Your Brain is Your Garden

After a few technical and open-source posts, it's time for brain hacking. Thanks to the recent boom of AI, neuroscience starts to overlap with human psychology. When it comes to learning methods, humans and computers are more alike than ever before.

To overcome AI disruption, you'll be valuable by actually making AI or by hacking your brain to be super-adaptable and irreplaceable.

This post consists of my personal experience and few books with research background. If you feel you need more science behind this, you can read The Happiness Advantage, Deep Work and Life 3.0.

I'm a father of 3,5-year-old that is in Czech educational system for last 1 year on one hand, a close observer of programming, machine learning, artificial intelligence on other hand and mentor, Europe PHP-meetup traveler that observes and helps people learning on the third hand.

In all these communities I see one common pattern - they all try to learn, adapt and teach as effectively as they can. Yet they each have own believes that holds them back. What a wonder jump in human history would be a conference, where human-teachers learn from programmers about the most effective way to teach a machine various skills, and where programmers learn from teachers about the effect of long-term reinforced learning. Both groups could learn so much from each other's mistakes, instead of repeating them.

But let's get back to you, my dear reader, and your attention capital. Recently I've been re-reading Deep Work to transform my shallow-habits to deep ones. I realized more and more that's all about the attitude of every single one of us. My attitude. Your attitude.

Treat Your Eyes like a Door to Your Garden

Imagine that your brain is your garden, with flowers and a tree of your choice. Every flower is a skill you know, every leaf of grass is a memory you bear. It's up to you, what flowers you take care about and what goes to compost. Only you can choose every day, who you let inside by your garden door. Only you can choose if you let in 150 incoherent tweets of 10 page from a book if you let in 150 flowers that will die soon or let a part of the tree you'll continue to grow the next day. It's your attention span, that let's these in, you decide what you focus on.

Big Trees Needs Times and Care to Grow

Imagine there are 150 flowers in your garden. They need water, they need to be protected parasites and fertilized to grow strong. Where do you take time for that? You can give them all your day and energy and still some would probably die each week.

Or you can have 5 trees instead. Since trees are more fragile in the very beginning and much harder to grow, they need more of your attention at the very start. But as years go by, they become strong and standalone. You can climb on them, they have own seeds so they grow other trees for you and you can lean on them.

In reality, most people prefer flowers because they're easier to take care of now. It's natural since we're raised to instant gratification in schools, by our society and economy system and by our parents who were raised the same.

"Dream as if you will live forever. Live as if you will die today."
James Dean

But instant gratification doesn't work very well for a long term. You might learn a lot on a shallow level, but you'd not understand much in depth. One example for all, I went to school for 9 + 4 + 4 years and I learned about somewhat 40 subjects. I would not dare to ask for a job in any of that. Luckily, my parent taught me to learn what you want principle so I grew my 5 trees that hold my back now outside the school myself.

Children and Adult are Alike, Even Smarter

You probably think now, that children have to learn basics to be able to build their know-how on them. I agree to some level. When I learn something completely new with 0 know-ledge - like how the PHP parser works -, I know I have to learn basics first. I give it 30 minutes a day because I know trees take time to grow and you can't rush it up. If I'd give these basics 6 hours a day, like in a school, I know I would fail, feel bad that I'm slow and probably never learn it.

From my personal single-use-case observation and 3 years on Psychology University, I see that brain of children works the very similar way as adult one. It's still a neural network. Even better, because they're at the very beginning, tabula rasa, where they can land basics for their gardens.

Instead of doing it themselves, we see children as somewhat lower species that needs to be controlled, developed and programmed. So in school someone else is going to visit their garden and decide what's good for them and what flowers and trees they should grow. With no clear evidence why and mostly, without understanding the garden's owner. And understanding is the most important in learning, right?

And here is the place where artificial intelligence era can bring a lot to human education and vice versa. Machines are never treated this way, because that is not efficient. And we found out that by experimenting, failing and learning from mistakes. Doing similar research on a human is restricted by human rights, so we're motivated to repeat the same mistakes over and over again on each new generation.

Experiment and Learn About Yourself

Instead of going for average and "what works for them must work for me" approach, go experiment for yourself. Because science doesn't work with unique outliers:


Your garden is the most important one and as one my very smart friend told me:

"Each of has our own universe and none one-is never ever get to understand it."

Take a break for a day or two, think about what you let in your garden world and what trees will hold your back if you'll ever need them. Your life is about you, your dreams, your universe and your garden. Take care of it well and your fruits will take care of you.

Don't waste your life by working on dreams of someone else.

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