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Published on February 3rd, 2020 | by Tina Casey

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Don’t Forget To Play Some Fun Brain Games While Saving The Planet — CleanTechnica Interview

February 3rd, 2020 by  


In the latest installment of CleanTechnica Goes To Hollywood, we’ve been tuning in to the National Geographic reboot of Brain Games. So, what does that have to do with clean tech? Well, pretty much everything. If the aim is to kickstart global decarbonization into high gear, then unlocking the power of the human mind is part of the equation, and that’s where the fun part comes in.

Brain Games & The Power Of Fun

CleanTechnica caught up with Brain Games field reporter and neuroscientist Cara Santa Maria in New York last week, and since she is currently working on a PhD. in existential neuropsychotherapy, naturally the conversation turned to fun — and failure.

The failure part applies because, well, any time you play a game there’s a risk of failure. That’s what games are all about, but the question is why we need to play them.

“We love to play games,” she said. “There is a fundamental need to play. It’s hard to feel like maybe you’re wrong, but until we’re wrong it’s hard to be right.”

See what she did there? If experimentation is all about failure (and it pretty much is), then fear of failure is a key stumbling block to innovation.

As Santa Maria explains, fear of failure is foreign to most children but familiar to most adults. So, what happened between childhood and adulthood?

Who knows! That’s part of what she is still working out.

Come to think of it, that’s the topic of Brain Games Episode 4, in which special guests Marsai Martin and Anthony Anderson experience a close encounter with the difference between kid and adult brains (btw, if you guessed Blackish run right out and buy yourself a cigar).

You can catch Episode 4 on Nat Geo Channel at 9:00 Monday night (8:00 central time), and while you’re waiting for the show to come on, cogitate upon the ways in which playing around isn’t really just play.

“There are three pillars to mental health: relationships, work, and play,” Santa Maria explains. “It’s so important to learn that we still crave the same mental stimulation that we had when we were younger.”

Why Our Brain Decides What We Decide

Ms. Santa Maria also explained that her PhD. research dovetails neatly with the intent behind Brain Games, which is to introduce the science behind the decisions we make.

So, in therapy, the idea is to leverage that science to help people make healthier decisions.

“Think of the brain as a pilot,” she explains, “Take a step back and understand what our brains are doing and why.”

It actually works really well — on some people. The challenge is getting through to people who can’t, or won’t, take that one step back and re-think their assumptions.

If that sounds familiar you’ve probably been arguing with a family member over climate science, but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.

For now, let’s just say that Ms. Santa Maria summed it up in a nutshell on the topic of meta-cognition.

“If you don’t have meta-cognition,” she said, “Then none of the other stuff will come. It’s not just about letting our brains do what they do.”

Failing Our Way To Decarbonization

Circling back around to the show, the whole meta-cognition thing is behind the idea of having celebrity guests like Martin and Anderson on Brain Games.

These are people on the top of their game in their own sphere, but when challenged to test another part of their brains they often fall flat. How they handle the truth  — mainly by cracking up — is part of a gentle lesson on the importance of failure.

It’s also a treat for celebrity-watchers, as Ms. Santa Maria pointed out.

“There’s something very engaging about seeing your favorite celebrity being personal, and seeing how they take being wrong versus owning their craft,” she said.

If you have a favorite failure story, share in the comment thread.

Meanwhile, consider that electric vehicles are finally ready for their closeup after initially dominating automotive mobility in the 19th century, only to suffer 100 years of stinging defeat at the hands of petroleum fuel throughout the 20th century.

Anyways, here we are in the 21st century and that’s all water under the bridge and the shoe is on the other foot. The global auto industry is pivoting back to electricity. Who’s laughing now?

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Image (screenshot): Brain Games via Twitter, @NatGeoChannel. 
 
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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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