How To Develop A More Focused, Smarter Brain

A more focused and smarter brain is going to be the next leap in evolution. It’s the best way to flourish in the future.

smarter brain

Despite an alarming social trend toward dumbing down, the world needs smarter people.

Civilization will depend on it.

Here’s why:

The amount of knowledge in the world is doubling every 12 months and it’s expected to double every 12 hours.

This means the human mind will have to make an evolutionary leap to keep up with its technical progress.

Here is how David Russell Schilling describes the doubling of knowledge:

“Buckminster Fuller created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve”; he noticed that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today things are not as simple as different types of knowledge have different rates of growth. For example, nanotechnology knowledge is doubling every two years and clinical knowledge every 18 months. But on average human knowledge is doubling every 13 months.  According to IBM, the build out of the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.”

Yes, You Can Handle the Challenge

With a hundred billion brain cells you’ll be just fine. All you have to do is just double down on your efforts at creating a smarter brain.

If you do accept the challenge, you’ll understand things quicker and remember them better. You’ll be able to keep pace with the increasing complexity of the world.

Instead of falling behind, you’ll flourish.

If you doubt you’re up to the task, it’s because of a a devastating sociological trend: “dumbing down.”

What Is Dumbing Down?

In American culture, dumbing down is a disdain for science, art, and humanities. A passion for entertainment is replacing the natural human urge to understand the world. This alarming ignorance to new ideas is making the world a dangerous place.

In a Washington Post article, The Age of American Unreason author Susan Jacoby comments:

“Dumbness, to paraphrase the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been steadily defined downward for several decades, by a combination of heretofore irresistible forces. These include the triumph of video culture over print culture; a disjunction between Americans’ rising level of formal education and their shaky grasp of basic geography, science and history; and the fusion of anti-rationalism with anti-intellectualism.”

In The Dumbest Generation, Mark Bauerlin says the new generation hates reading anything valuable.

In Idiot America, Charles Pierce, believes dumbing down is a result of social engineering. There are distinct economic and political advantages to keeping people dumbed down.

In American Idyll: Academic Antielitism as Cultural Critique , Catherine Liu blames the educational system. This professor at University of California believes that education only trains people to get jobs.

Why the World Needs Smarter People

Smart people can build a better world. Although even faster computers will do most of the heavy lifting,  we will still need smart people.

Yes, there are many types of smart people. Albert Einstein was smart in a different way than William Shakespeare. But there are also some common qualities shared by smart people:

  • Adaptable. They are more flexible in their ideas and adaptable to change.
  • Childlike Wonder. They realize how little they know because the world is a vast and amazing place. They don’t jump to simplified conclusions.
  • Insatiable Curiosity. They wonder what things mean and how things work. “I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious,” said Albert Einstein.
  • Ask Good Questions. They’ve learned through experience that this elicits better answers.
  • Sensitive and Empathetic. They can imagine what other people are going through in their lives.
  • Open-minded yet skeptical. They are open to new ideas, but also ask for supporting evidence.

A world with more people who have these qualities would be a far better place.

Politicians wouldn’t get away with promises that they never keep. Smart people would question ridiculous theories to dupe the public, and they would challenge cover ups of the truth by special interest groups.

People would be more alive, interested in sharing ideas. As a result, there would be more inventions and intellectual breakthroughs.

Less stupid things would occur, senseless acts of violence and cruelty.

IQ Isn’t Fixed for Life

The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, the first IQ test, was first published in 1916. For a long time, psychologists believed that there wasn’t much you could do about raising your IQ. Smart people just won the genetic lottery. Average people just broke even, and dumb people were out of luck.

A new field, neursocience, challenges the idea of a fixed intelligence. Intelligence is now considered more like a muscle that gets stronger through use.

Neuroplasticity to the Rescue

Scientists have been able to capture images of the brain at work. And they have concluded that the brain is continuously changing and adapting. It is not only flexible during childhood but throughout your life.

Here is a description of neuroplasticity from Stanford University:

“How does neuroplasticity work? A large amount of research focuses on this question. Scientists are certain that the brain continually adjusts and reorganizes. In fact, while studying monkeys, they found that the neuronal connections in many brain regions appear to be organized differently each time they are examined! Existing neural pathways that are inactive or used for other purposes show the ability to take over and carry out functions lost to degeneration, and there is evidence that reorganization in the adult brain can even involve the formation of new neural connections.”

How Do You Develop a Smarter Brain?

I’m glad you asked.

You build up your myelin sheath.

In The Talent Code Daniel Coyle talks about how greatness isn’t born, it’s made. Specifically, it’s made by increasing the myelin around your knowledge around a skill.

Myelin is a neural insulator. It works like a rubber insulator wrapped around a copper wire. The insulation improves the signal and strength around an electric impulse. It also prevents the electric impulse from dissipating.

Every time you learn a skill, the myelin around the neuron that has encoded the skill gets thicker. The better insulated the neuron, the more accurate your thoughts and movements become.

The way to develop your myelin is through deep practice. This is when you push yourself past your comfort zone to learn something new. Since the information is new, you feel confused and overwhelmed by it. But, if you persist, past this natural reaction, everything will start making perfect sense.

Developing a smarter brain requires that you build a circuit of knowledge. Learn from your mistakes, and keep persisting until you get it. Struggle is the way to growth, and it’s a biological necessity. It takes time, energy, and passion to build enough myelin to wrap around a large circuit.

Building myelin is comparable to regular exercise. Exercise builds muscle. Neurons encode ideas and myelin improves the circuit strength.

Where Do We Go from Here?

The explosive growth in knowledge is pushing each of us to develop a smarter brain. Pushing against this evolutionary call is a social trend toward dumbing down. Fortunately, we can resist the seduction to take it easy and let other people think for us. You can develop a smarter brain through study and application because IQ is not fixed. The more you learn a subject, the thicker the myelin sheath you build around it.

You are much smarter than you think. Find your passion, study hard, and build a better future. The world desperately needs more intelligent and aware people. The future depends on it.

In next week’s blog post, I’m going to discuss some strategies to improve myelination. Stay tuned. Please leave any comments below.

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