The Human Centered Design Podcast with Gerry Scullion

Neil Theise ‘Navigating Complexity'

John Carter
June 8, 2023
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Neil Theise ‘Navigating Complexity'

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Episode shownotes

Earlier this year, I read an article by one of my heroes, The Edge of U2 in The Guardian. The first item in his list of culture highlights, was the book of todays podcast guest, Neil Theise. Like me, The Edge managed to get an early copy of the book from Neil’s awesome publicist in New York, Nicole Dewey and he too joined the fan club for Notes on Complexity.

I have become captivated about many of the leading authors on complexity, and was thrilled when Neil agreed to record with me, his first from within the Design world. I’ve been researching complexity for several months, and unpacking what we can take away from decades of research by leaders in the field. How can we apply this level of thinking into our day to day work as change-makers.

This conversation is one that I will look back on an cherish, but also cringe at times, as I ask some pretty naive questions. My goal here with many of the podcasts, is sometimes to ask the questions that hopefully can open up channels for many, so as you can probably tell by this stage, I’m not afraid of asking for the sake of clarity.

If you can, get your hands on this book. It’s stunning. It’s carefully created and really has opened my mind to new worlds that I am excited to continue to explore.

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Episode Transcript

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[00:00:00] Neil Theise: So the randomness is what allows the colony to explore alternate ways of organizing as the environment changes, all the creative dynamism of life, of adaptation comes from this low level randomness.

[00:00:18] Gerry Scullion: Hello and welcome to Bringing Design Closer on. This is eight cd. My name is Jerry Scalian, and I'm the founder of This is eight cd. I'm a designer, educator, design coach, and podcaster based in the wonderful city of Dublin, Ireland. Now, our goal years have conversations that inspire and help move the dial forward for organizations to become more human-centered in their approach to solving complex business and societal problems.

[00:00:43] Gerry Scullion: Earlier this year, I read an article by one of my heroes, the Edge of U2 in The Guardian. The first item in his list of cultural highlights was the book by today's podcast guest, Neil Fayes, like Me The Edge, managed to get an early copy of the book from Neil's awesome publicist. [00:01:00] Shout out. To Nicole Dewey in New York, and he too joined the fan club for Notes on Complexity, the book that we are going to be discussing in detail in this episode.

[00:01:10] Gerry Scullion: Now, I've become captivated about many of the leading authors on complexity and was thrilled when Neil agreed to record me, his first one within the design world. And I've been researching complexity for seven months ahead of my keynote at UX Scotland and unpacking what we can take away from decades of research by leaders in the field.

[00:01:28] Gerry Scullion: How can we apply this level of thinking into our day-to-day work as change makers? This conversation is one that I have looked back on and cherish, but I'll also cringe at times as I ask some pretty naive questions. My goal here is with many of the podcast, is sometimes to ask those questions that hopefully can open up channels for the many.

[00:01:46] Gerry Scullion: So as you can probably tell by this stage, I'm not afraid of asking for the sake of clarity. Now, if you can get your hands on this book, there's a link in the show notes. It's. Stunning and it's carefully created and really opened my mind to new [00:02:00] worlds that I'm excited to continue to explore. Now, I work in these episodes as a labor of love, and I love sharing the content and the work of others, and I know many of you enjoy it too, as I see all the wonderful reviews on Apple and Spotify.

[00:02:13] Gerry Scullion: But if you want to help me and support, this is cd, maybe you might consider by becoming a patron. It's just under two euros per month. My goal with having this model is to meet the costs to produce everything. We're still miles away from doing so, so check out more on this is where we have now also launched Change Space, a private community for change makers to connect monthly, talk about all things that are working in our industry and not working, come together and form a network where we can make a positive impact on the world.

[00:02:46] Gerry Scullion: Anyway, let's jump into Neil's episode. It is awesome. Neil Kas. I am. Literally buzzing to have you on the podcast. Um, I am a huge fan [00:03:00] after reading the majority of notes on Complexity, the book that has literally blown my mind and I've been carrying it around with me to various events, pulling it out and showing people the, this incredible, this incredible bulk of work.

[00:03:14] Gerry Scullion: But, um, for maybe for our listeners who aren't aware of who you are and what you do, how would you describe what you do and, um, where are you currently based?

[00:03:23] Neil Theise: Um, I'm based in New York City. Uh, it's hard to get it all down. Yeah, yeah. So my, my day job is I'm a professor of pathology, um, at NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York.

[00:03:39] Neil Theise: I have a clinical practice, uh, which. Involves most of my daytime. Um, looking at diagnostic biopsies, I focus pretty much on the liver. Um, though GI biopsies, the whole gastrointestinal tract, um, are sort of bread and butter too. And I work with the liver transplant team. [00:04:00] Uh, a lot of my academic work involves liver disease, liver pathology, um, and pretty much, um, human-centered, uh, liver research because I have access to human tissues, I don't have to do mice or rats.

[00:04:16] Neil Theise: Um, because wow, my clinical practice gives me the human tissues to look at. So, um, and in that world, uh, I'm, I guess most particularly known for, uh, helping to develop ideas of how liver cancer happens in humans. It's that work is sort of the basis for now all our diagnostic imaging for screening for liver cancer.

[00:04:37] Neil Theise: So, uh, that would've been enough. I'm really proud of that. Liver stem cells. And that got me into adult stem cells in general and adult stem cell plasticity around the turn of the millennium. That was the first work I did that went truly viral. And, um, it was that, that led me to complexity theory, uh, [00:05:00] an artist I was collaborating with.

[00:05:02] Neil Theise: Um, Named Jane Prophet. I talk about her in the, uh, early part of the book because without her, I'd have no idea about this. I mean, meeting her was, was the, the big moment. And, um, when I was, she knew about complexity theory because it applied to some, um, an art project she did that turned out to be artificial life called Technosphere.

[00:05:27] Neil Theise: Right? And when I was describing to her what my work was, uh, she said, she, she noted that the way I talked about cells and stem cells moving around the body was similar to way the complexity. People talked about ants and how they self-organize. And so that was the real beginning of this adventure. Um, then, uh, So I did that for a while.

[00:05:53] Neil Theise: Um, the next big viral thing, uh, a few years ago, there was a big fuss and bother over, um, the [00:06:00] interstitium being a new human organ. That was my work too, right? And um, so I'm doing a lot of work following up on that. Um, what we call it was very controversial, but the fact of it that we've discovered a fluid communication network through all the connective tissue of the body, that's four times the.

[00:06:20] Neil Theise: Fluid volume of the cardiovascular system. Um, that's real. And so, wow, we're working on that. And then I wrote this book,

[00:06:30] Gerry Scullion: you wrote this book on top of it, which I was about to say. Yeah. And you, you have been known to sleep occasionally. Um mm-hmm. When you add all those things into your life, it's, it's an optional cause it's.

[00:06:41] Gerry Scullion: It sounds like you've been extremely busy for a very long time. Yes. I, I wanna give you a little bit of background. Okay. So, a little bit of background. I saw your book included with as many people who know in this podcast. I'm a huge U2 fan. Edge mentioned it, I think it was in the Times of The Guardian.

[00:06:57] Gerry Scullion: The Guardian and I, it was The Guardian. Okay. [00:07:00] It was really, really excited to, to see that. Cause I know he's into an awful lot of similar stuff than I myself am into. And I'm currently writing a keynote for UX Scotland in June about embracing the complexity mindset within design. Now, in my research for that, I started to explore, um, starlings and, and colonies.

[00:07:20] Gerry Scullion: Okay. In terms of the self-organization nature of those things. And with murmuration, I'm, I'm still blown away. I live near a, an area where there's regular enough murmuration and the level of beauty. First of all from those starlings and even, and colonies as well. Mm-hmm. But the ability to adapt and respond to constant change is still kind of like, how are they doing this?

[00:07:44] Gerry Scullion: Mm-hmm. Now I'm challenged by humans seeming inability to deliver such true ability. Okay. Or agility. Um, especially in the face of the greatest problem of our time climate change. So I want to talk to you a little bit more around, [00:08:00] um, that whole kind of understanding, my understanding of, and colonies and starlings and self-organization and so forth.

[00:08:08] Gerry Scullion: But maybe to get us started, because I look to you as being an expert in this field, and I am very much a novice when it comes to it, but how would you describe complexity theory?

[00:08:22] Neil Theise: So I've been wrestling with this for a couple of years with a book on complexity. It's like, so what is complexity? Um, how do you, how do you write an elevator pitch for this book?

[00:08:35] Gerry Scullion: You know, without being too complex or complicated.

[00:08:38] Neil Theise: Yeah. We're still struggling, but, so complexity theory, um, is, uh, a theory that derives from mathematics and computer science. Um, I talk about it in the book as the, one of the three pillars of contemporary science, quantum physics, and relativity being, um, [00:09:00] the other two.

[00:09:01] Neil Theise: Mm-hmm. And. Uh, those two are notable and that they're describing the most infinitesimal on the one hand, and the most vast on the other, and they're profoundly non-intuitive. Um, whereas complexity theory sort of describes, not sort of complexity theory describes how things come to be in between those extremes.

[00:09:25] Neil Theise: And so that's in part the first major part of the book. Um, first two parts of the book are all about that. And, uh, people by and large, you know, complexity theory isn't that well known. It hasn't entered the popular imagination as much as, for example, chaos theory has. Hmm. And many people have heard of chaos, um, and or fractals, the geometry that helps define chaotic systems.

[00:09:53] Neil Theise: Um, complexity is what came next. It was the next iteration and, um, [00:10:00] It started appearing in the 1970s with a computer game called The Game of Life. Game of Life, yeah. Yeah. That John Conway designed and it was first reported publicly in Scientific American and I was, I think 11 years old. And I remember seeing it in my public library cuz I was that kind of kid, you know, new issue of Scientific American, um, oh, computer game.

[00:10:28] Neil Theise: That's cool. And, um, and what people seized on the game of life as, as having actual quite a depth of meaning, um, and lots of different researchers began exploring it. And what, um, And basically, you know, it's squares that turn on and off depending from, from turn to turn moment to moment, depending on what other squares, what other neighbors are turned on or off.

[00:10:56] Neil Theise: Mm-hmm. So you mentioned, uh, the rule of seven [00:11:00] before we started recording for Starlings that starlings are only paying attention to the seven starlings nearby. It's all very local. So the game of life, what happens to each cell just depends on its exact neighbors. In this case there are eight of them. Um, but it turns out that.

[00:11:17] Neil Theise: Depending on what pattern you start with of squares that are alive versus dead, um, all sorts of different patterns start to arise. And some of those are ordered patterns. Well, some of them just are self-limited and die very quickly. They just mm-hmm. They don't self sustain. But when some do sell, sustain, um, some of them just become a solid object.

[00:11:40] Neil Theise: Like if you have a three by three box grid of alive cells, it just stays that way. It can't change. Um, or if you have a, a bar, a horizontal bar of three cells that are alive, the next turn it becomes a vertical bar centered the same, and then it goes back to the [00:12:00] horizontal bar and it just blinks back and forth.

[00:12:01] Neil Theise: So these are very ordered outcomes. And then there are outcomes that are just. Kind of freewheeling and crazy and turned out to be mathematically, uh, chaotic systems. So chaos is what describes how whirlpools form or how we model weather Now, um, the famous, uh, a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil becomes a tornado, generates a tornado in Texas.

[00:12:30] Neil Theise: Um, and if it flaps its wings exactly the same way, it will always cause exactly the same tornado. So it's predictably predictable. Um, but chaotic systems, um, are not like, you know, simple geometries and physics equations, um, where the parts sort of equal the whole, um, in chaos you get a sense of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts, but it's always [00:13:00] utterly predictable.

[00:13:01] Neil Theise: Chris Langton and David Packard, uh, were playing around with the game of life, uh, independently. Um, though they were aware of each other and what they discovered is that mathematically within the realm in there's a narrow realm mathematically between the chaotic. Displays of the game of life. Mm-hmm. And these perfectly ordered displays, there was something else going on.

[00:13:26] Neil Theise: And this turned out to be complexity. And so there's this famous phrase, coined by David Packard, that complexity is life at the edge of chaos. And they said life because it had all the features of living systems and the concepts of artificial life. Chris Langton began, that began as this study of this region.

[00:13:46] Neil Theise: Ok. And like chaos, the, um, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, but unlike chaos, there's an inherent unpredictability in it. Unpredictability in it. And when you look at the [00:14:00] patterns that emerge, I reproduce one of them, a static image from one in the book. They look biological. You just get flowers and Frans and, um, it turns out this is.

[00:14:12] Neil Theise: An information rich zone of how the universe organizes itself. And, uh, the game of life turned out to be an early model of, um, what is order in the universe, what are the possibilities and between order and chaos lies this zone of complexity. That's where information, um, this zone becomes information rich.

[00:14:36] Neil Theise: This is where the universal touring machine is. The Zone is actually a universal touring machine. If you're familiar with Alan Touring's work and, um, and what they came to realize over since then is that. The principles that govern this zone, which are very, very simple, um, and limited in number, um, are what describe [00:15:00] life.

[00:15:00] Neil Theise: Um, all living things, how life arises, how life adapts, um, what structures life gives rise to. So murmuration of starlings, colonies of s, human neighborhoods, cities, economies, cultures, civilizations, the entire ecosystem of the planet. And by extension, uh, this is one of the main themes of the book. This is partly why I wrote the book, is it turns out you can describe the entire universe as a complex system and the implications of that okay, um, are profound.

[00:15:36] Neil Theise: Does

[00:15:37] Gerry Scullion: that help? So is would it be fair to say that that life is a cross section of the chaos theory and complexity theory, or is that too simplified?

[00:15:45] Neil Theise: That's too simplified. Um, life is what happens at the edge of chaos. Complexity is at that point, the grid edge. Yeah, yeah, yeah. There was a

[00:15:57] Gerry Scullion: bit in the, at the edge.[00:16:00]

[00:16:00] Gerry Scullion: Well, um, there was a bit in the book where you mentioned about the evolution from the womb to the baby and how we were kind of, were bounded by that in, in the early parts of our lives. Where we're we? We can't tell the difference between, I think it was the wholeness and then the separation. It happens maybe around 18 months in terms of the life of a baby.

[00:16:22] Gerry Scullion: Is that ever a case where it can return even in, in later life, or is that it, it's founded, it's

[00:16:28] Neil Theise: no. Sure, sure. Um, you know, we, we get conditioned by our training, um, by our genetic, uh, um, Endowment. Yeah. Um, to turn that off. Um, and our, our current culture works very hard, very hard to keep us in that zone of separation.

[00:16:52] Neil Theise: I mean, with, with the amount of information being bombarding us from outside. Yeah. But, um, but then we [00:17:00] have these technologies to reverse that. Um, contemplative practices mostly derived from spiritual traditions, um, or people who live in a shamonic, um, state of, of interaction with nature. That's, that's unmediated by machines and control, et cetera.

[00:17:21] Neil Theise: There are still, you know, people in the world who, who live that way. And then the, the trick is to have the flexibility to move between those views. Um, You know, you, my mom in her later years entered, uh, a bliss state with probably some minor strokes that robbed her of her short-term memory. Um, she was really sweet to, she kind of became a stoner in affect and, um, which I'd always wondered, what would that be like?

[00:17:54] Neil Theise: While now I knew. Um, but she, but she was really in a, in a bliss [00:18:00] bubble for nearly a decade where she just felt herself to be part of everything, um, in a continual state. But being in that study meant she couldn't take care of herself. So we had to have 24 hour home care, and it was my privilege to be able to support her in that.

[00:18:18] Neil Theise: So the goal isn't to surrender this relationship with the world of the relative, as we say in Buddhism, where you're there and I'm here, but it's to develop the flexibility to. Return to that perspective where there is no separation when, where we are all seamless parts of a seamless universe. Um hmm. And then come back.

[00:18:44] Neil Theise: What do you do with that when you come back into this world of separation? Um, so one of the, the points of the book by the end of the book is that we have these techniques. They're available to all of us. Um, they can help us cultivate a [00:19:00] view. Complexity tells us the way everything is structured. We now know a lot about how everything is structured and how it happens and how the world is creative and adaptive and alive and conscious.

[00:19:12] Neil Theise: Um, but the book is only concepts. This isn't gonna change anybody's life unless they then are inspired by that to pursue this other kind of view. So

[00:19:25] Gerry Scullion: when we look at, um, like the people listening here, mostly in the worlds of service design or human-centered design, strategic functions within businesses and stuff, um, when we talk about complexity and complexity theory and when we have practitioners entering organizations that are ultimately complex systems, um, and they try to inform a better outcome for the people that, you know, are the byproducts of what they create within those organizations and those systems, they're often met with resistance and they need [00:20:00] to foster resilience to be able to, to deliver those outcomes that they're trying to achieve.

[00:20:06] Gerry Scullion: Is it complicated or is it complex when you enter those systems?

[00:20:12] Neil Theise: Um, it's both. Um, both. Okay. Yeah. So, um, You know, I wonder, one, one of my ambitions for getting this material into the popular culture is that someone, not me, someone comes up with a way to introduce this to the educational curriculum at an early level.

[00:20:34] Neil Theise: I mean, you can do the Game of Life in third grade and start talking about these things. I gave, um, this book derives, derives from 20 years of talks I've been giving on this topic. Sure. Which started off, the first talk was actually to my Zen Buddhist group because they're a group of incredibly fiercely smart people, and I also felt safe.

[00:20:56] Neil Theise: And, um, but after that, my [00:21:00] audience for, uh, several years was primarily scientists, stem cell biologists, MDs, uh, people working in healthcare, um, uh, cell biologists, molecular biologists. And then I started giving it. To zen groups and yoga students. And even, uh, my nephew, when he was in fifth grade, asked me to come speak to his class about it.

[00:21:28] Neil Theise: And the teachers, there were two fifth grade classes in his school and, um, the teachers joined them together in the last period of the day. I think there was about 40 or 50 kids. And, um, The kids were so excited and had so many questions and I had not changed a word of the talk. I did not need to dumb this down.

[00:21:48] Neil Theise: It's just, it's that simple. Uh, the teachers wound up calling all the parents and holding the school buses for an hour cause they didn't want to interrupt. So, um, wow. I, yeah. So [00:22:00] I feel like if, if people grew up with these ideas, number one, then when you entered a community to talk about design, you wouldn't have to introduce them to this new stuff, um, because it would already already be part of how they saw the world.

[00:22:18] Neil Theise: So that's a long-term thing. But, um, when you, when you come into an organization, You know, the, the, I talk about these easy principles. They're four rules that make us why starling's for memorizations, why ants form colonies? Why humans do what they do. They're all for following four basic rules. Number one is that you need a certain number to become complex.

[00:22:45] Neil Theise: Complex. So three ants, don't make a colony. Seven starlings don't make a murmuration. Um, but if you have enough, um, then all the things come into play. And the more you have, the more [00:23:00] complex, the greater the number, the, the greater the diversity within the system, the more creativity, the more adapt adaptive potential the, the entire system has.

[00:23:10] Neil Theise: So single cell organisms are not as complex as multicellular organisms. Um, uh, a village is not, a city is not a megalopolis, but the same principles apply regardless of size. The only difference is how much. Complexity do you get? And by that I mean how much creative potential, adaptive potential. Um, so that's one.

[00:23:33] Gerry Scullion: Can I, just on that point, can I just, cause we're, I'm gonna hang on that one for a little bit more, like mm-hmm. I'm gonna read out a bit of the prose from the book on that. Sure. Because there's a few questions I wanna talk about self-organization and how it, uh, at a certain number it kind of shifts. So, as you mentioned, there is four rules.

[00:23:48] Gerry Scullion: Number rule number one, there must be sufficient number of interacting parts to form a complex system. The standard mail order and farm has 25 or so ants. All hard at work, digging [00:24:00] tunnels, creating food lines, and establishing a cemetery for ants that die. These behaviors are examples of emergent phenomena, but once you have just a handful of an ants left, there is no self-organization and emergent properties dissolve.

[00:24:13] Gerry Scullion: No food lines, no cooperative tunnel building, and dead ants stay where they die. On the other hand, the more individuals there are in the system, the greater level of complexity. A colony of two hundreds is not a co as complex as one with two thousands and one with 20 thousands is still more complex. A village is not, a city is not a mega megalopolis, as you'd say.

[00:24:35] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. So, um, in that point, the self-organization piece, you could have an organization as big as some of the big consultancies where there's 600, 700,000, and we don't see that in humans where the self. Uh, organization and the ability to self-organize, organize, organize. Sorry, my, my brain is going quicker than my mouth.

[00:24:56] Gerry Scullion: The ability to self-organize is somewhat depleted. Um, [00:25:00] what's causing that?

[00:25:01] Neil Theise: Well, uh, so the other rules, um, because it takes all, yeah, the other rules, it takes all four. So, um, uh, we have a really good current example in the banking system. So, uh, rule number two is that there have to be negative feedback loops in the system that predominate over positive feedback loops.

[00:25:22] Neil Theise: And by negative and positive, I don't mean good and bad. A negative, uh, uh, feedback loop is you have a space heater in a room and, uh, if the temperature of the room. Uh, goes down, it gets to a certain level of too cold that you've set. Then the space heater turns on, the room warms up until it gets to the right temperature and the space heater turns off.

[00:25:46] Neil Theise: Yeah. So negative feedback loops always keep living systems oscillating within, uh, what we call a homeostatic realm. Homeostasis being sort of the healthy realm. And, and, and this shows you right off the bat, [00:26:00] one thing that we sort of intuit and, uh, easily, um, but we can state it, that living things are never static.

[00:26:09] Neil Theise: The only things that are static or dead, um, living things are always oscillating. Um, now, positive feedback loops is, let's say you get, um, a space heater that the warmer the room gets, the higher it turns on, so it gets hotter and hotter and hotter. You can have these in a. Uh, in a complex system, um, for example, when we get a fever, that's exactly what happens.

[00:26:32] Neil Theise: Uh, you have a positive feedback loop driving up the temperature, but then we have negative feedback loops once you've eliminated the infection to bring the fever back down to normal and restore things to homeostasis. So there's always a balance that negative feedback loops have to predominate. I mentioned the banking system because we have all these, you know, collapsing banks again.

[00:26:53] Neil Theise: Yeah. And we've seen this before. And, um, And these are [00:27:00] vast scale. You know how many people are involved in a banking system? Um, millions of people. Everybody is involved in the banking systems. So the first time we had a huge collapse, um, was the Great Depression, and they realized that there was unbridled speculation and greed.

[00:27:20] Neil Theise: Consider that a positive feedback loop. Um, and when you get an overabundance of feedback loops, you can get self emergent self-organization. But instead of being creative and adaptive, it becomes energy expending and self-limited. So think of a tornado, A hurricane can be thought of that way. Cancer is something we've modeled in this way.

[00:27:41] Neil Theise: So a bank, an economy, same thing. You just get this huge bubble, um, expansive and energy depleting, followed by collapse. It's self-limited. And so in America, they. Created the Glass Stegal Act, which was legis, legislative, economic, [00:28:00] negative feedbacks. And this worked to keep the American economy, um, lumbering along through all sorts of disturbances.

[00:28:09] Neil Theise: World War ii, the 1950s, it kept working until, you know, starting largely with Ronald Reagan, but then being continued by democratic presidents as well. They started whittling away at these negative feedback loops until suddenly we have the recession in 2008. Um, of course we're going to have that because we've eliminated the negative feedback loops and the positives now predominate.

[00:28:33] Neil Theise: And so you're gonna get huge bubble and then a collapse. That was 2008. Dodd-Frank rules in America come into play. The, the economy starts regulating itself in a healthy way. Um, maybe people aren't getting incredibly crazily wealthy, but most people are doing just fine. And it's adaptive, it's responding to the changing environment.

[00:28:57] Neil Theise: And then Trump, or we [00:29:00] start to whittle away at those negative controls again. And suddenly two months ago, you know, it was a, a gift to me in terms of writing an op-ed piece for the book. Um, we suddenly have, you know, another bubble and another collapse. So, um, when you have corporations, cuz that's what you asked about Yeah.

[00:29:23] Neil Theise: That don't have sufficient negative feedback. You know, if you have a corporation that really depends on driving competition between people. Hmm. For example, those are positive feedback loops. Pushing and pushing and pushing. It can work for a while. But it's going to collapse. You need, um, a societal structure that allows for self-regulation.

[00:29:46] Neil Theise: Yeah. So that no individual, no cluster of individuals outstrips the, um, the healthy needs of, of the community. Okay. So that's number, that's number two. Number two, [00:30:00] number three is all things are local, um, and bottom up. Uh, so, you know, like you said, starlings to get this vast commemoration are only paying attention to the seven starlings around them.

[00:30:13] Neil Theise: Um, ants are only paying attention to the local pheromone sense and occasional. Let's

[00:30:18] talk

[00:30:18] Gerry Scullion: about this from cause, Neil. Yeah. I, I've known a little bit about an colonies over my life. But when you described it, it just felt like, you know, it just clicked. Am I right? Yeah, yeah. Course. Yeah.

[00:30:31] Neil Theise: And, and this was what?

[00:30:32] Neil Theise: Let,

[00:30:32] Gerry Scullion: let's talk about it. Let, let, let's pretend you're at a dinner party and you, you're, someone says, oh, I'm into an colonies. And then they went, it's a little bit into, well, every,

[00:30:44] Neil Theise: everyone's kind of into ants, you know, i's kinda been into it a little bit. Yeah. Um, there's no one who didn't grow up seeing ants and playing around with them, you know?

[00:30:52] Neil Theise: Exactly. And, and so when I get to this moment of the talk, you can see the audience smile and, and relax because they're, [00:31:00] they're sort of, I'm returning them just by mentioning ants. Yeah, people return to their childhood state of when they were down there playing with the ants, you know, because it's a good story.

[00:31:11] Neil Theise: It's a good story. It's a good story, yeah. Yeah, yeah. And um, so an aunt is wandering around randomly. Um, and it leaves a scent trail behind it so it can always find its way back to the colony. Sure. But right now it's just out here wandering and suddenly stumbles upon a sugar cube. Um, ooh. Sugar cubes grabs a piece of the sugar, um, and then turns around and marches back to the colony along the route it got there so it can find its way back to the colony.

[00:31:44] Neil Theise: But does he

[00:31:45] Gerry Scullion: change the level of pheromones being released at that point? Well, hold on,

[00:31:47] Neil Theise: hold on. So, okay, so he's, he's laying down one pheromone that is stable and so it doesn't fade very quickly. And so he can find his way back to the colony. I'm sorry, I'm making it Well, it is a [00:32:00] male ad so I can say his.

[00:32:01] Neil Theise: Okay. So, um, cause that's who's doing this, um, but then it starts laying down a different scent trail. Um, the pheromone it lays down is very strong, but degrades. Very quickly. And what that means is that Ant who's wandering around randomly crosses this scent trail. Um, it knows that some ant has found some food, and if it turns in the direction of the fainter scent and walk that way, it will get to the sugar cube.

[00:32:38] Neil Theise: So it starts laying down its scent trail. Yeah. So it can return, um, gets the sugar cube turns around, starts walking back to the colony, and it starts laying down. It's diminishing scent trail. Yeah. So this is sort of a negative feedback kind of thing, but it leads to a positive [00:33:00] feedback loop because now you've got 2 cent trails, it's even stronger.

[00:33:04] Neil Theise: More ants are likely to cross it, more ants turn. To the right in my vision, um, towards the sugar cube, um, going down the scent gradient. Yeah. Get to the sugar cube, turn around, go back more, uh, pheromone trails and now you've got a whole line just comp. And no ant was thinking, how do we form a food line?

[00:33:27] Neil Theise: No, the queen aunt doesn't design this. She just forms, uh, she just fulfills a, um, cuz that's the question again. Well, doesn't the queen aunt organize this? No. She just fulfills a reproductive function. It's all bottom up. The answer. Just paying attention to the local pheromones and the physical sense of the sugar cube.

[00:33:49] Neil Theise: And that creates the food line. Yeah. Something from nothing. Now when you look at. Um, and this gets us actually to rule number three. Um, [00:34:00] when you look at a line, you're standing and you see this food line, um, you look down, it looks like all the ants are following the line, and it's really dramatic. We all know what that looks like.

[00:34:10] Neil Theise: Yeah. But if you kneel down and look closely, there's always a few ants that aren't following the line. And um, you know, this was like the aunt I would find in my mother's kitchen when I was a kid. Yeah. This is my editor. Cut out virtually all my personal stories from the book, but left this morning and I Right.

[00:34:27] Neil Theise: No, no, no. It's not a memoir. I had to like get over that and, um, learning to write and one on one. And so, um, you know, I would get it on a piece of paper, you know, proto Buddhist. Um, this is when I'm like five, six years old and I would carry it outside. Back to the ants. Yeah. Outside the back door. Um, Trying to save it.

[00:34:51] Neil Theise: And I thought this was a stupid ant who had wandered too far from home. Hmm. My mom knew exactly what this is, was this was the random ant [00:35:00] that wasn't following the food line, and so would likely find the food source in her kitchen, lay down the scent trail and begin the home invasion. So she thought, kill the ant and call the exterminator.

[00:35:13] Neil Theise: And she was absolutely right. If you wanna keep your kitchen ant free. Um, so, um, how many ants aren't following the line? If you look, it's so, it's a few percent. If there's too much randomness in the system, you can't get food lines, you can't get any organization whatsoever, but too little randomness. If there were no other ants, then what are the ants gonna do when the food source runs out?

[00:35:38] Neil Theise: It's if you step your foot in the middle of a food line, it's the ants that are not part of the line that quickly establish the quickest route around your foot. When the food source runs out, it's these random ants, divergent ants, small numbers of them that are likely already finding the next food source.

[00:35:58] Neil Theise: So the randomness is what [00:36:00] allows the colony to explore alternate ways of organizing as the, as the environment changes, all the creative dynamism of life, of adaptation, um, comes from this low level randomness. Stu Kaufman, who's one of the founders of Complexity Theory, um, uh, and actually I'm, I'm extraordinarily lucky, he's become a good friend.

[00:36:26] Neil Theise: Um, and he fact checked the book for me to make sure I wasn't doing anything, saying anything stupid. Um, he, uh, refers to. The possibilities that arise from this randomness in the current moment, um, as the, um, adjacent possibles. So in every moment, a living thing, because of this low level randomness has sort of a shimmering cloud of adjacent possibles around it, one of which will be selected for the next moment of the colony.[00:37:00]

[00:37:00] Neil Theise: Hmm. Now, most of the time these are adaptive. They aren't always, inevitably, and I discussed the mathematics behind this in the book, inevitably there will be mass extinction events. Um, they can be mitigated. They can sometimes be avoided through interventions, but given enough time because the, the randomness that.

[00:37:26] Neil Theise: Allows one to be alive and creative and adaptive necessarily will give rise eventually to a moment where everything collapses. And this has to do with the fractal mathematics at the edge of chaos. But yeah, that's enough. So, so coming back to, wait, wait. So coming back to the, the corporation Yeah. If there's two rigid, top-down control that it doesn't allow some degree of non-conformity.

[00:37:54] Neil Theise: Yeah. It'll work for a while, but it's gonna collapse. Yeah. Took the words

[00:37:59] Gerry Scullion: right outta [00:38:00] my mouth.

[00:38:01] Neil Theise: Sorry.

[00:38:03] Gerry Scullion: I was living just about to say that and I was like, okay, well it is your book. Um, and that is really, Really important that ran randomness as you would, you would call it gives kind of fuel for life as well.

[00:38:17] Gerry Scullion: Yeah, yeah. In all, in all aspects of life, which is really, really important. So when you look at cultures where there's such rigidity, like, like societal cultures, um, what, what do you say to those kind of cultures? Like how, how can they release the randomness?

[00:38:36] Neil Theise: Um, well sometimes they don't. And then you have societal collapse, right?

[00:38:42] Neil Theise: Yeah. Okay. Um, uh, one of the, this idea that everything is local, you can have systems that appear top down. You know, you take an autocratic society. Yeah. Um, take Czarist Russia. Yeah. Um, with the incredibly rigid control they had. [00:39:00] And that was, that worked for a time. You know, many lifetimes it worked. Yeah.

[00:39:07] Neil Theise: But while they think, you know, an autocrat may think they are overseeing the entire thing in a hierarchical sort of way, that they're the top of a control pyramid that extends downward. The fact is, from a complexity point of view, there's no top, there's no bottom. They're part of a web and that autocrat may have more connections than anybody else, but it's never hunt may have more nodes in the society that it connects to, and it's monitoring, but it's never complete.

[00:39:40] Neil Theise: There's always going to be someone, somewhere that divergent aunt who figures out, Hmm, let's try Marxism. And, you know, I mean, marks, I mean, what, what did Marks have to do with. Uh, czarist Russia, other than that was an example of the thing he was writing [00:40:00] about, but he's this Jewish guy, not in Russia, um, yeah.

[00:40:04] Neil Theise: Who writes a book and somehow that book gets into the hands of Lennon. Yeah. I'm not exactly sure of the root of how all this happened. FedEx Yeah. And now I got it. And it never gets there. Yeah. It never gets there. Um, but, um, that was, that was, you know, and why did Marks write what Marks wrote? What was, yeah, his upbringing, the, the people he met, the societal situations he stumbled into, which sparked his particular brain to say, to think in this way.

[00:40:42] Neil Theise: Um, these are the kind of low level, unpredictable things that happen all the time. The rigidity. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:40:51] Gerry Scullion: So, so yeah, there's, that's, um, leads us onto number four

[00:40:55] Neil Theise: then. So three is everything is local and four is the low level [00:41:00] randomness. Yeah, the low level. And these aren't really any real order. I mean, these are just four principles.

[00:41:04] Neil Theise: Yeah. I, I talk about them in this way. You're working towards,

[00:41:07] Gerry Scullion: yeah. So, um, when we're, when we're looking, so that's how,

[00:41:11] Neil Theise: so I was gonna say when I, when I want to analyze a social situation or. I'm part of an organization where I have a say how would I be behaving? Um, I look for ways in which one of these four rules is out of kilter.

[00:41:30] Neil Theise: Yeah. Are there insufficient negative feedback loops? Are there too many positive feedback loops? Do we need more members? Um, is there someone acting like they are in charge, top down and squelching the bottom up? Creativity? Is there room for some randomness in the system? Not too much, but some. And, uh, so like the banking system, it's really easy to look at the collapse of the banks and immediately no.

[00:41:56] Neil Theise: This is a problem with feedback loops. Mm-hmm. Um, [00:42:00] cancer is a problem with feedback loops and all the new therapies are all about, um, repressing the positive feedbacks in cancer and restoring the negative feedback loops. That's exactly what's going on. Um, You know, if you, if you look at an authoritarian regime, how do we increase the randomness, um, to come out from under the control, the top-down control.

[00:42:26] Neil Theise: Yeah. Um, edge it into the zone of creativity and, and then the autocratic society will have a mass extinction of it. Yeah. You know, but something new potentially can arise.

[00:42:38] Gerry Scullion: A lot of the pieces here that we're, we're speaking about so far to date, um, is a miss of consciousness. So we're, we're, we're still to get to that point of consciousness.

[00:42:49] Gerry Scullion: And then when you, when you look at the definition of consciousness and the Oxford diction, it says the state of being aware of and responsive to one's surroundings. Um, how do you feel, uh, [00:43:00] the interconnectedness between consciousness and, um, the, the other four pieces? Well, what's the role there that you were talking about?

[00:43:08] Neil Theise: Well, you know, we have. There are many sub varieties of philosophy that talk about what the nature of consciousness is and how it arises. Um, the three major ones that I, I talk about in the book sort of cover all the things that people take seriously in one form or another. The first is a materialist point of view.

[00:43:30] Neil Theise: Um, and this, and I, I, when I first learned about complexity theory, I was all in for this. That emergent phenomena always seem like magic. How does the colony arise? Yeah. How does the murmuration arise? Um, it just does. So wouldn't it be easy to say that consciousness is the emergent phenomenon of all the cells of the brain and all the electrical signals of the brain that gives rise emergently to our minds?

[00:43:58] Neil Theise: The problem is [00:44:00] that we have this famous notion of the hard problem of consciousness, which is we can explain how the brain sees arose. Smells a rose feels the prick of, of a thorn of the rose, but the experience of red, the experience of the scent, its sweetness, the experience of pain, no one knows how to explain that.

[00:44:24] Neil Theise: Yeah. How that becomes an experience in your awareness and the evidence that this is a problem is that when you talk to, when you read anything in cognitive neuroscience, which is the materialist domain that talks about this stuff largely, they always, when they do an F M R I scan and they see activation of a pattern of regions of the brain.

[00:44:49] Neil Theise: They say this is a, uh, neural correlate of consciousness. When you experience a visual cue, the brain lights up [00:45:00] in this way. They are correlated with each other, but they can't ever say it's causal. No one has ever found anything in the brain that if you, the brain reacts this way, awareness pops up, no one's been able to do that.

[00:45:16] Neil Theise: So that's the hard problem of consciousness. And so the materialist view sort of falls on, on that sword in many people's view. My view, um, certainly, although I was there at the beginning, I thought, oh, this will be easy. The result is in the last. Five, 10 years, people have started moving to what's called a pan psych point of view, which is that consciousness is present in lower scale things and they assemble into bigger consciousness.

[00:45:48] Neil Theise: So cells, health consciousness, just not as complex as a human's consciousness. Hmm. And, and then there are people who say, well, there may be quantum carriers of consciousness the way [00:46:00] there are quantum carriers of electromagnetism, photons and quantum carriers of the strong force and weak force. Maybe there are quantum carriers, particles of some kind that carry consciousness, but this doesn't get rid of the hard problem.

[00:46:14] Neil Theise: It just shifts it down lower in scale. The third possibility. And, but, And there you have the idea that, oh, are these mini consciousnesses, that's a hard word. Um, mini con, mini minds. Um, how do they self-assemble as a complex system into a larger scale consciousness? Yeah. So complexity theory, again, comes in useful here, but it doesn't get at the hard problem.

[00:46:42] Neil Theise: The final one, um, which is what the last half of the book is about, is, well, what if consciousness comes first? And the scientific opening for that is quantum mechanics. Um, in response to the double slit experiment [00:47:00] where we know that if you look at a beam of light, um, going through slits in, um, a screen, if you look at it, the light behaves like particles and you get one result.

[00:47:12] Neil Theise: If you don't look at it, it behaves like waves and you get a different result. A conscious observer is what defines the nature of reality in the present moment. And this is a tremendously deep concept, and it led Max plunk, the father of quantum physics to say you cannot get behind consciousness. What he means is consciousness has to come first in a quantum universe.

[00:47:39] Neil Theise: And what I do with complexity theory, the first half of the book is show that, um, Just as you have this quantum level complementarity, uh, is light waves or particles or any other sort of thing you pair off in, in the quantum scale complexity shows that that kind of [00:48:00] complementarities throughout the universe that all living systems are flush with complementarities.

[00:48:07] Neil Theise: Um, the example I use in the book is you have, um, uh, that classic image of two silhouette profiles looking at each other, two faces looking at each other. Um, but the space between the faces looks like a vase. Is it two faces or revise? You can sort of really only see one or the other, but you know, a complete description requires both.

[00:48:32] Neil Theise: Um, yeah. What complexity shows is an ant colony looks like a solid thing from a distance, but when you go in close, it's not a thing at all. It's a phenomenon arising from smaller things, the interacting ants. As a pathologist, if I take an ant and put it down on a microscope slide to the cellular level, the antibody disappears as a thing.

[00:48:53] Neil Theise: My body disappears as a thing. All of ours do. Um, and it's just cells interacting well. [00:49:00] Our cell's a definitive object, you know, real in itself. No, they're just self organizing molecules of floating, floating in water, et cetera, et cetera, down to the quantum realm. So there is no thingness, there's no materiality when you take quantum theory and complexity and put them together.

[00:49:20] Neil Theise: Hmm. All of this becomes this evanescent kind of thing, and leads one towards an idealist perspective, which is that consciousness comes first.

[00:49:33] Gerry Scullion: So when we talk about consciousness, how do we can, can that be measured is what I'm, I'm trying to, I'm trying to understand like how do we know if it's present?

[00:49:46] Gerry Scullion: Because, well, we're, we're talking with theory here,

[00:49:48] Neil Theise: right? Um, and the moment you say measurement, how do we measure it? You're sort of how we know it's present, right? You're, you're sort of, you [00:50:00] want to hear a statement from me that, um, is our predominant cultural view, which is that you can get that answer either scientifically or through formal mathematics.

[00:50:15] Neil Theise: And what we already know from quantum mechanics is you can't get there. From empirical science, the moment you try to do it, you change the system. Empirical science, as we conceive it, requires you to separate subject and object. But once you get to consciousness, there's no separation of subject and object.

[00:50:36] Neil Theise: So it's not amenable to scientific description. Okay. Um, the mathematics, and this is chapters nine and 10. Nine and 10 I think. Yeah. Yeah. Um, we thought that mathematics could do it, that you could have a fully developed mathematical system that could describe all existence and contain all possible mathematics in a [00:51:00] consistent, um, and complete way.

[00:51:03] Neil Theise: But then we get this remarkable fellow named Kurt Goodle, who, who also I don't think has enough, um, presence in the cultural mind. Um, Most famously, he was part of the book Goodell Escher, Bach, the Eternal Golden Braid back in the 1970s, which was a book about consciousness trying to get complexity to ex, you know, blah, blah, blah.

[00:51:27] Neil Theise: Um, it failed, but, but Goodell was part of the answer. And what Goodell showed is that there are always going to be mathematical truths about the universe that are true, but cannot be proven to be true. And so mathematics also cannot fully explain everything. And he himself said that what he means by intuition is probably what applies to metaphysics derived from spiritual practice, such as [00:52:00] meditation, ok, where the mind is looking inward to explore the nature of mind.

[00:52:05] Neil Theise: But if it's your mind exploring your mind, there's no subject object split. There can't be, right? So how do we measure this? We can only report it. And what goodle and quantum mechanics do for us is say that necessarily intuition has to come back, metaphysics has to come back. These things can't be proven, but they can be experienced.

[00:52:30] Neil Theise: Hmm. And that's what the book ultimately points to, I hope.

[00:52:34] Gerry Scullion: Yeah, absolutely. I see like a lot, a lot of the, um, organizational benefits would be, um, discussing and evaluating and looking at and colony behaviors and, you know, the principles behind those pieces. And then it kind of goes into that world of kind of, people talk about consciousness and it's, it's interpretive to a point.

[00:52:56] Gerry Scullion: So is this one of the reasons why you think, [00:53:00] or maybe you don't think, um, it is harder for people to grasp because when, when I look at and colonies and people can, you know, walk away from the conversation and kind of go. Yeah, I get that. Okay. I can sort of, some see some parallels between human life and, uh, and colonies and how they self-organize and stuff.

[00:53:21] Gerry Scullion: Um, but the bit that I kind of struggle with is, um, the connection between humans and consciousness and ants. Mm-hmm. Consciousness. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Do you believe every living being has a

[00:53:33] Neil Theise: consciousness? I believe everything is consciousness. The universe is the contents of the awareness of the universe. What underlies the universe is pure awareness in which there is no subject object split.

[00:53:52] Neil Theise: It is just pure awareness of being aware. And people can experience this. I mean, it can be [00:54:00] directly experienced. Um, and I discuss how it is experienced and described in some different traditions. You can dis, but the thing is, it is beyond description. But how that gives rise to the world of duality, as we call it, where there is subject object split, um, that can be described.

[00:54:20] Neil Theise: And, um, I'm part of, uh, working with Mentos, for example, who's my collaborator and all the consciousness stuff. He's a quantum physicist, a a Cosmologist and a Kary shaves, and now a Buddhist. Um, Uh, working with him and some other colleagues, particularly go Ocado, who's a mathematician. We are creating mathematical theories that describe this, and hopefully these mathematical theories will yield predictions that we can then evaluate.

[00:54:53] Neil Theise: But the base is that, um, you know, the way a dream is, the contents of [00:55:00] your awareness, the way my voice in your ear is a, is one of the contents of your awareness. At this moment, the universe is the contents of the universal awareness. So, okay, it's not about our aunt's conscious. Everything is made of pure awareness.

[00:55:20] Neil Theise: Everything is not material. Everything is interwoven and interlinked and completely, um, seamless. There is no separation. These are just delusions. But again, these are, you know, philosophical ideas like this are good for, for, for stoner conversations. But, um, but how do you experience this institution? I'm not stone new.

[00:55:42] Neil Theise: No, I'm not. But if we were, we'd be more fun.

[00:55:50] Neil Theise: There are ways to experience this and, um, And why wouldn't we avail ourselves at least to try it? Our culture says no metaphysics is [00:56:00] not allowed. And this largely comes from a group of, of, uh, intellectuals, uh, from Vienna in the turn of the, uh, between the World Wars Goodell was part of the circle and then blew all their ideas to how, um, uh, to their dismay.

[00:56:17] Neil Theise: And yet, partly because I, I go into the history in the book because it's kind of fascinating. The Vienna Circle, as they were called, were really aggressive about getting their ideas out there philosophically into the world. But then Hitler invaded Austria and many of them were Jews. Even those who weren't Jews.

[00:56:38] Neil Theise: People thought they were Jews and they fled. All around the world. And so they took up lodgings at Cambridge, at Oxford, at usc, at Harvard. And so we live in a world defined by the philosophy of the Vienna Circle, even though the Vienna Circle philosophy completely fails. Yeah. So your [00:57:00] questions are well mathematically and scientifically, how do we define it?

[00:57:05] Neil Theise: Wrong question. Ok. But the question is what we all ask because this is how our culture, how formed view things. Yeah. So my hope, when you learn about complexity theory, um, I can't prove that the idealist perspective is correct, although I certainly think so. But what I hope is to pull people forward from this adherence.

[00:57:34] Neil Theise: This immersion in a materialist view that we just sort of imbibe from childhood automatically and go, oh, there are other possibilities here. And the world is more exciting than this allows it to be. The world is not a machine. It's not to be picked apart and figure out what the pieces are, and then everything's predictable.

[00:57:54] Neil Theise: It never will be that because things are alive and there's randomness. Yeah, [00:58:00] unpredictability.

[00:58:02] Gerry Scullion: There's a, there was a part of the book that, um, I read and I, I had to read it five or six times cuz as I was saying to you beforehand, I'd say, I've picked this book up over a hundred times and I pick it up and I'll read a couple of pages.

[00:58:17] Gerry Scullion: I get dizzy and then I put it down again, and then I'm like, I'll go for a walk and I'll, I'll ponder what you've said. Like it is literally one of those books, folks. But I'm gonna read this piece out. Okay. Um, it says in complexity, however, while we can predict the emergence will occur, it's precise nature can ever be predicted.

[00:58:39] Gerry Scullion: Even if we begin with the same starting conditions in complexity, the whole is unpredictably greater than the sum of its parts, kind of like the world, kind of like our lives. So when I, when I read that, when we look at our roles as changemakers in the world, cuz most people who I have on the podcast, nearly everyone, [00:59:00] um, we want to create a better world.

[00:59:01] Gerry Scullion: We wanna create a better understanding. Um, we're working to improve culture and human behavior and systems moving away from toxicity and. Poor decision making, whatever it is we're trying to do. How should we interpret that last paragraph that I just read? Um, should I read it with optimism or should I read it with somewhat kind of, um, frustration?

[00:59:28] Gerry Scullion: Um, and I, I'd like to probably wrap it up at this point because this is a, this is a, please tell me, it's gonna be an optimistic ending. Please tell me

[00:59:37] Neil Theise: It's an optimistic ending, like being a physician.

[00:59:41] Gerry Scullion: Okay. That's not an optimistic, you

[00:59:42] Neil Theise: don't expect to keep joking. You don't expect to keep your patient alive forever, but you can extend their life.

[00:59:48] Neil Theise: Okay. You can improve the quality of their life. You can rescue them from mass extinction events. Um, I like that. But, but no one lives forever. So you're looking to be a physician for [01:00:00] society. You can't Perfect. Yeah. No more than your doctor can Perfect. Your, your living being. But you can do a lot between here and then, and you can recognize that whatever you accomplish is part of the larger hole in ways you can't possibly imagine or predict that will play themselves out over generations and generations and generations in ways you can't even imagine.

[01:00:27] Neil Theise: So, um, there's an acceptance of what's in front of me, what's the problem in front of me, what can I do? The rules for analysis are helpful in that regard. So, and I use them, as I said, often myself to analyze either social situations or my own situations. Um, and so everything's local. What's in front of you?

[01:00:53] Neil Theise: What can you do about that? And then trust that in the larger scheme of things. If everybody did that, yeah, [01:01:00] then we'd have a more resilient world. And what you're after. What you're after isn't perfection. You're after resilience and creativity. Yeah. How's that,

[01:01:12] Gerry Scullion: Neil? That is a fantastic way to, to wrap up this conversation as, as we spoke before, um, you know, I'd love to have you back on, um, as, as this kind of unfolds itself.

[01:01:25] Gerry Scullion: I know you were on a book tour at the moment. The book isn't out at the moment, and a huge thanks to, to Nora, um, for sending me across an advanced copy of, uh, notes and complexity. You can pre-order it though, I believe. Um, yes, you can.

[01:01:39] Neil Theise: Um, indie bookstores and, uh, and Amazon of course. Um, yeah, Indy store. I think

[01:01:44] Gerry Scullion: Jeff, Jeff texts me, he said he's rich enough at the moment.

[01:01:47] Gerry Scullion: Um, so the indie bookstores are probably a preferred way to play the book. Um, if, if we can. Ever, uh, send someone money to the indie bookstores. We always try and recommend that. Exactly.

[01:01:59] Neil Theise: And it's already [01:02:00] arrived. It's, I it, it showed up on a bookshelf, I mean, in a bookstore in New York. I actually went to go and I looked at it and someone else the same day said it arrived to them in Sweden.

[01:02:10] Neil Theise: I don't know who they ordered it, it from. Yeah. So it's already starting to get out there, but the official launch is May 9th. Yeah.

[01:02:17] Gerry Scullion: So here's my copy of it here, folks. It, it reminds me of, uh, one of my favorite Wilco albums. I don't know if you know the band Wilco. Do you know? No, there's a great band from Chicago called Wilco, um, sky, blue Sky.

[01:02:29] Gerry Scullion: The, the album cover from that from 20 fifteens album 2016 maybe. There's a very, they have a, they have a bunch of Starlings in the front of their, their book. I'll go, yeah, it's a beautiful, once I saw that cover, I was like, starlings, I'm reading. This is it. This is, this is my book. And I've told everyone, like, you know, who's gonna see me at UX Scotland doing the keynote.

[01:02:51] Gerry Scullion: Um, I'll be ge giving this a big shout out and I'll be talking and referencing large parts of this conversation, Neil, because [01:03:00] what you've done there in a book of of work is, is hugely powerful and highly recommended to anyone listening to the podcast. So I'll throw a link to that in the show notes. Neil, if people wanna out to you and yeah, absolutely.

[01:03:13] Gerry Scullion: If they wanna reach out to you and get in touch, um, you know, learn more about your work, what's the best way for people to do that? We're

[01:03:20] Neil Theise: developing a website called neil feast I once had a neil, but I was so bad about keeping it organized, I lost control of the domain. So now, cuz I just, this isn't what I do.

[01:03:34] Neil Theise: Um, but now I have a team, um, so we're developing neil feast I saw that and stuff will be posted there. Yeah, I saw that. And I'm also, Facebook and Instagram are, are, you know, I'm old. So those are things I can handle. TikTok, not so much. Yeah,

[01:03:51] Gerry Scullion: well it's, it's, it's been absolutely brilliant to, to, uh, to chat with you today.

[01:03:55] Gerry Scullion: I'll put a link to your new website, um, up there as well [01:04:00] in the show notes as well for people to click on. And also your Instagram as well cuz it's, it's good to put a face to the name and the voice as well. So, Neil, thank you so much. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with you. It's been absolutely mind blowing.

[01:04:12] Gerry Scullion: Um, and I really appreciate you giving me, uh, all your time this morning. Um, so

[01:04:16] Neil Theise: Oh, my pleasure, Jerry. Thanks for, for having me.

[01:04:22] Gerry Scullion: There you go folks. I hope you enjoyed that episode, and if you enjoyed it and want to listen to more, why not visit? This is hate where you can learn more about what we are up to and also explore our courses while through there. Thanks again for listening.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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