Humanity’s Greatest Challenges Aren’t Technical – They’re Human | Nichol Bradford


Many people think that Maslow’s hierarchy
of needs stopped with self-actualization. And that’s not actually true. He had another piece that was on top of self-actualization
and that was self-transcendence. He just didn’t publish it widely before
he passed away. It was something he started working on towards
the end and so he published the hierarchy of needs before he finished his work on self-transcendence. He was one of the first people really to track
flow and to track some of the more interesting and advanced altered states that human babies
can get to. Things that you would find the terminology
really similar to things that you’ve heard advanced meditators describe. And so he was working on self-transcendence. And he just didn’t publish it. So there’s actually another level on top
of that hierarchy of needs. And so when I think of human psychology I
really think of human psychology as a spectrum and it’s not a series of islands or unique
locations. It’s really sort of a spectrum. And on one end you have what I call areas
that require human support. So this is when people are facing severe stress,
severe anxiety and depression. And then in the middle is what I call the
human condition. And so that is loneliness, happiness, connection,
empathy. The human condition is where we learn how
to deal with our first heartbreak and the first time that we fall in love. The human condition is where we deal with
sadness and betrayal and loss. Basically all the things that happen to you
as you grow up through life. The full spectrum of human emotion. That is the human condition. And there’s an infinite number of songs
on the radio and poems and art that’s about the human condition. So that’s there. And then on this other side which I think
really maps to self-transcendence and Maslow’s later work is the part of the people in the
world who are really pushing on human psychology and what are the limits? Where are our boundaries? What is the frontier of human psychology? And I think a lot of direction that we get
is from the contemplative communities around the world who really have been exploring and
pushing on human psychology for as long as humans have been organized. And pushing on what it is, what does it mean
to be human. The other day I talked to a guy who now has
three Guinness Book records on endurance sports. And he meditates the entire time. And he just swam the English Channel in a
Speedo and he meditated the whole time. So, you know, people are using mind training,
meditation and other things to push into abilities that right now, today, one could say are limited
to the few. But with the advent of things like transformative
technology there’s the ability, the possibility, the potentiality of these extraordinary states,
abilities and conditions to be available to a much wider group of people. And the reason why I think it’s relevant
is what would make it significant, relevant and actionable is that when I think about
the world today and the challenges facing mankind I don’t think the problems are technical. I think they’re human. So last summer I went to Singularity University. I took time out of everything that I’m doing
to go into their graduate studies program and it was a fantastic program. I love Singularity University. And the way that the program is set up is
that it’s this ten-week program and you’re in class from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. every
night and there’s just a parade really of some of the most extraordinary people on the
planet working either in exponential technologies. So AI, robotics, 3D printing, bioinformatics,
everything you could imagine. And people who are on the frontlines of the
challenges facing mankind. Like the people who are working on the water
problems. The people who are teaching in the refugee
camps. The people who are trying and working legitimately,
sleeves rolled up on the ground. The thinking around SU is it’s the place
where exponential technologies are applied to the grand global challenges that are facing
mankind and that being the purpose and the use for them. So for me when I was there my questions always
centered on what is your biggest challenge to what you’re trying to accomplish. And the answers were not technical. The answers were human. It was about fear, one’s own or the people
around you. They were all human problems and it was interesting
to spend the entire summer there because you definitely walk away with the feeling that
the problems aren’t technical. We always figure it out. We got a man on the moon and we have alternative
energy and there’s so many other things that are happening so fast. Changes coming hard and fast just from year
to year if you see the difference in the quality of the robots at the robotic competitions. It’s dramatic year after year after year. And so really the challenge facing mankind
is human. It’s can we get past the fear, aggression,
anxiety, stress. Can we get past that inner dialogue that takes
us off track, either makes us miss out on game day, not perform, makes us unable to
create collaborations and cooperate with other people. Because we do have very real challenges as
a species and the only way that we’re going to solve them is together. We have some very serious conversations that
we have to have about everything from genetic engineering to what do we do with a lot of
the technologies that are coming online whether it’s algorithmic accountability or a variety
of things. And so the way that I see my work and the
way that I see transformative technology is that if we could use the technology to understand
ourselves better, if we can use the technology to start to deliver and help people mimic
the experiences of meditation so that people can be calmer, happier, understand themselves
better, silence the critical voices inside themselves that stir up a lot of trouble. And if they can also connect to other people
better then we can get busy doing the work that needs to be done to create the future
that we’d like to have for ourselves and for our children and our communities on the
planet. So that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.

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