Our awareness system as humans has developed over millions of years and is a sophisticated neuro process designed (evolved) to help us and keep us safe. However, it could be dangerously inadequate for the digital age, as David investigates.
Understanding what the Reticular Activating System (RAS) is and what it does has had a profound effect on my career and my skill as a coach. Our RAS takes what we believe and/or find important and creates a filter in our minds based on this. It then sifts through the thousands of pieces of data that we take in through our senses every minute and brings into our conscious awareness only those bits that are important. All of this happens without most of us noticing. The RAS programmes itself to work in our favour without us actively doing anything. Pretty awesome, right? Sometimes! In the same way the RAS seeks information that validates our beliefs, it also filters out anything that’s not currently important and/or doesn’t fit with our current beliefs. Left unchecked, the RAS becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that can gradually close our minds to new possibilities. If you think you are a lousy presenter, your RAS will gather evidence to confirm this view. If you believe good things (or bad things) come in groups of three… guess what?
So, there I was thinking I had this all sorted out. I learned to tune into my RAS some years ago and make decisions about what I want it to filter in and out for me. I’ve found that saying something over and over does wonders for my RAS filter programming. Try it. Say to yourself 10 times on a morning, “Something awesome will happen to me today.” Works wonders! Of course, this doesn’t make something awesome actually happen. It just makes sure you notice if it does!
Now here’s the kicker. I have no control over the ‘Digital RAS’ that filters information from cyberspace onto my screens. As I browse, surf and play, supercomputers guess my preferences based on my history, behaviour online and what various suppliers want me to buy. For example, I have just come off an accommodation booking site on my phone where I was looking at Barcelona hotels. Now on my laptop I have received a seemingly random email from a different holiday provider and two pop-ups on my browser for car hire in yep… you guessed it, Barcelona!
The effect of our RAS filter being accelerated by its digital equivalent could be enormous and rapid.
So, let’s all be aware of what we think about and what we take in through our senses and devices. If not, we could be on a hyper-speed journey to a very closed mind and lots of awesome missed opportunities.