Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Wisdom of Your Cells

Dr. Bruce Lipton is the author of “The Biology of Belief” and narrates an audio book titled: “The Wisdom of Your Cells.” He was teaching medical school when he realized that the “dogma” he was forcing on his students was wrong: DNA does not control life—genes have no ability to turn themselves on or off or “self-actualize”—instead genes are a blueprint for life.

He based this conclusion on several experiments. First, when a cell is enucleated (the DNA is removed along with the rest of the nucleus), it continue to live until it needs to manufacture more proteins (which requires a blueprint for production) or it needs to reproduce (which again requires the chromosomes containing the DNA).

He also found that when identical stem cells were placed in different solutions, they behaved differently despite having identical genetic material. This alerted Lipton to the reality that the environment is a heavy influence on how cells and organisms behave and live.

So then, DNA is only a blueprint for the cells’ behavior and activity.

Furthermore, the effects of environment are not only chemical but also energetic, and energetic influences that are only now being understood, and apparently these energetic influences are more powerful effects, and are often their cause through the intervention of the cell membrane.

By way of example Lipton says, of DNA being falsely recognized as the command and control of cells, if that were true of a blueprint (which is all that DNA apparently is), then you could drive by a housing site and throw the blueprint into the foundation and return a while later and find a completed house. But the reality is that you need a contractor (and a host of other intelligent life forms) to complete the project.

So , Lipton asks, “then who is the architect?”

First, again, the influences of the environment affect the cell, but they apparently do so through (the intelligent) processing capability of the cell membrane, which had previously been considered to be an inert container of the cellular material.

Instead, it turns out that this incredibly thin membrane is truly the “brain” of a cell—all cells have it and without it they would die—not only because their physical structure would collapse but equally important because their interactivity with the environment—their actual “life” processes—would no longer be controlled.

Lipton uses the example of a wafer (akin to a computer processor) to explain how the membrane allows for and controls the exchange of information with the environment – which he says constitutes life.

Life, according to Lipton, is movement, and without this exchange of information, there could be no life.

Many of us know that information is exchanged in the body chemically, but what Lipton’s research has shown is that it also happens on the quantum level—as energy.

So the question becomes, if this energy and information is coming from outside of us as well as inside, what are its origins and what does it mean?
For one thing it means that we are not living in a dead, random universe—there is intelligence manifest everywhere, not just in our craniums.

Perception controls Behavior – according to Lipton the information that comes into the organism through the cell membrane and is interpreted by the brain (in the case of humans), along with our pre-set subconscious scripts – influences and controls our behavior.

Mutation responds to environment and proceeds differently under stress. John Cairns, a noted biologist and whose work inspired the new field of epigenetics, published an experiment that didn’t fit the established belief system and was almost not published, but for his reputation. He found that organisms that were unable to digest lactose and were put into an environment with only lactose for sustenance, actually mutated to be able to digest the substance – seemingly intentionally.

This harkens back to the French biologist Lamarck, whose theories influenced Darwin, and who was ridiculed for first suggesting that evolution is intentional and based on a response to the environment – he was lambasted erroneously for a story in which fish looked at land at longingly until they evolved to grow legs and go ashore.

According to Lipton the human organism begins to process information from the environment before birth through the connection with the mother, and before the age of 6 there is no conscious mentation going on, only the “downloading” of information about the world, mainly through the observation of the attitudes and actions of the parents.

This forms the subconscious scripts by which most of us live 90% of the time automatically, and according to Lipton the subconscious processes a million times faster than the conscious mind, so that if we internalize feelings of inadequacy then no amount of conscious positive thinking will overcome them.

Instead these beliefs need to be “reprogrammed”, possibly through energy psychology, hypnosis or other methods.

The bottom line for me about Lipton is that he uses a biological and genetic approach to come to a similar conclusion or epiphany that I had when comparing genes to computer software—namely that the evolution and intentionality of these processes point to a higher level of intelligence and meaning than what we can attribute to ourselves through our own limited logic and understanding.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Conscious Capitalism: Still an Oxymoron?

Conscious Capitalism is a new buzz word for companies to incorporate into their mission statements; the link is to an Amazon list of books on that topic.

To me, this is a wonderful concept, except for the fact that most corporations, their mission statements aside, are built on the mantra competition and not cooperation.

While this is a trend that might be changing (at least according to Conscious Capitalist proponents) and it may also be reflected in the growth of social media, which is also based on cooperation, the sad reality of dealing with large institutions today is that any contact with them is invariably frustrating and stressful.

In the last day or so I have had three interactions with corporate or bureaucratic entities with which many of you will identify and relate:

1. A credit card company that decided to change my number because of a “merchant breach”, causing me massive inconvenience in terms of checking my online statement and re-entering the information into my direct payment accounts. They claim to have a commitment to customer service, but from my perspective true customer service would mean better security and no merchant breach, and a way of preserving my credit card number in the event of such an event.
2. A government agency that I need to call to change an appointment I cannot keep, but the phone message says they don’t answer any more calls because they’re overwhelmed.
3. A phone company web site that informs me I need a pin number to activate one of their services but whose customer service rep has a different story. I need to go through a maze of voice prompts to miraculously get a human, when I finally just say “agent!” out of exasperation.

I also detailed a horrific experience with another technology company that “values customer service” in a March blog about Vonage and how their pride in customer service is truly manifest.

What do all of these incidents, which are unfortunately still the rule rather the exception, tell us about the complexity of corporations and institutions?

First, to call any of their efforts “customer service” is to indulge in Orwellian double-speak.

These companies are not committed to providing service – they are committed to avoiding service to contain costs.

For example, if you have ever heard the message, “due to unusually high call volume, there may be a delay in answering your call…” or “your call is very important to us”, the translation is “we won’t commit money to more personnel because we don’t give a crap.

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about spending a morning struggling with my computer. The main point was the consistent intervention by technology into a human endeavor—in that instance, writing—and how the problems were compounded by the software’s complexity at the cost of its functionality.

Why was it complex? Without new features users wouldn’t see a need to upgrade. The result of the upgrade? Complexity and frustration.

The Apple genius bar aside, there is no real way to get help on a computer issue from a human resource; if you’ve called a help line recently you surely experienced something like the three scenarios above, with the added annoyance of answering a gazillion questions before the person says “Can I help you?”

Then there are a gazillion more questions and no substantive answers, until you want to scream, like John McEnroe, “just answer the question! Can you please just answer my question (jerk)!”

So to follow up on the main issue raised by the conscious capitalists – what is the meaning of all this? (The presumed trend after all is that conscious corporations will focus on meaning rather than – profits)

Well one meaning may be that if cooperation at the expense of counting beans is actually practiced, lots of shareholders won’t be happy.

But perhaps there will be a new generation of conscious shareholders.

For now, however, the meaning is that any attempt to actually communicate with a large institution is at best stressful and at worst completely futile.

This may be a Zen lesson on a global scale in accepting what is as opposed to what should be, but if corporations don’t evolve to a conscious state soon, the humans on the planet will go insane (if they haven’t already).

Eckhart Tolle talks about this in his book, “A New Earth”, in which he calls corporations “giant egoic entities” committed only to profit. The problem of course that corporations generally don’t have the potential for evolution in that they do not have a conscious observer or sense of awareness (at least not yet).

How would a corporation meditate? Perhaps if all of its employees did so together this would lead to a shift; there is a video on YouTube of Jon Kabat-Zinn teaching a group of Google employees meditation and mindfulness. (Kabat-Zinn has appeared on Bill Moyers and many other programs as an expert in mind-body connection).

It’s been a while since I suggested the possibility that corporations are a new dominant life form, but it must be obvious to even the least conscious corporate entity that without humans to clean up the washrooms at night, they won’t last very long.

So why is it taking so long for companies to truly embrace what the experts are trying to teach them – that cooperation is a better long term strategy than bean counting competition?

So, why is customer service so nonexistent? Why is there still such a disconnect between large corporations’ mission statements and their actual performance?

My guess is that it ultimately comes down to us, the humans, and until we evolve, the corporations we build and work in will continue to be a reflection of our human nature, which at this point is still competitive and largely unconscious.

Maybe social media and a sense of cooperation can take root and sprout before it’s too late.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Toilet Seat Thing

I’ve always been intrigued by the depth and importance that women attribute to a man’s putting the toilet seat back down after finishing in the bathroom.

When I first encountered this mandate, it was explained to me that when a woman goes in the middle of the night, she doesn’t want to suddenly find herself trapped in an icky basin instead of perched on a comfortable seat.

But even when I’m not in a woman’s bathroom in the middle of the night, I still find that the imperative to maintain this discipline is no less powerful.

Being preoccupied with more weighty matters I have left a woman’s bathroom at various times recently in the middle of the day or evening, only to be reminded once again of this sacred obligation.

So what’s it all about?

Obviously it’s not solely about a woman finding herself with a wet and gross tush.

Most women I know will make the first request with a touch of humor and fairly low key, but I am well aware that if I continue to lapse the reminders will become more forceful and less humorous.

So the real issue here is about respect and being heard. Women want access to your brain in terms of paying attention, and nowhere is the potential for lapsing into daydreaming as great as on the toilet. Often the process is enhanced by needing a newspaper or magazine to take one’s mind off the task at hand.

So there is a two step process for leaving the toilet that lets a woman know that you are not completely self-absorbed and that her needs are equal to your own in your mind.

First she needs to hear water in the faucet so that she knows that you’re washing your hands.

Then she needs to know that between the time that you’ve washed your hands and left the bathroom, she has returned to your consciousness sufficiently to prompt you to remember to lower the toilet seat.

Think of this as an exercise in mindfulness. You need to retain a portion of your attention on something other than yourself, the Lakers, or what you’re having for dinner/breakfast, and if you want to stay connected to a female, part of that attention will need to be on her.

It’s amazing how infrequently, during the course of the day, we consciously control our thoughts and become present. So let the toilet seat be your new mantra, remind yourself by washing your hands, and your social life will be easier and much less stressful.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Intelligent Life? (Speculations on Genetics and Software)

I've been thinking about this topic for some time and want to share my latest thoughts on the relationship and implications of computer software and findings in genetics. Inspired structurally by the Ignite PowerPoint concept it's under five minutes in length.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Social Media as a Woman’s World

BlogHer, the women’s blog network, found that 42 million women in the United States (roughly 53% of the 79 million adult women in the United States who use the Internet) participate in social media at least weekly. That doesn’t surprise me, because the more I become familiar with how social media works, the more I am reminded of conversations I’ve had with women and about women.

And I don’t say that critically—on the contrary. It’s just a matter of evolving or adapting to a different mindset.

Let me explain—as a male my focus online has generally been goal-oriented—to get things done.

My main website is like most, a corporate brochure of who I am and what I can offer to clients, along with a way to see what I’ve written and perhaps purchase a book or eBook.

Then when I got on Facebook, and eventually Twitter, I was disinterested at first by what I perceived to be mindless drivel, minutae and chit chat; if this sounds like something an honest male might say about having to listen to a lot of stuff about “a woman’s day” I don’t believe it’s a coincidence.

So as I continued to track the social media juggernaut and saw how it enabled many to thrive online, I began to realize what I was missing. Where I had attempted to use my social networks and status updates in a traditional way—by simply promoting myself and asking people to buy or go to my site(s), I began to study the trend and noted that this was not the point.

Every social media commentary I have read, including the very excellent book Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff , the J.A. Jones Blog, and the Mack Collier Blog - @mackcollier have led me to the realization that social media constitutes an evolutionary shift in consciousness in the online business world.

All of these books, and many more, stress the fact that if you are goal oriented in social media or heavy handed in your self-promotion, you are self defeating. On the other hand, if you listen to the ideas and concerns of others, contribute to a community of ideas, and generally participate without looking only for self gratification, you will see significant rewards in all areas of your endeavors, particularly in self fulfillment, over time.

In other words, social media is not a one night stand—it’s a long term relationship.

Mack Collier, for example, makes it a point to inform his followers on Twitter and his blog that he will simply ignore pitches of any kind from those with whom he hasn’t communicated already; those who pitch him “on the first date” don’t qualify for his attention.

If this sounds an awful lot like the current trend in dating and relationships as “friends first”, preferred by so many women, it is.

As a supposed computer expert I was surprised when I first confronted this reality in discussions with a great friend who happens to be female. At the time I had discovered Ning, and was writing an eBook which I intended to self publish.

I was concentrating hard on the nuts and bolts of Ning—how to upload content, construct the interface, and generally “get things done” when she told me the secret of Ning, or any social network.

“Make sure you welcome all of the new members,” she said, “and acknowledge their birthdays. You need active moderators on the discussion forums to ensure that every post is given a sincere response.”

Wow, I thought to myself, I’ve been teaching her what I thought was technology, but she showed me what I had always prided myself on knowing – why this software is important.

In my tech writing about Microsoft products I had always tried to accentuate its practicality and how it was used, and if possible its human application (communicate visually with PowerPoint, for example).

But in trying to “master” this new phenomenon of Social Media, I had completely missed the point. Either I had dismissed it as chit chat and drivel; or I had tried to force it into a role that it was not meant to fulfill.

While I try to resist wholesale generalizations, what I needed to do was listen to what social media was telling me, the same way I sometimes need to learn to listen, and not try to fix or control, women I know.

As a guy, I still tend to measure my success in quantity—like my followers on Twitter—with each new add I get a little, well, twitter.

But more and more my thrill comes from a sense of contribution. I’ve begun to shift my focus, and while I still may pitch and promote I try to do so judiciously, and mainly with those with whom I’ve established a connection.

More important, when I see something of value, I try to put it out there and share it without trying to figure out how it’s going to get me something reciprocal right away.

What I’m getting is that Twitter, Facebook and other social media are really a giant pot luck or Tupperware party, and in order to get nourished you need to bring something to the table – preferably without too much concern with short term gain.

And again, this brings me back to how it resembles dating—if you’re always worried about who’s going to pick up the check, or how the evening is going to end, you’re missing the point.