by Mathew Broderick, likes playing games with his computer.  As a lark, he hacks into his high school’s computer system and changes his grades along with his classmate Jennifer’s.  Later, while searching for interesting games on his computer, he taps into a system which doesn’t identify itself. Asking for games to play, he finds a list including chess, backgammon, poker and some more dramatic game titles such as “Falken’s Maze,” “Theaterwide Biotoxic and Chemical Warfare” and “Global Thermonuclear War.”

Unable to access the games he visits some older, more experienced hacker friends who suggest he try to find the site’s backdoor password, starting with the game “Falken’s Maze,” the first game listed.

Researching the name, Falken, David finds information about a Stephan Falken, an early computer intelligence researcher who tragically lost his son Joshua in an accident.  David tries using Joshua as the backdoor password and he unknowingly hacks into NORAD’s computer which controls the United States military nuclear arsenal.

Innocently, David asks the computer to play the game “Global Thermonuclear War.”  At this point, if you haven’t seen the movie, you can guess how the plot will thicken.

We learn the backstory:  After playing a nuclear war game, the military head of NORAD was discouraged that under pressure of a simulated Soviet Union nuclear attack, the U.S. personal responsible for launching a massive nuclear retaliation couldn’t “pull the trigger.”  So Falken and a colleague, John McKitrick, devise a computer system which takes over in case of an actual nuclear attack.

David, thinking he’s playing a fun game, takes the Soviet side and starts launching nuclear missiles. Despite the NORAD team quickly figuring out it wasn’t a real attack; the computer can’t distinguish between simulation and reality.  It continues moving towards launching an actual nuclear response.

FBI agents, who have tracked down David as the hacker and assuming he’s a Soviet agent, whisk him away in a van, then fly him, handcuffed to NORAD headquarters in Colorado as an espionage suspect.  David manages a creative escape and is met by his friend Jennifer who has driven to a meeting spot they agreed to over the phone.

They travel to a remote island off the coast of Oregon after researching that the former computer whiz who helped develop the NORAD computer program was living alone as a hermit, despondent over both loss of his young son Joshua and convinced that, given the anxiety prone weaknesses of humans, nuclear war was inevitable.

While Falken is impressed that David and Jennifer, just high school students, were able to track him down and make a plea for him to return to NORAD to help stop his computer creation from starting WWIII, his cynicism is so great, he turns them down. After Jennifer tries to convince him to stop the computer from launching as a tribute to his son Joshua, the following important dialogue takes place:

Falken:  Did you ever play tic-tac-toe?

Jennifer:  Yeah, of course.

Falken: But you don’t anymore.

Jennifer: No.

Falken:  Why?

Jennifer: Because it’s a boring game.  It’s always a tie.

Falken: Exactly.  There’s no way to win.  The game itself is pointless!  But back at the war room, they believe you                          can win a nuclear war.  That there can be ‘acceptable losses.’”


But just as David and Jennifer are convinced there’s no way to stop the nuclear destruction, Falken reconsiders, contacts some former military officials, and he, David and Jennifer are rushed to the secret NORAD headquarters.

Falken successfully convinces the general in command that the Soviet attack on the screen is a game simulation.  After tense moments, the general decides to wait for confirmation before launching a counter strike. When the targets on the screen show Soviet missiles detonating, the general hears from military on the target grounds that in fact there was no actual attack, the room erupts with applause.

But there’s a catch. The computer, following its coded instructions to override human reluctance to launch a necessary retaliation, seeks out the launch codes so it can launch the missiles itself.  The computer blocks out all attempts to change its decision, including instructions typed in by its inventor, Falken.  The computer is intent on starting launching nuclear missiles at the Soviet Union as retaliation.

With nothing to lose, Falken convinces the general to let David try to find a solution.  David tells the programmer to bring up all the available games on the screen.  As he and Falken quickly scan the screen they both realize a game is missing: tic-tac-toe.

David instructs the computer to play itself the simple game.  Remembering Falken’s using tic-tac-toe to confirm his pessimism, David has the brilliant intuitive flash of having the computer learn there are games which, when played by two good players, always produce “no-win” scenarios.  After learning, in a matter of minutes that there was no way to win a game of tic-tac-toe against itself, the computer shifts to the current “game”  it’s been playing: “Global Thermonuclear War.” After quickly reviewing every possible military strategy for nuclear warfare, it learns that no matter what strategy is used in the game, the result is “mutually assured destruction.”  No one can win.

On the oversized NORAD screen, the computer prints “WINNER:  NONE,” and verbalizes through its speech program that Global Thermonuclear War is a “STRANGE GAME…THE ONLY WINNING MOVE IS NOT TO PLAY.”

With seconds to spare, it stops the launching of the missiles.  It then asks if Falken would like to play “A NICE GAME OF CHESS?”


CODAThe Ultimate Game with a New Story


The interactions between human and computer intelligence as illustrated by Deep Blue, AlphaGo, AlphaZero and the movie War Games point to the potential leaps in knowledge and understanding emerging from trial & error, games and stories.

And all of these learning experiences point to the need to reconsider a “story” which has dominated the modern age following the Italian Renaissance and still prevalent today:  The Zero-Sum Game.

While seeing life as a competition has incited new discoveries and progress to a point, it’s now leading us towards the precipice of climate change devastation, widening economic gaps between the haves and have nots and psychological mass anxiety.

And collaboration, not competition is the key pattern generating the ultimate game we humans are playing:  EVOLUTION.

AlphaZero showed that computers can become more skillful at zero-sum games such as Chess, Go and Jeopardy where there is one winner, the rest losers, by taking human knowledge out of the loop and learning by playing against itself millions of times.

And we have been taught, erroneously, that evolution is a zero-sum game, “survival of the fittest” defined by winners and losers.  While there is plenty of competition in nature, predator/prey, etc, the deeper, more influential pattern is that of collaboration (mutual benefits).  Proof:  We humans survive in great part due to oxygen supplied by plants and trees.  On the other side of this mutually beneficial, collaborative equation, plants and trees require the carbon dioxide we breathe out.  Our relationship to plants and trees is great illustration of mutual benefits over zero-sum/win or lose relationships.  Even the predator/prey dynamic has had an inherent, intelligent balance (until humans came along).  Animals in nature kill only what they truly need to thrive.

We were taught a very limited and warped view of evolution. Darwin did not use the phrase “survival of the fittest” in his famous book, “Origin of the Species.”  It’s a phrase used by a contemporary of his, Herbert Spencer.  When Darwin later used the phrase, by “fittest,” he didn’t mean “strongest” or “most aggressive.”  He was using “fittest” to mean “most adaptive.”

As biologist James Shapiro has noted, evolution is not driven by “survival of the fittest”…It’s driven by novelty.  Without novelty, there would be no movement forward.

For us humans to stay in the loop as computers continue to exponentially increase their intelligence, already capable of teaching themselves and about to make a literal “quantum leap” and become quantum computers, then it will be human imagination (novelty) which will be key.

As noted in previous essays in this Next Renaissance section, the part of our brains which is most “adaptive” is the right-hemisphere which is wired to see past old boundaries and limitations and open up to a bigger picture, one with new, previously un-imagined potential.

This was anticipated by the man considered by many the greatest scientist of the 20th century, Albert Einstein:


I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. 


This is at the heart of the story in War Games where David gets INTO THE LOOP of the computer’s brain through a leap of imaginative insight, getting the NORAD computer to play against itself in order to understand some games can’t be won.

Why play a game that can’t be won?



Enjoy the quotes/links below.



“A good question is not concerned with a correct answer. A good question cannot be answered immediately. A good question challenges existing answers. A good question is one you badly want answered once you hear it, but had no inkling you cared before it was asked. A good question creates new territory of thinking. A good question reframes its own answers.

Founding Editor, WIRED Magazine, Kevin Kelly




For the first time in human evolution, the individual life is long enough, and the cultural transformation swift enough, that the individual mind is now a constituent player in the global transformation of human culture.

Social Philosopher, William Irwin Thompson









Essay #2: Synaptic Jumps / Quantum Leaps?



 “Our Time is a time for crossing barriers,

      for looking ahead,

         for probing around.”


This is one of many deep insights you’ll find on this web site going forward from the man called the Prophet of the Electronic Age, Marshall McLuhan.

McLuhan’s call for “crossing barriers,” on one important level, can be seen as a reference to the opening up the mind by literally crossing from the left-hemisphere of our brain through the anatomical barrier of fibers called the corpus callosum, to the right hemisphere.

While the left hemisphere of our brains, which dominates our educational, social and cultural systems, is wired to break things down into understandable parts and then analyze them to reach a clear conclusion, the right hemisphere is wired for “looking ahead and probing around,” actions more likely to generate imaginative leaps, exhilarating new insights, and new patterns of perception.

McLuhan, who was both revered as the go to media theorist and guru of the electronic age during much of the 1960’s and harshly criticized for uttering cryptic and puzzling phrases, was asked by a TV interviewer why he was so difficult to understand.  McLuhan answered, “Because I’m using the right hemisphere when they’re trying to use the left.”

McLuhan pointed out that all new media technologies re-wire the human brain in ways which at first often disrupt and disorientate before generating new gateways of perception (so, it’s not surprising to read so many apoplectic warnings about the dangers of the new gateway to expanded knowledge: The digital screen.)

As McLuhan pointed out in his book “The Gutenberg Galaxy,” the uncomfortable, disorienting rewiring of the brain by new media technology has been going on for millennia:

“If a technology is introduced either from within or from without a culture, and if it gives new stress or ascendancy to one or another of our senses, the ratio among all of our senses is altered. We no longer feel the same, nor do our eyes and ears and other senses remain the same.”



He then notes that Plato, one of the greatest philosophers in human history (in his dialogue, “Phaedrus” around 370 B.C.)  made clear his warning about the dangerous new technology of the alphabet and writing.  The alphabet and writing dangerous??? Plato was concerned that if people rely on writing instead of memorizing speech, they will too much be dependent on the external written symbols and lose their brain’s ability to “remember of themselves.”

Sounds similar to complaints from educators today that the digital screen is scrambling kids’ brains and students can’t remember what they read as well on the screen as they do from books.

I think we’d all agree that the invention of alphabets and written language was an evolutionary leap in knowledge, despite understandable concerns about how it would rewire the brain going forward.  And there’s a delicious irony Plato was well aware of when he wrote about his concerns about the new technology of writing:  He was expressing his insights through the medium he was warning against—the written word.



The Gutenberg Leap

Jump cut to the year 1439 as Johannes Gutenberg is unveiling the first print printing press using moveable type.  This revolutionary new technology opened up a whole new world, ripping apart the monopolizing grip of the church on both the content and access to knowledge and truth.  The printing press transformed science, the economy and communication.  At the same time, as had the invention of the alphabet and writing, the new experience of reading books caused severe disorientation and dislocation in the human brain.  Many worried at the time that people would isolate themselves, heads buried in books, deteriorating the art of conversation.

Neil Compton in a review of McLuhan for Commentary Magazine in 1965, explained McLuhan’s insight into the limitation of print technology:


“By translating all human experience into the visual, linear, sequential form of written sentences, and by mass-producing the result with the aid of the printing press, Western man has tended to alienate himself from deep involvement with his environment. “Numbed” into a “hypnotic trance” by his visual bias, ‘the bookman of detached private culture’ cannot cope with reality until it is processed into the linear, mechanical order of print.”



This ties beautifully into the need for a shift from left hemisphere dominance to a more right hemisphere thinking.  Breaking the world down into understandable, linear, sequential parts is the way the left hemisphere is wired.  It demands certainty and resists any attempt to break past its clearly defined territory.

Next Renaissance thinking requires this “crossing the barrier,” moving forward from  patterns of perception which served humanity in the past (brilliant technological achievements, but lacking the bigger picture of what technology and its accompanying materialism  have wrought (the Industrial Age pollution and now the potentially end game of climate change.

Let’s take a look at how the linear, orderly, sequential process of reading words, lines and sentences in a printed book, while fostering focused readings of interesting subjects on the one hand, limits the associative, synaptic leap powers of the brain on the other.

A good analysis of how our brains work when reading print can be found in the Scientific-American article, “The Reading Brain in the Digital Age”  by journalist Ferris Jabr.

One of its main conclusions, and the reason so many educators bemoan the amount of time students spend on digital screens, is because tests show that reading on the printed page is more conducive for “working-memory.”  If this sounds like a familiar refrain, earlier I pointed out Plato had the same concern about the invention of the alphabet and written language.  It should also be noted that more modern testing has shown that as the years go by and students (as well as most of the rest of us) get experience reading and researching on the digital screen “working-memory “gets better.

But for our purposes, helping to usher in the Next Renaissance, there’s a deeper point here:  What’s so great about “working-memory.?” Most of the school curricula currently in use are based on a 19th century industrial model which rewards students for memorizing facts in Pavlovian fashion, regurgitating them back on tests to show they understood what administrators who chose what books would be used wanted them to learn.

The word, “education,” has a very important etymology.  It come from the Latin phrase “to draw out,” i.e., to bring out one’s natural curiosities about the world, not to stuff in controllable information, which is still the favored mode of education at least up and through high school.

As the article linked to above points out, there is also a heavy “physicality” involved in reading books along with an unconscious sense of clearly defined boundaries no longer restricted on the digital screen.  There is a comfort in reading a book, knowing these boundaries are there.  But, also, a limitation, mostly subconscious, indoctrinating the sensibility that life is linear and has clear, definable boundaries.  As quantum physics and more recent scientific/philosophical breakthroughs such as Chaos theory, Self-Organization, Flow and Emergent theory reveal, nature, and for the most part, our brains are based on non-linear, unpredictable, synaptic jumps.

Maryanne Wolfe, whose doctorate is in human development and psychology, is quoted in the article:


 “In most cases, paper books have more obvious topography than onscreen text. An open paperback presents a reader with two clearly defined domains—the left and right pages—and a total of eight corners with which to orient oneself. A reader can focus on a single page of a paper book without losing sight of the whole text: one can see where the book begins and ends and where one page is in relation to those borders. One can even feel the thickness of the pages read in one hand and pages to be read in the other. Turning the pages of a paper book is like leaving one footprint after another on the trail—there’s a rhythm to it and a visible record of how far one has traveled. All these features not only make text in a paper book easily navigable; they also make it easier to form a coherent mental map of the text.”


But while it’s more comfortable right now for most of us to navigate through the single insights of one author writing in the familiar, measured lines of printed on pages in a book with clear boundaries, the full capacity of thinking is limited when seeing the world in linear, sequential order.

None of this is to imply that books are no longer relevant. The pleasures of reading text will continue to be a significant part of learning.  At the same time, the shift to the digital screen offers exponential leaps in exploring and synthesizing information.


The Shift to the Digital Screen

All the way back in 1945, Vannevar Bush, an inventor who worked on some of the early analog computers, anticipated both McLuhan’s insight and the World Wide Web:


With one item in its grasp, the human brain snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain”


This insight into the “intricate web of trails carried by cells of the brain” anticipates the connected network of the world wide web and the dynamic “snaps” of hypertext links which break through the limitations of a bounded page of print and open up “trails” of connected thoughts.

(NOTE:  Clearly the digital screen is being manipulated by advertisers and fake news snake oil salesmen and there is a serious problem with kids getting addicted to the screen.  While these problems need to be addressed, as previously noted, EVERY major new media technology “disorients” at the beginning and creates new “downfalls” along with greatly expanded “upsides.” Much of this can be understood through McLuhan’s insight:


“It is the framework which changes with each new technology and not just the picture within the frame.” 


Adjusting to an entirely new media “framework” jolts the mind on both the unconscious and conscious levels, but, as history as shown, after initial disorientation and warnings, the new media leap us forward on our evolutionary trip.)

Another important point often ignored or forgotten by those admonishing the hyper speed/hypertext disorientation of the digital screen is how this new media technology, as with those before it, is expanding knowledge exponentially.

Writer and teacher Melissa Gouty, who clearly loves books and literature, nonetheless understands the economic and environmental advantages of the digital screen:

       “The cost of digital books is less than printed books, allowing schools and libraries to purchase more,               new inventory at a fraction of the cost. Readers can access online materials through free sites, giving               them resources that would not have been available if they have had to pay for print books.

         Digital resources don’t require physical space. No one has to build additional wings, construct shelves            or figure out where to house collections.  Online materials are not subject to mold, mildew, or theft like            print books are.

          Online materials are accessible at any time of the day or night, and deliverable within seconds. They              are portable and without weight.”


The New “Biliterate Brain”

The analogy which comes to my mind regarding the relationship of the digital screen to the printed page is that of Einstein’s revolutionary theory of relativity to Newton’s laws of cause and effect.  Einstein didn’t prove Newton wrong.  In fact, today Isaac Newton is still considered one of the greatest scientists of all time and his insights into the physical world remain highly relevant.  But Einstein did prove Newton’s insights to be limited. At speeds nearing the speed of light, new ways of looking at the world were needed in order to make the leap forward into the quantum age.

To use a phrase now becoming more popular, we need to become “biliterate,” that is, learn to use the distinct advantages of both the printed page and the digital screen while understanding they each wire our brains differently.

Melissa Gouty, addresses this in her article “Why You Need to Develop a Biliterate Brain—And How to Do It.”  She writes:


“We live in a modern world where we daily navigate the vast network of digital sources.  But we also have to be able to feel, understand and enjoy the depth of literature…

We NEED biliterate brains capable of both FAST and SLOW styles, looping and linear patterns to survive.

Digitally-developed brains are capable of flipping through visuals, assimilating ideas, jumping from thought to thought, and finding information FAST. Print-oriented brains allow us to SLOW DOWN, savor the language, and consider the implications of the words on our lives.”




We have left the world of one step at a time, linear, sequential thinking.

While continuing to experience the joys of sitting down with a good book and the need for slowing our brain waves down into contemplative insight, we are being pushed forward by the inevitable force of evolution into the sped up, hypertext, digital zeitgeist of the synaptic jump and quantum leap.

McLuhan anticipated this  back in the 1960’s when he stated,


“After three thousand years of explosion, by means of fragmentary and mechanical technologies, the Western world is imploding” 


What’s called for to deal with systematic breakdown of  economic, social and political systems is a deep psychological paradigm shift in emphasis from the left-hemisphere focused point of view to a more right-hemisphere openness to probe novel, expansive regions of the human brain, to detect the rays of light which inevitably shine through the cracks of the systematic breakdown.

In the emergent Digital Age, with our brains extended outwards through the World Wide Web, we are adapting to a less fixed/linear/sequential reality to one allowing for a remixing of previous patterns of thought and more innovative, imaginative patterns of perception.  Disorienting, no doubt.  Frightening, if we stay controlled by our brain’s amygdala and restricted to the more certain, predictable confines of the left hemisphere.  As McLuhan made clear, this is a time “for crossing barriers, for looking ahead, for probing around.”

He also offered a therapeutic insight regarding the chaos, confusion and anxiety that accompanies the re-wiring of the brain through the invention of powerful new media technology such as the World Wide Web:

“Our Age of Anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to do today’s job with yesterday’s tools and yesterday’s concepts.”


 “There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.”



Enjoy the quotes and links below:


“My thesis is that for us as human beings there are two fundamentally opposed realities, two different modes of experience; that each is of ultimate importance in bringing about the recognizably human world; and that their difference is rooted in the bi-hemispheric structure of the brain. It follows that the hemispheres need to co-operate, but I believe they are in fact involved in a sort of power struggle, and that this explains many aspects of contemporary Western culture.”                    


                                                                           Psychiatrist, Neurolgy Researcher, author, Dr. Iain McGilchrist



“Traditional education gives little room for students to develop their creativity and outside-of-the-box thinking beyond predetermined, standardized boundaries. The next generation needs to be prepared to tackle not only the known, but also the unknown problems our world will face. Therefore, we must be forward thinking about how we train and inspire our upcoming generation…focusing more strongly on developing right-hemisphere potential, and corresponding values like intuition, creativity and empathy, is essential.”


Article about author Daniel Pink






FEATURED GUEST for 1st WEBINAR, February 24, 2021: Robert Thurman


A Trip into the Right Hemisphere of the Human Brain

Join award-winning radio talk show host, philosopher, and humorist Doug Grunther on a fascinating, insightful trip into the most creative,
intuitive and expansive part of our brain: The Right Hemisphere.

FEATURED GUEST for 1st WEBINAR, February 24, 2021:

Robert Thurman, world renown Buddhist teacher, dynamic speaker and personal envoy of the Dalia Lama.

Robert Thurman

Grunther is launching a series of interactive virtual salons, called WHAT ARE WE THINKING that will explore this fascinating and central element of our daily life. 

An anatomical line divides our brains into left and right sides. The Left Hemisphere, at its highest function, is logical, analytical and rational. Great for building advanced technologies. Well-suited to identify individual trees, but can’t see the forest. The Right Hemisphere is spontaneous, imaginative and able to make quantum leaps. It’s wired to deal with uncertainty and seeks a “bigger picture” of current events and how we relate to each other.

WHAT ARE WE THINKING? explores how the dominance of the left hemisphere perception in western culture has created a self-centered, materialist reality which can no longer be sustained and what can be done to counteract this trend. Grunther reveals how explorers of the human mind, including select artists, scientists, depth psychologists, philosophers, business leaders and global visionaries, are providing mind-expanding insights to meet the challenges going forward. 

And we will see how optimistic visionary insights into creative potential are available when we are willing to access the depths of right-hemisphere awareness.  

The interactive monthly webinars will be a virtual salon with real-time audience participation.  In addition, a dedicated web site is being designed to create an intentional community of creative, right-hemisphere thinkers where members can access and post insights, ideas and commentary.

Let’s help bring about the Next Renaissance and have a spirited good time along the way. 

Are you ready to make the leap?


  • 3 Shifts in Consciousness Defining the 21st Century 
  • The Hidden Language of Your Dreams 
  • Why the Right Hemisphere Loves Jokes & Humor 
  • How Einstein Chased a Light Beam in his Imagination to Discover Relativity 
  • Why Astronaut Bowman had to Unplug HAL Before Entering the Star Gate 
  • Directing the Brain to Strengthen Your Psychological Immune System 
  • VUCA & the Future of Business: Taking Advantage of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity & Ambiguity 
  • Spiritual Master J. Krishnamurti: “Truth is a Pathless Land” 
  • Marshall McLuhan: The Future of Humanity in the Electric/Digital Age 
  • Tuning into Alpha Waves: Creating a Mental Oasis in a Noisy, Divided World 


Essay #1: Signs of the Next Renaissance?


It was a 6th century philosopher, Heraclitus, who provided an insight as true today as in his ancient times:

“You can’t step into the same river twice,

                 for other waters are continually flowing on.”  

While pointing to a deep universal principle of how nature works, the difference for us here in the 21st century is that the flow of time is moving at speeds never before experienced in human evolution.

The intention of this website is to shed light on three potential shifts in consciousness which reflect the sped-up, digitalized, globally-networked currents generating the current zeitgeist and which have the potential to bring forth the Next Renaissance.


The Shift from the left hemisphere of our brain to the right;

The Shift from the printed page to the digital screen;

The Shift from individual intelligence to Collaborative Intelligence.


(Note:  By “shift” I don’t mean leaving behind the important function of the left hemisphere of our brain, the importance of printed books or the relevance of individual intelligence.  But information will be offered on this web site showing that unless we shift more emphasis from  of a conscious emphasis to the right hemisphere, learn to maximize the expansive, creative potential of the digital screen and recognize the need for collaborative intelligence, the chances of bringing about the Next Renaissance become much less probable.

These three shifts in consciousness are so closely inter-connected that while we will look at them individually, it is what we can recognize from the combination of all three that will determine what new, breakthrough patterns emerge.


Welcome to the Right Hemisphere of the Human Brain

If you Google left hemisphere and right hemisphere of the brain, you will mostly get over-simplified explanations such as the left hemisphere is logical and the right hemisphere more creative.

This is not an accurate picture.  Both hemispheres are capable of logic and creativity. The key distinction is best described in depth, backed by extensive research and philosophical insight by Dr. Iain McGilchrist

in his book, “The Master and his Emissary:  The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World.” 


“When I say the ‘left hemisphere does this,’ or ‘the right hemisphere does that,’ it should be understood that in any one human brain at any one time both hemispheres will be actively involved.”

However, with the aid of modern neurological research, we now know that the two hemispheres of our brain perceive and experience the world in essentially different ways.

My thesis is that for us as human beings there are two fundamentally opposed realities, two different modes of experience; that each is of ultimate importance in bringing about the recognizably human world…It follows that the hemispheres need to cooperate, but I believe they are in fact involved in a sort of power struggle, and this explains many aspects of Western culture.”


The left seeks understanding by breaking the world down into parts and analyzing how they fit together; the right sees the world more holistically, seeking deeper, more integrative patterns by exploring the unknown.  The left hemisphere, brilliant at creating technology and thinking rationally, cannot tolerate uncertainty.  It needs strict boundaries.  The right hemisphere is wired for imagination, context  and seeking a bigger picture of who we are and what we’re doing here.

The left hemisphere “grasps” for knowledge and gets frustrated with anything ambiguous or not fitting into its model of the world.  The right hemisphere is more empathic, seeing beyond its own limitations and open to  up new ways of looking at and understanding the deeper patterns of change.

The left hemisphere can brilliantly focus on and analyze individual trees, but can’t see the forest.

Iain writes,


“The left hemisphere’s version of reality works well at the local level, the everyday on which we are focused by habit…but it ‘frays at the edges’ once one pans out to get the bigger picture of reality.”

The right hemisphere is physically larger and better wired for compassion and “the importance of an open, patient attention to the world, as opposed to a willful, grasping attention.”


Iain’s key insight is that the dominance of left-hemisphere thinking over the past 500 or so years, while developing ingenious tools and technologies, has created modern cultures which lack empathy for deeper meaning and are obsessed with rigid certainties and a mechanistic view of what it means to be human.

Connecting to the last Renaissance

While the causes involved in the creation of any renaissance period are complex, they are always accompanied by a seismic, systematic breakdown.  In the case of the Italian Renaissance, the new, enlightened “humanist” philosophy was in large part a reaction to the devastation of the Black Plague which was well on its way to wiping out about 1/3 of the entire population of Europe.  The plague broke down societies and at the same time inspired one of the greatest flourishing of philosophy, art and science in human history.  (Here’s a link to a  fine article describing this.)

As devastating as COVID-19 has been, it has nowhere near the power to kill off 1/3 of modern civilization.  But climate change could if we don’t meet its challenge as evidenced in a well written recent article.

The author, Roy Scranton, is the director of the Notre Dame Environmental Humanities Initiative and a former soldier serving in Iraq.  While noting the systematic breakdown in Iraq society as a consequence of extended war and the even larger systematic breakdown of our environment taking place, Roy writes that


“Sometimes those breaks are openings.  Sometime those breaks are opportunities to do things differently.”


The depth of this most important insight, that systems breaking down are often wake up calls for initiating significant changes in perception and thought, was captured beautifully by one of the greatest poets of the modern age, Leonard Cohen:


                  “There is a crack in everything

                                     That’s how the light gets in”


The need to look for the light during the darkest times was also powerfully communicated one of the foremost dream experts Dr. Jeremy Taylor (who was a guest on my radio program over 40 times).  Jeremy frequently reminded us:


“Death” in the dream world is the single most frequent archetypal image of growth and development that the unconscious has to offer. (Dreams do depict psycho-spiritual growth and change in other ways, but death is by far the most common and universal.) Therefore, if I dream that I am being pursued by dream characters who are out to get me, it is usually a symbolic representation of fleeing from insistent interior promptings, telling me that it is time to grow and change and let go of some cherished notion about who I am.”


The urge fomented by witnessing the total breakdown of society from the 14th century Black Plague, along with the breakdown of the Catholic Church’s total grip on what could be said and thought, encouraged the retrieval of ancient Greek wisdom from writings which had been buried in monasteries during the Dark Middle Ages. The influence of this rediscovered wisdom began as one historian put it, “to recalibrate thinking when recirculated during the Renaissance.” (for a great read about this, check out “The Swerve:  How the World Became Modern.”

It is this same urge to “recalibrate thinking” that is now emerging, and which on this website and in the essays of this section will be viewed through the lens of the three shifts in consciousness noted at the beginning of this essay:

The Shift from the left hemisphere of our brain to the right hemisphere

The Shift from the printed page to the digital screen

The Shift from individual intelligence to Collaborative Intelligence


The New Paradigm

The biggest difference between the cultural environment of the 14th-16th Century Renaissance and now is the difference between the slow spread of information by labor intensive copying of handwritten scrolls (the invention of the printing press did not come until the later Renaissance in Northern Europe) compared to the instantaneous global communications network of the AI-driven world wide web.

What took years to retrieve the deepest ancient wisdom and share the totally new insights from science, art and philosophy back then can now take only minutes on the world wide web (the roots of the Perennial Philosophy just a computer keystroke away).

This is creating both paralyzing cognitive dissonance from information overload AND the potential for an explosive growth in insight and a synaptic leap in evolutionary thought.

Expanding computer intelligence has linked us all to a global network offering the unprecedented potential for collaborative human intelligence, creativity & transformation. At the same time the speed-up and 24/7 flood of communication are generating feedback loops filled with volatility, uncertainty and anxiety.

How do we keep our wits about us during the increased turbulence we feel coming our way every day so that we can detect the new, paradigm-shifting patterns emerging from underneath the turbulence of the 24/7 news cycle?


Are we headed towards the Next Renaissance?

Or towards Mass Anxiety?

Most likely, both.


One of the keys will be our ability to adapt the insight of the provocative media philosopher Marshall McLuhan:

“There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.”