Measuring the Brain with Inside
Adam Laughlin has a background in psychology and software developments and has worked with various non-profits over the years. In this talk, he discusses the simple concept about measuring more than just happiness, a concept introduced to him by the founder of Next Stage Evolution.
chart | sensor
Have a background in psychology and software developments. Worked with various nonprofits over the years, interned with a company called Next Stage Evolution and then worked in the Media Lab and most recently ID Cubed.
Now my talk this evening is really going to be about measuring thought more than measuring happiness and the concept is fairly simple in how we would go about that.
The founder of Next Stage introduced me to this concept and that was imagine you’re sitting in class. Now you have your professor monotone and it’s going slowly and their dragging on and they are talking like this. And you’re looking at the floor and the ceiling and looking behind you, and then like it’s so boring.
Okay, so at your next class, you’re working on a project that fascinates you. you’re very intent, you’re sitting forward and you’re looking at the pieces and you’re really engaged on what’s going on. So all you have to do is analyze the pressure on the chair legs and you can start to figure out, is this person interested or bored, or are they actively learning or are they zoning out.
So it’s a great concept and what really blew my mind is he had it working 10 or almost 15 years ago. And some of the other things that it can measure, so gender, 98% accuracy, age 96% accuracy and 3.5 years. It can do a number of other things like cognitive behavior, emotion a whole bunch of stuff and a few other topics I’ll touch on tonight include confidence, bull shit, when you’re thinking, and motivation.
This is a report of my confidence in my own writing, at a time where I had accepted an analyst position and the guy who was the program before I came had lied about his capabilities and did not actually have the skills to make my job possible. So getting into that situation, I wasn’t confident with my own data. I wasn’t confident with my communications, or being able to do my job well for that matter, and this technology picked it up. So my confidence was negative 80 on the 100 scale.
Now, it might be tempting to fudge things in that scenario, and that’s what the BS meter is for, is called Blue Sky up there, but this isn’t my report. My report was actually zero at the time. Joseph, the founder emailed it to me, so while I lacked confidence I was telling the truth. What you are seeing is the BS meter for my co-worker who lied about his skills. So these technologies can be very useful for assessing potential relationships to.
Although I never saw this chart for myself, Joseph had commented that I thought very linearly. So it turns out that thinking linearly like point A, point B, and point C is fantastic for lawyers. It’s not so great for programmers, and so I began changing it. Along the way I became to understand it as part of my linear thinking is actually a non-conscious defense mechanism, that developed during a time in my life when things were just very dark and it was like, take one step in front of the other to get through this type of thing for an extended period of time. Those patterns got ground in, and so it’s actually coming out in some of the measurements.
So the tools also responded best to certain kinds of arguments. Now those that indicate the journey is in progress, indicate that emotionally direct me to avoid problems, and the most convincing in both of those, both, a combination and it was accurate. And I spent the last three years figuring out what was behind that and trying to change it. Why would I want to.
Well, they became bundled in the same report with this. So tend to be more aware of their and others’ failures rather than success. So I solve problems. I solve things that need to be fixed. I saw people with problems and that’s really how my family saw, and that’s how I was raised, but is that really how I wanted to be. So do I really want to be that guy?
You know, the guy at the party that points out your problems as you are talking and is not listening to you at all, and is just pointing out your problems. Okay, don’t want to be him. Or it could be the guy who is don’t even notice your problems because I’m so focused on my own. In that context, that’s not fun either, like who wants to be with that person. And as a person who lived that way and have that perspective, it sucks to live like that.
So even if my motivation was just to avoid suffering, I wanted to enjoy so I set out to change how I think. How? Well mentors, councilors, friends, books, and analyzing every word, every action 24 hours a day, seven days a week for three years.
It still a lot of work, but life and friends are much much much more amazing and beautiful than I ever imagined possible when this journey started. So what now?
I would love to show you pretty charts of my progress, but that internship ended. However, this kind of tech is just getting started. My passion is making available for anyone who wants to use it to improve themselves. Whether that be a person, a spouse, a friend, a business or even a community so what are my options?
I could continue working in the next stage using their tools, there are some downsides to those tools. They are a bit expensive, like $600 per run and for one report that is pretty steep. They are also tailored for business. I was able to extract some stuff that I learned about myself, but primarily for business.
Also about current state and not change, and they are also closed source, so can’t learn about them, can’t tweak them, can’t improve them. And then finally the data is locked away in next stage servers.
So another option is to find other tools, so there are some fantastic companies working in that same direction, Ginger.io, NeuMitra, Affectiva, and Moodscope all our fantastic companies or organizations measuring things like stress, depression, excitement, and happiness.
Unfortunately, most have similar issues and none really broadly show me the color of my own lenses like Next Stage Technology were able to do. So I could do it myself, now that’s great in theory, however I am not personally that great at fishing through data yet. I’m a programmer and not a data scientist yet. So while I’m learning though I could build software to make it possible and easy for others who are.
So what would we need? Ubiquitous programmer sensor platform, phone, secure shareable data storage for collaborative work, check got that with ID Cubed. A way to easily learn and build on each other’s algorithms, APIs, and visualizations, that is in progress and has been underway for a few months. So I’m renaming the project simply Inside because it’s what’s inside that matters and so my hope is to be able to tip the concept that I was first introduced to three years ago, that I spent three years learning about myself and changing my life that has made such a difference beyond anything else, and actually meet those types of technologies universally available in an open source way so we can build on them and we can tweak them.
As I said, the project is already underway. We are also working with the city of Somerville to measure happiness there, and beyond that, it’s a platform that QS as a community can use to make and share tools to measure whatever internal space we care about, thought, emotion, learning, motivation etc.
and on that note, I’ll wrap it up.