The Human Centered Design Podcast with Gerry Scullion

Redefining Constraints: Jerry Michalski on Trust, Design, and the Future of Knowledge Management

John Carter
June 21, 2024
62
Β MIN
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Redefining Constraints: Jerry Michalski on Trust, Design, and the Future of Knowledge Management

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Episode shownotes

In this episode, we sit down with Jerry Michalski to discuss our shared passion for Human-Centered Design and the crucial role it plays in creating products that truly serve people. Jerry shares insights about his 26-year project, Jerry's Brain, a personal knowledge management system, and the advantages of maintaining such a rich, evolving repository.

We delve into the idea of rethinking constraints and consider a future where humans and software are more integrated. Jerry explains the unique, quirky aspects of TheBrain software and the challenges it presents, including integrating AI and inferring context from data. He emphasises the importance of externalising and curating thoughts.

Our conversation underscores the significance of trust, assuming good intent, and working openly to build collaboration. Jerry also explores how belief systems affect growth, the extractive economy, the power of storytelling, and navigating a post-truth world. Together, we advocate for a radical approach to design that fosters growth and addresses societal issues.

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Episode Transcript

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Gerry Scullion (05:41.434)

Jerry, I'm delighted and I mean that from the bottom of my heart to have you on the podcast. I've heard so much about you and I've been researching quite a lot over the last couple of weeks.

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But maybe for the sake of our guests or for our listeners, what I say, we'll start off, tell us a little bit about yourself, where you're from and what you do. How would you describe it, first of all?

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Jerry Michalski (06:19.03)

Sounds great. Thank you for the invitation. I'm extremely pleased to be here. And it's delightful just to feel your presence. So thank you for that. Exactly. I used to call myself the accidental technology analyst because I was neither a computer science major nor a journalism major. And yet I was writing about the tech business for a couple of different audiences.

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Gerry Scullion (06:25.214)

Ah, you too Jerry, two Jerrys.

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Gerry Scullion (06:33.878)

Hmm.

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Jerry Michalski (06:43.602)

I was writing partly for the industry itself, for the tech business, but then I was also writing and advising major multinationals on whether or not to apply artificial intelligence or neural networks or all that kind of stuff. I've been digging through old boxes of my files and I discovered a report that I wrote in 1988, 88 titled Neural Networks Colon Prospects for Commercial Use. In this report, I profiled the, I don't know, 18 odd.

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Gerry Scullion (06:51.113)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (07:07.21)

Hmm.

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Jerry Michalski (07:11.158)

little neural network companies that existed back in the day, and on from there. And we see that technology has grown up to be the thing that's eating the world right now. So I have a funny twisty path. I was a tech analyst for about 11 years, then I went off on my own in 98. So I like to say that I've been in independence since the last millennium.

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Gerry Scullion (07:20.906)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (07:32.151)

Yeah, you have. You've... Go on, keep going.

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Jerry Michalski (07:34.434)

And exactly. And then let me just put two pieces of color into this because they're important to my story. One of them is in the mid 90s, when I was working for Esther Dyson, writing her monthly newsletter about technology, the tech business, I realized I didn't like the word consumer. And that stopped me. And I mentioned it to her and she said, oh, you know, don't worry about it. It's just a term of art in the advertising world.

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Gerry Scullion (07:50.174)

Hmm.

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Jerry Michalski (08:01.926)

And I thought, well, that's true. That's factual. But that's my little inner voice was like, new, new. This word is actually a big piece of the puzzle of what's broken. And so I followed the word consumer around for the better part of 30 years. And it's led me to some really interesting things. And then the second thing is this brain software that showed up. And I was, I was the first analyst on the first press tour. This little company ever had, um, I understood them immediately started using their software.

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Gerry Scullion (08:11.37)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (08:29.17)

and still use it this morning. I just got off a phone call that I host every week where I added 15 new things to my brain and we're sort of off and running. So that's kind of some context. I'm trying to solve the puzzle.

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Gerry Scullion (08:37.023)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (08:41.434)

We're definitely going to come. We were definitely going back to the brain piece because I want to tap into that. I'm trying not to use any kind of metaphors here. There's too many, you know, bad jokes that I can make. But I want to tap into that in a in a little while. Like, you know, going back to the consumer comment that you just made, like, you know, what was it about that? Because you identified a really early in your kind of life and your career as well.

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Something didn't add up, you know, having a label attached to people. Where does that come from? What was the what was your primer as a child? Like, where was the antagonist within Jerry to really question that name?

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Jerry Michalski (09:27.466)

It's interesting because I don't know that this goes back to childhood and I haven't thought of this quest or this puzzle or this itch that far back. I can pinpoint the moment when it blew blossomed into my consciousness, which was a brief briefing I had with the new CEO of women's wire, which was they bought they had the domain women.com and I know and I knew the founder Ellen pack was a friend and a young entrepreneur who didn't.

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Gerry Scullion (09:31.87)

Hmm.

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Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (09:39.636)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (09:45.407)

Hmm.

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Oh, wow.

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Jerry Michalski (09:54.998)

I don't think she really loved entrepreneurship. She just had this good idea. And she had hired in a new CEO who was a senior executive who was coming in. And I had a lunch appointment with her next door to our offices in Manhattan. And I showed up eager to talk about the glass ceiling, misogyny, there's a whole bunch of really important issues. And within the first couple of sentences, she said something that kind of broke my heart a little bit. She said, my job is to sell women to advertisers.

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Gerry Scullion (10:22.74)

Hmm.

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Jerry Michalski (10:23.686)

And she wasn't lying. She was being very straightforward. And my heart just broke. I thought, wow, okay, here's, and the word consumer had itched when people started talking about B2C, business to consumer, business models and all that. And I realized that we were being treated as mere consumers, not as whole humans with interesting lives and needs and other sorts of things. So this is why human computer design matters so much to me is like, what needs do they really have? And can we...

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Gerry Scullion (10:25.178)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (10:46.623)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (10:50.822)

there's a difference between designing something to addict people or manipulate them versus designing something to serve them, right? And I think we don't do enough of the serving, and we do way too much of the over-serving. Yes. Precisely.

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Gerry Scullion (10:57.503)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (11:03.094)

It's like the extraction we're trying to extract permanently. You know, what can we get out of this situation? Like, you know, as opposed to thinking can helistically about the value we can design for people. But that curiosity, Jerry, seems, as I said, it happened early on where you were kind of saying, well, actually, consumers probably not the right word to use here. You write around that probably was around that point that you started Jerry's brain. You mentioned that there a little bit. It wouldn't mean too far away.

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Jerry Michalski (11:30.922)

So the Jerry's Brain is a little bit later. So I think that the briefing I just mentioned was around 94 and the brain briefing was December of 97, so a couple years later. But I will say that I think a piece of my curiosity, I think much of my curiosity, I can attribute to my father. I'm an only child, I grew up in South America. My parents met in Bolivia. My dad was a...

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Gerry Scullion (11:36.391)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (11:41.852)

Okay.

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Gerry Scullion (11:50.215)

Okay.

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Gerry Scullion (11:53.555)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (11:57.462)

Polish-American kid who loved adventure travel became a civil engineer. My mom's family escaped Germany in 39. They had somehow, I have a document with a swastika stamp on it that allows them to move to Bolivia, which was one of the first countries that started sort of saying, nobody's going anywhere, but we'll take a few people. So I grew up in South America for a long time. And my dad was this incredibly curious artist who loved to do stuff.

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Gerry Scullion (12:01.194)

Hmm.

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Rise!

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Gerry Scullion (12:13.044)

Wow.

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Gerry Scullion (12:19.305)

Wow.

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Jerry Michalski (12:27.623)

and taught me a whole bunch of practical skills. So I think my curiosity stems from him a lot.

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Gerry Scullion (12:27.69)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (12:32.866)

From that, like, you know, so was it your mom? Did you say that escaped Germany in 39? Okay, so that kind of they were kind of re reshaping themselves in another culture, another country. They were running. They were, you know, kind of escaping, you know, awful kind of situations back in their homeland that might have at some point impacted you and like, realized that, you know.

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Jerry Michalski (12:38.239)

Exactly.

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Gerry Scullion (13:00.374)

We're not from here originally, but we have to adapt. The curiosity might have come from that point and the deep understanding, which we're going to get to in a minute, which is our crossover or commonality is the deep curiosity about what underpins a human. And that's the bit that whenever it was Mike Parker, another hat tip to Mike, Mike is, um, he's kind of like a press agent for me these days. He's connected me with loads of people that I'm interested in.

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Jerry Michalski (13:11.15)

Mm-hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (13:29.342)

But going back to the Jerry's brain piece. Now, when I've told this to people, I said, I'm speaking to Jerry Michalski, this thing called Jerry's brain. They just look at me and like, how long has he been tracking his brain? How long? Maybe I'll let you describe it. What was the stimulus for starting the process off? And did you expect when you started off that you were going to be still doing it in 2024?

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Jerry Michalski (13:56.394)

remotely, not remotely. It's interesting because I used to be a technology industry trends analyst, which we were just talking about. And so if you think about it, my job was to know who invested in whom, who competes with whom, who offers what, what are the categories and subcategories of the tech business, right? So I had a reason to use some kind of mind-mappy thing. But then there's this funny little piece of synchronicity, which is.

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Gerry Scullion (14:09.546)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (14:21.498)

I had to write a monthly newsletter and had chosen to write about bookmark management and mind mapping. Those are the two topics I was interested in. I didn't know why I wanted to put them together, but I did. And I was very frustrated because all the companies I had found were not making me happy. I was like, ah, that's just not so good. And this little company with a product called The Brain booked an appointment and I was like, The Brain, whatever. And then the minute the inventor opens his laptop and starts to show me the demo,

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Gerry Scullion (14:39.082)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (14:48.79)

My wet brain just jumps on it and goes, oh my God, that's how I think. And so the brain became the star of that issue of the newsletter, which I was already halfway completed writing. That's the weird thing is they just sort of fell into me looking in their general direction. And I had this pressing need, and I'm an old user of hypercard from back in the day and at several different databases and whatever I'd played with trying to manage, how do I collect up this info?

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Gerry Scullion (15:04.746)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (15:15.306)

And all of a sudden, I could add all these little companies quickly into the brain and weave them into categories, subcategories. I developed my own little tropes or cliches for how to organize things in the brain. So I always put investors and PR agencies and legal companies laterally. There's a lateral link, a jump link that you can do in the brain. And all of a sudden, I could cruise through a venture capital firm's portfolio. Now,

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None of those are exhaustively entered because everything in my brain is not a database lookup. It's put in by hand by me somewhere in those 26 years. So it's not exhaustive, but it's pretty damn good. And it got to where a journalist would call me and say, hey, I'm writing about buddy lists or instant messaging. And while they're talking to me, I would just look up buddy lists. And my unaided recall of buddy lists is,

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Gerry Scullion (15:46.813)

Okay, yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (16:08.458)

right in front of me and if I wanted to know who founded one and who funded one, chances are I've got that info at hand already because I put it in earlier and the experience I've had for 26 years that most people aren't having at all is the experience of information accruing, of things actually collecting up and getting richer and better over time.

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Gerry Scullion (16:19.648)

Mmm.

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Gerry Scullion (16:27.176)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (16:30.886)

Yeah. I'm really interested in lots of areas here. Like when you're talking about. You've got this rich perspective that you, not many people of us who've managed to track the brain for 26 years have and you possess just on the side note, how do you back this up? Where do you back it up? And is there some sort of conflict of interest if you share it to the likes of Google or Dropbox or Microsoft who are going to instantly access?

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a lot more than just your filing system.

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Jerry Michalski (17:01.57)

Well, it's interesting. There's an archival function in the brain. So every now and then I run an archive and I run it off to my external hard drives that are my storage. So that's one way. But then I'm always several times a day, I'm synchronizing my brain to the brain's web servers, which is why if I send you a link, so I said that I published my brain openly online, I mean that. And now the brain has an API. So my brain is voluntarily out in the world

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Gerry Scullion (17:10.022)

Okay.

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Gerry Scullion (17:18.271)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (17:23.231)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (17:31.694)

for other people to hoover up and use in some way. They can't change my brain. You couldn't edit something in a way that I wouldn't want. That doesn't actually work that way. But I'd be very happy if somebody riffed on my brain and went to did something useful and interesting with it. And I'm trying to figure out how to be the Chuck Yeager somebody else's. Here we did some interesting stuff with mind maps and trying to figure out how people think. Like count me in, like put a little life vest on me and throw me in the cockpit.

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Gerry Scullion (17:40.063)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (18:00.092)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (18:01.066)

I'm up for that. I haven't been taken up on it yet.

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Gerry Scullion (18:04.49)

Have you have you encountered anyone who's kind of like risk adverse and they're like, well, why would you do this? Put all this stuff online. What are the kind of the worst case scenarios that have been ordered into your ear over the years?

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Jerry Michalski (18:11.7)

Oh for sure.

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Jerry Michalski (18:19.266)

Well, it's funny, I met a guy, a guy uncloaked himself to me a decade ago. And, um, when I still lived in the Bay area and he lived there as well. He said, Jerry, I'm also a very intense brain user, but I don't make any of my brain stuff public and I would never. And he showed me these amazing, he had more elaborate spreadsheets than anybody ever seen all wired into several different brain files, blah, blah. He, he was working on a startup to build the first refueling stations in space. Which didn't.

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didn't work, but that was a long time ago. But, but I can understand why you'd want to keep things private. The other side of that, the way that I approach it is really interesting to me. I did a podcast with a Tiago Forte, the build a second brain guy. Exactly. And I didn't, I hadn't absorbed enough of his materials to know that, um, his second brain is his private external brain. His third brain is whatever he publishes to the outside world. Right.

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Gerry Scullion (18:54.846)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (19:00.382)

Oh yeah, not too out yet.

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Gerry Scullion (19:12.164)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (19:16.51)

Now for me, and this may sound strange, everything I add into the brain every day is by default public. I have to open a little dialogue box and mark a checkbox to make something private. So I will make private, for example, if I go do a consulting session for a corporation, nobody should know that I was there or that we did that, fine. But the people I met, I will connect to that thought, but I'll also connect them to the staff of that company, that's public, right? So...

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Gerry Scullion (19:23.085)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (19:27.557)

Okay.

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Gerry Scullion (19:41.578)

Hmm

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Jerry Michalski (19:42.478)

99 point something percent of all my thoughts are public and open, which I think is extremely unusual in the world of note taking. Most of us are worried that our notes are too raw and too ill-formed, and so we will polish them up into a shiny nugget called the blog or called a video or whatever else and put those out. I do that as well, and then I'll put a link to the video and connect it to the nexus of things that were already public and open.

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Gerry Scullion (19:50.268)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (20:06.79)

Yeah. Do you remember when Facebook started to release lots of their system and it was made public and then people were realizing that people could see their friends and stuff?

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Jerry Michalski (20:18.37)

The EFF put out a site called I shared what? And you could go there and you could sign in with Facebook Connect and it would then spew on the screen everything that they had just received from Facebook because you had signed in using Facebook Connect. And I was pretty liberal on what I shared and I was stunned at how much stuff poured down the screen.

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Gerry Scullion (20:21.97)

Oh yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (20:31.647)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (20:36.942)

Yeah, like, I mean, there was a lot of extraction, if you want happening right back then. But one of the points was that people used to make in the media at the time was, well, we don't know what impact that's going to have in our lives in 10 or 15 years. What has been the impact for you in terms of the documentation of your brain for 26 years?

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What is the pros and what are the cons? Maybe give us a couple of each if you can balance out the conversation.

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Jerry Michalski (21:07.958)

Happy to. It's very interesting because as I just said, I'm offering this thing up for public use, but the brain is quirky enough and strange enough that I am secure through obscurity. Very few people know I exist or that my brain is available. Nobody that I know of has programmatically gone in to try to do something and then contacted me and said, hey, we've done this, would you like to play here? So I'm kind of safe because the brain is so quirky. And...

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Gerry Scullion (21:14.527)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (21:20.331)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (21:30.495)

Hmm.

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Jerry Michalski (21:36.47)

The brain has tried several times over its years to be less quirky and to sort of be, look more mainstream. And every time they do that, I'm like, you know, now you might as well just buy an outliner and use Microsoft office. And the problem is that the problem in software design is that Microsoft office set up weird standard where software vendors are afraid to look any different from the office suite. And I used to be a huge fan of Prezi, which I used in it's a little, little Hungarian company.

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Gerry Scullion (21:47.911)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (21:57.628)

Yeah.

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Oh yeah, I remember that.

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Jerry Michalski (22:03.238)

For it's an endless zoomable whiteboard with transition effects and I used to be able to just Fling myself into prezi and make beautiful presentations. At least I thought they were great Um, they wound up doing a big makeover twice in their life. The first time it looked more like uh, PowerPoint the second time they killed off the endless whiteboard and I went in I got rid of all the crap they'd thrown on top of it and I tried to use my endless whiteboard and it was dead And I stopped using prezi So so that's the fate of a lot of

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Gerry Scullion (22:30.09)

Hmm. Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (22:33.186)

There are these boundaries around creativity and software that I wish we would break more often because we need to step through to some more interesting place where we can think together better. That's one of my big goals.

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Gerry Scullion (22:44.074)

Yeah.

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Yeah. One of the beautiful things about mind mapping is the interconnectedness that you can have between different thoughts and stuff. So just to be clear for our listeners, when Jerry's talking about the brain, he's talking about the brain.com, not his brain. OK, so the brain.com is a link in the show notes. If you're watching on YouTube, it's in the description. You can follow along with this, but Jerry's referencing the brain.com, not his brain.

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Jerry Michalski (22:59.211)

Yes.

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Jerry Michalski (23:10.738)

And you can see my brain data at jerrysbrain.com. So that's my own site where I embed the brain from their web servers, where I did not write the software, but all the data you'll find at jerrysbrain.com is data that I've put into my particular brain.

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Gerry Scullion (23:15.734)

That's right. Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (23:27.258)

Yeah. If you were to extend, say, the data that you have archived and tracked for 26 years, I don't know if you've tried, but if AI was to get hold of this, where do you think it might go? Because I believe just on the preface of that question, you've kind of got everything set up for a second Jerry brain almost.

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Um, you've got the personality, you've got the history, you've got the data points. Um, but I'd love to get your thoughts, Jerry, on what that might look like if you were to do it.

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Jerry Michalski (24:07.938)

So my friend Pete Kaminsky and I sat down and tried to do this some months ago and didn't achieve full success because ChatGBT announced GBTs, which is little chat bots that you can connect to a corpus, and the brain surprised us by announcing an API because they hadn't had an API for years. So Pete went in, we got an API key, we worked on it for a while, and

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Gerry Scullion (24:14.015)

Hmm.

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Jerry Michalski (24:31.822)

There's a technical glitch also, but one of the problems is that the way I use the brain, you have to infer a lot from context at every moment. I don't write long essays in my brain that explain my ideas about a particular thing. I'll write a very pithy thought name, each note is called a thought, and that there'll be a thought called skeptical of. And then under that will be something I think I'm skeptical about. And by looking at it on screen, you'd be like, oh, okay, here's the thing that you're skeptical about.

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Gerry Scullion (24:51.687)

Mm.

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Jerry Michalski (24:59.138)

but I don't have a long essay in there that says, oh, and by the way, I think the metaverse is a dumb, dopey idea or whatever. Now, I will create a video that says that, and then I'll connect the video up, et cetera, et cetera, but that's hard to see from the brain because that's in the text of the video, and the full text of all these things is not actually in the brain's data file. So we've tried and not succeeded, and I would love to figure out how to hop over that gap that we're missing because the idea of having somebody conversationally interact with

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Gerry Scullion (25:17.951)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (25:28.29)

this external brain that's available 24-7 when I'm not around is thrilling to me. I'd love to make that happen. And my brain is very much a reflection of me. You can easily figure out my political stance, how I stand on a bunch of controversial issues, all that stuff's in there. I don't shy away from controversy because I want this thing to actually reflect what I believe and it turns out that everything is in fact deeply intertwined. And you can't separate these things out. It's also the reason why I've had only one brain file for this long.

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Gerry Scullion (25:32.074)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (25:46.119)

Yeah, you've committed to it.

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Gerry Scullion (25:53.247)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (25:58.162)

is that I don't understand creating walls between them unless you have commercial reasons to do that. I, for me, it all works together in one file. Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (25:58.568)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (26:03.877)

Okay, yeah.

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What you see is what you get. Just going just going back to that question, Jerry, about the pros and cons. What is the con, the big con that, you know, the elephant in the room, if you want, as regards doing this, is there one, first of all?

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Jerry Michalski (26:23.342)

I think there are multiple cons for sure. One of them is, oh my gosh, you've trapped yourself in one tool for 26 years. And the good news is you can export the brain's data file as a big bag of JSON objects and that works, but there's no other software that knows how to interpret a screen full of information in the same way. So there's no place for me to take that data in different ways, but that's doable. Another con is this is kind of a quirky way to present information. And what I really want,

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Gerry Scullion (26:25.322)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (26:41.183)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (26:52.894)

is to play well with others around interesting ideas. What I really wanna do is like, you know, get into the arena with others who've similarly externalized some of their thinking and compare notes and then set up experiments and then think about what might convince me to change my mind on something. I'm open to that and I've made pretty explicit, not perfectly crystalline probably, but I've made a lot of things pretty obvious in my brain if you kind of go in and look around and I'm.

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Gerry Scullion (26:57.085)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (27:11.187)

Hmm.

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Jerry Michalski (27:20.702)

very interested in how we collaborate to think together over time. So I may have picked the wrong vehicle for that, but I don't think so. But that would be a really big con. It's like, man, 26 years of time wasted because it was the wrong tool. As I said, I can export the data, but I don't think it's the wrong tool. I think there's something about the linearity of everything else that we do that's missing this interconnectivity that I get from using the brain, which is

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Gerry Scullion (27:25.02)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (27:39.563)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (27:46.196)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (27:49.814)

deeply satisfying to me.

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Gerry Scullion (27:52.01)

people that I've mentioned you to over the last couple of weeks, they they're all kind of like, why, why would you do it? And I respond back to them. I said, what phone do you have? And they're like, I look at their phones and they're using LinkedIn and using Google and using all these different tools. Well, you're doing it this way. Jerry controls it. So there's the two ways of looking at it. We are being tracked anyway.

‍

But the way you have it is structured in a more meaningful way that's closer to who you are.

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Jerry Michalski (28:28.674)

That's very true. There's also two really simple questions I ask people. I'm like, okay, who saw something interesting worth remembering today in their email, on the web, wherever? And everybody raises their hand. Everybody's like, yeah. Every day there's a bunch of chaff, but there's a whole bunch of really beautiful nuggets. And then the second question I ask is, who has a place they can put that URL where they will find it again? And it's groans and laughter and

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Gerry Scullion (28:31.883)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (28:38.302)

Hmm. Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (28:52.667)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (28:56.502)

gaffas and all that because very few people have any kind of good system and some people have like long word files or excel spreadsheets some people use different note ticky tools of different kinds exactly notion maybe they don't really work they don't really work you get lost and once you put a lot of things in i have 580 000 plus nodes or thoughts in my brain so if you if you do the

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Gerry Scullion (29:07.77)

Yeah, notion.

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Gerry Scullion (29:13.106)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (29:21.481)

WHAA-

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Jerry Michalski (29:26.694)

I do that not because I'm trying to create fresh content. I don't give a damn about fresh content, really, not in this context. I don't wanna put things in my brain that will screw up the namespace or make it less useful. So I'm not highly motivated to pour a bunch of meaningless things into the brain. So that means that every day I see 50 or 60 things worth remembering, right? And on the call just before, I learned of a biopic called critical thinking about a chess team from Miami.

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Gerry Scullion (29:32.17)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (29:38.119)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (29:42.417)

Sure.

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Gerry Scullion (29:46.237)

Wow.

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Jerry Michalski (29:55.222)

that did a bunch of stuff that I hadn't heard of. So when we're done, I'm gonna go back and hunt down that link which I already started putting in my brain, but I didn't have time to finish it. And I'll just kind of do a little bit of weaving and then step away and go back to what I wanna, you know, my a priority task. But I do that repeatedly, daily, just because it throws me into system two thinking, it burns the memory better into my wet brain, doing the manual labor of doing this crafting, right?

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Gerry Scullion (29:55.3)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (30:04.222)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (30:11.044)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (30:21.799)

Yeah.

‍

Hmm.

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Jerry Michalski (30:25.462)

I don't want some AI to be watching every conversation and everything I do every day and then not try to work my brain to actually take notes and rely on that AI to come back and say, oh yes, Jerry, here's what you need to know. I think we've got tools that are that good, but I think if we lose the connection to the data, it's going to be really bad.

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Gerry Scullion (30:30.25)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (30:38.079)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (30:45.818)

Yeah, as I'm looking through your brain here at the moment, if you don't think I don't think I've ever said that in my life before to anybody. What have you learned about the taxonomy of kind of storing information? And did you have at any point over the last 26 years regrets about structure? And if so, yeah, I'd love to know about that.

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Jerry Michalski (30:51.511)

Yay.

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Jerry Michalski (30:54.888)

I love that.

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Jerry Michalski (31:11.19)

So interesting. Great question. Sure. So first thing is, it is vividly present to me that I am not a taxonomist or an ontologist or a logician or any of those specialty areas where if they took a couple good glances at my brain, they'd be horrified to be like, oh my God, what the hell did Jerry do for 26 years? On the other hand, I find that the different ways that I've organized stuff haven't broken very much. I have a thought called lessons from using my brain.

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Gerry Scullion (31:22.132)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (31:40.466)

And one of the lessons is there's no black forest, dark, evil forest area in my brain. There's no part, there's no section in my brain where I'm like, I'm never going back in there. That's just too ugly. There are sections that are less well organized, like telecom gear. I don't think I did a good job of organizing telecom gear and I've never taken the time to go back. It's very easy to re to rejigger things in the brain. You can reorganize it pretty easily. So haven't really done that.

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Gerry Scullion (31:41.031)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (32:08.726)

And then wait, at the end you asked another really good question, which was, there was a

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Gerry Scullion (32:13.99)

was the regrets, I guess, of like the taxonomy and the structure.

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Jerry Michalski (32:17.406)

Regrets on taxonomy structure. Well, that's the no dark, no dark forest thing. Um, but, but one of the interesting lessons for me is there are some mind mapping tools that are basically, um, you do a database query for show me all books by authors and you get back a response that has books and authors, but it doesn't have editorial or commentary or anything like that is just a list of all the, all the books from all the authors. I put in all the stuff that you might think of as, as a feedback from a database.

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Gerry Scullion (32:20.953)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (32:34.836)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (32:45.698)

but then under it I put book reviews and, you know, I haven't read all the books that are in my brain by any measure at all, but I've read or skimmed a whole bunch of the reviews about books and movies and documentaries and all that. And then from that, I'll detect something and I'll connect that to the movie. And then a thought like, hey, assume good intent is one of my favorite ideas or thoughts, right? It's a foundation rule for Wikipedia, for open source software, and for some stuff that I'm working on.

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Gerry Scullion (32:52.702)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (33:01.682)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (33:12.295)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (33:13.914)

That's connected to a lot of things in the world and I have them explicitly connected to it That doesn't exist in many places and it's not overwhelming because of the way I've managed to if things get too crazy I create subcategories and in a particular way and it works just fine

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Gerry Scullion (33:20.086)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (33:33.314)

One of the pieces when I get to do design research for organizations, I love when the data starts to tell the story, when it starts to connect the dots. You know where I'm going with the next question. I can see you nodding already. Have you ever had that moment where you review your data and you see part of yourself being mirrored back? If so, are you okay to talk about learning about yourself?

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Jerry Michalski (33:47.182)

Mm-hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (34:03.274)

that you'd like to share.

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Jerry Michalski (34:05.446)

interesting you took a different turn than I thought you're going to take and your question and I like your question a lot. Let me go toward where I thought you were heading which was has using the brain led to insights along the way as you as you curated and the answer to that is yes and relatively frequently not like every day like oh my god aha but at one point I was trying to do Brian Arthur's positive returns basically increasing returns hypothesis and he hadn't written

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Gerry Scullion (34:08.746)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (34:16.906)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (34:24.767)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (34:34.77)

And so I connected it up to feedback loops. And then I realized, oh, wait a minute. I have basically the doom loops were sort of also in my brain under a different name. And I realized that what is a positive increasing returns to Microsoft when they figure out the office suite is a doom loop for all their competitors and that these things needed to be connected. That was, I hadn't thought about that in my wet brain and now I made it explicit in my external brain. So things like that happen a bunch.

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Gerry Scullion (34:52.65)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (35:00.177)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (35:03.614)

And then as evidence gathers, I suddenly realize, oh my God, this is a big deal. And I'll, I'll promote it somehow. Now I make my point of view on stuff and a whole lot of things pretty, pretty explicit in my brain. S so I think the awareness has been more about, well, is this just like a crazy obsession and why, why a little bit of what you asked earlier, which is why do this? Uh, and I am quite compelled to do this. Like.

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Gerry Scullion (35:26.303)

Mm.

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Gerry Scullion (35:29.886)

Hmm.

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Jerry Michalski (35:33.814)

the concept of learning something really cool and not tucking it in the brain where it seems to belong, irritates me, right?

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Gerry Scullion (35:44.662)

It yeah, it's funny because when I was asking the question, I was more in the attention and focus of where you're putting on your life. And I'd love to know how that feeds into your belief systems. So it's really rare to speak to someone like you who've managed to track it. You're like a massive design research project with half a million nodes of information. Yeah, pretty much. But what I want to know is

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Jerry Michalski (36:07.054)

from your lipstick odds ears.

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Gerry Scullion (36:13.642)

Have you ever had that moment where you actually know I'm putting an awful lot of attention and focus on areas that aren't really serving me.

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Jerry Michalski (36:22.946)

Um, it doesn't help that I'm curious about absolutely everything. So in my brain, some of those 580,000 thoughts are cocktail recipes, breeds of five, 580, um, uh, breeds of dog cocktail recipes, uh, movies and actors and all that kind of stuff, but then it turns out that everything is deeply intertwined goal. So there's not, there's not in some sense, a loss of that because the wandering around suddenly gives you new ideas and you start to figure out what it means, but then also.

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Gerry Scullion (36:26.536)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (36:30.15)

600,000. Wow. Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (36:42.462)

Hmm.

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Jerry Michalski (36:51.894)

The projects that I'm working on right now that I care about the most are projects about how do we do collective intelligence or hive mind or collaborative sense making. And to do that, I need an instrument or a body of work that tries to do that. So this brain that I'm curating is exactly in that space. And I've been sort of slowly pecking away at the hard questions of how do we compare notes online in a fruitful way?

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Gerry Scullion (36:59.626)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (37:11.115)

Hmm.

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Jerry Michalski (37:21.171)

And I gotta say that question is thornier than I thought it was going to be.

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Gerry Scullion (37:25.486)

Yeah. Tell me more about the stuff that you're working on at the moment, because it's come up a couple of times. Has this endeavor kind of led you down a path of either, I wouldn't say consulting, but just generally working in a space like this?

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Jerry Michalski (37:45.47)

So it's funny.

‍

there's not a particular strong demand for how to organize information or even how to think better. Although there's certainly huge demand for personal productivity. And like there's a whole bunch of people making a living trying to do productivity hacks or Ali Abedal and a bunch of others who found their groove testing stuff, recommending stuff, explaining stuff, all that kind of thing. Definitely there. But.

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Gerry Scullion (37:55.2)

Hmm.

‍

are huge.

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Gerry Scullion (38:03.487)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (38:09.941)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (38:12.598)

But in terms of how do, you know, critical dialogue and all that, there's little niche areas who care about debate and all that. And by the by, we are currently slipping into the post-truth world. We're already in it kind of. The next election cycle is nigh. In the US, it's very frightening to a lot of people. And a lot of it has to do with, what do we see happening in the world? Do we believe it's real? And how do we respond to it? And how do we build arguments around it and all that?

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Gerry Scullion (38:27.603)

Yep.

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Jerry Michalski (38:40.418)

So I think this work is actually important, but there's not strong demand for it. My major topic sort of in the last decade has been trust. And I gotta say, there's not people shopping for trust. There are people shopping for other things like innovation and creativity and leadership who don't understand that trust is probably their issue. So I've had to back myself into the issues that I care about a lot from other things that are more important. So...

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Gerry Scullion (38:50.634)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (39:00.66)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (39:07.743)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (39:08.446)

So the major topic in my head these days is this idea of rethinking constraints and trying to build new offers, new strategies, trying to figure out how to break limitations in order to transform industries, in order to liberate people from whatever constraint they had that's not very good. And I got there because in my history, I've found a lot of people over time who were doing that work over and over again in very specific and different industries.

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Gerry Scullion (39:12.862)

Yeah, I love that.

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Gerry Scullion (39:22.485)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (39:37.993)

Mm-hmm.

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Jerry Michalski (39:38.002)

Also, one of my professors in grad school was Russell Aikoff, who was one of the originators of systems thinking alongside too many men, frankly. But Aikoff was really known for sort of thinking outside the box, if I can use the old time worn cliche. And I'm realizing just recently, as I start to figure out how to explain this, how much that influenced me back in the day.

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Gerry Scullion (39:54.9)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (40:02.254)

Yeah, let's talk about rethinking constraints because those two words together are. Really powerful when you put them together, like, you know, what is it about constraints that attracts you? What is it about that?

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Jerry Michalski (40:17.77)

I think the most attractive part to me is that I started to see constraints that weren't obvious to other people. That there are invisible constraints to most of us and that what we believe dictates what we see or what we're willing to see or hear and that's a big piece of the puzzle. So for example, if you look at the world of advertising for example, we've normalized advertising. Advertising is the business model that fuels several of the world's most valuable corporations.

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Gerry Scullion (40:23.04)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (40:26.57)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (40:46.742)

If you take a frank look at advertising, you realize it involves a whole series of breaches of trust. You dumpster dive my data and suck up all my exhaust data and buy and sell my data behind my back with other people in order to perfect a portfolio to know me. Then you're going to apply a whole much of technology and expense to know me better than I know myself and my needs and desires and purchase patterns and all that. Then you're going to fill my world with ads and enticements.

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Gerry Scullion (40:46.791)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (40:52.201)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (41:10.291)

Hmm.

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Jerry Michalski (41:16.134)

So that I might buy the thing you want me to buy which may be a thing I don't actually even need that will make me poorer and worse off in different ways And we not only have normalized this and take it completely for granted But you the vendor want me to trust you At the end of that at the end of that thing that you're doing every day all the time and spending a lot of money on You expect me to trust you and I find it fascinating that we still sort of do, right?

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Gerry Scullion (41:24.548)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (41:34.844)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (41:42.183)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (41:45.878)

like Coke, Nike, whatever, you know, branding is a really big deal. But when you drop the veil, when you start to peel back and describe it in sort of a really simple way, it opens an opportunity for, hey, what would advertising look like that was actually trustworthy? What would a company that is deeply trustworthy look like? And I have a concept I call becoming someone's trusted ally. And it's an aspirational goal. I don't know any companies that are actually that trustworthy right now, maybe a couple.

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Gerry Scullion (41:49.215)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (42:01.567)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (42:09.215)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (42:16.17)

Howdy go in here, maybe.

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Jerry Michalski (42:17.643)

Patagonia tries really hard. I think they're way up there. Wikipedia, for example. The problem is that the profit motive causes most entities to have to do all of this stalking and poking and spying and extraction, exactly. And there's a bunch of really great authors out there who've written about the extractive economy and its problems. And I gotta say we haven't made our way past those rocks yet. We're still very much in those waters.

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Gerry Scullion (42:22.346)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (42:28.532)

Yeah.

‍

extraction.

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Gerry Scullion (42:42.186)

Hmm. Yeah. What about personal constraints? So we can talk about constraints as the structure. But when we talk about personal growth, you mentioned productivity and Abi Abdel and, you know, typically humans kind of gravitate towards the sense of comfortability and really pushing themselves out of the comfort zone. And what tends to happen there is where you meet constraint, you meet restrictions. Talk to me about

‍

how we can radically rethink that to enable growth.

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Jerry Michalski (43:16.398)

A big hunk of that, and I'm not gonna address the other hunks because it would take a long time, but a big hunk of that is just personal belief systems. And those are shaped by religion, culture, stories you heard, and maybe even by very explicit decisions to become a stoic, damn it. I love stoics, I love stoicism, I'm gonna become a stoic. And so you read Marcus Aurelius and whoever else, or you can become a libertarian, because damn it, that's the best set of ideas I can think of. And...

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Gerry Scullion (43:18.067)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (43:24.284)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (43:44.543)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (43:45.098)

As often as not, these ideas create blinkers or blinders for you. The whole personal productivity movement is seeing a bunch of people going, Whoa, I got, I went way deep down personal productivity. And I suddenly realized I wasn't enjoying anything because I was busy measuring everything and then, and then racing to complete something. So I could put more numbers on my personal board and that spoiled things. I started to not enjoy, you know, presence in the world and things like that. So I think.

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Gerry Scullion (43:49.822)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (43:58.004)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (44:12.342)

being aware of your assumptions and these belief systems that you've ascribed to, it's okay to have a belief system. I think they're really interesting and cool. I think they're equally dangerous because they create these constraints we then start to get blind to and we're not aware of. So one of the places I like to start is with, assume good intent, is there's a whole bunch of people who for good reasons think most people are kind of evil or dangerous and don't have good intent. And I think that

‍

Gerry Scullion (44:26.507)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (44:32.201)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (44:40.622)

I think the facts would bear me out that most humans just want to make things better. They want to be heard, they want to be liked, they want to do something that's meaningful.

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Gerry Scullion (44:44.85)

Yeah, 100%.

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Gerry Scullion (44:48.986)

Yeah, 100%. I'm with you on that. And that's my belief system as well. So yeah, go ahead.

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Jerry Michalski (44:53.382)

But let me take that one step further for a sec. So part of what opened up in my head over the last 20 years was that most of the systems we take for granted in our lives were designed for mistrust of the average person. They were designed for a world in which everybody could be a bad actor. So we must stop everybody from acting badly. So we bake into the design of the system and the rules around the system, ways to make sure nobody acts badly. And in doing so, we constrain the system such that people can no longer just

‍

release their genius into the space and be real humans with each other and take responsibility for the things that they see that need to get done because no, stay in your lane. You're not qualified to do this. It's not in your job description. All those kinds of things are also constraints.

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Gerry Scullion (45:40.586)

So what does that look like in terms of rethinking constraints? Because I know when we were chatting beforehand, you were talking about these two words when they come together, like, how can we rethink them if you're telling us that like society or belief systems are kind of compartmentalizing us into certain sections that we can and can't do. What is

‍

your thoughts on this as regards to rethinking? Is there a radical approach or something that we can share to our listeners to get their heads around this topic?

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Jerry Michalski (46:14.486)

There is, in fact. I'm inventing, actually it's all in my brain, and actually I'm some fledgling baby websites. So I'm inventing, it's still in the process of inventing a process called design from trust. Not design for trust, Joe Gaby of Airbnb did a TEDx talk called Design for Trust, and he talks about the size of the dialogue boxes when you enter why you want to stay in your apartment.

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Gerry Scullion (46:16.946)

It's on jerrysbrain.com

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Gerry Scullion (46:29.522)

Okay.

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Gerry Scullion (46:35.178)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (46:41.042)

I have to tell you a story of why I'm coming to town. And if I make the dialogue box too small, you won't tell me enough. If I make it too big, you'll give me TMI and I'll be like, God, this guy sounds like a stalker. I don't want him staying here. So that's what he was looking for. That's not at all what I mean by design from trust. I actually mean designing system services, processes, software, whatever, from an assumption of good intent. And then you start to flip the model. And my favorite example here is Wikipedia.

‍

Gerry Scullion (46:57.386)

Yeah.

‍

Gerry Scullion (47:04.394)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (47:10.186)

which almost everybody has touched in some sense, right? And I ask people, do you remember the time when you suddenly realized how Wikipedia works? That any idiot on the planet could change any page on Wikipedia. Then I tell the story of how Wikipedia was born, which is it was not called Wikipedia, it was the newpedia. And Jimmy Wales hired Larry Sanger, and then they contracted 80 or so experts to try to build out geography, mathematics, whatever. And after 18 months of struggle with a seven layer editorial process to build a free encyclopedia,

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Gerry Scullion (47:10.602)

Hmm. Yeah.

‍

Gerry Scullion (47:21.471)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (47:40.042)

a reasonable design process, they had like 20 pages done. In the meantime, somebody had exposed them to Wikis, which Ward Cunningham, who is also a Portland resident here, invented, because he wanted to build quick group websites. So they said to their editors, don't worry, your contracts are still safe, but we've put this Wiki thing over there and there's no seven layer editorial process because Wikis don't work that way. There's this other thing, which is, I would call it, designed from trust, because Wikis...

‍

Gerry Scullion (48:04.585)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (48:09.97)

say, anybody can come in and make a change because reverting the change is easy. And what we really want is for you to come in and play so that we can socialize together, socialize you into our process to make fruitful pages together. And unfortunately, Wikipedia ate the wiki space largely. We're not, you and I don't think of collaborating through a wiki, but there was a moment 15 years ago when I thought we would be. And I think that software took a bit of a wrong turn maybe that where we're not collaborating actively by creating shared documents like that.

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Gerry Scullion (48:14.858)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (48:33.468)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (48:39.97)

But that's one example that's at hand for most people because most everybody's at least looked something up in Wikipedia. And of those, I think a large majority were curious enough to figure out how the thing works. And it's a lovely example of design from trust.

‍

Gerry Scullion (48:47.392)

Mm-hmm.

‍

Gerry Scullion (48:52.522)

Yeah.

‍

Talk to me about trust because most people will have, they'll understand what we're talking about when we're saying trust, but I want to understand the characteristics that are associated in your world. How would you define trust?

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Jerry Michalski (49:11.494)

So trust is kind of expectations around somebody else's behavior, the confident expectation that you're going to do something. There are a couple dozen different trust models. One really simple one separates affective trust from intellectual trust, which is on the one hand, do I think you're capable of doing the thing you are promising or threatening to do right now? And that's just the

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Gerry Scullion (49:38.419)

Mm-hmm.

‍

Jerry Michalski (49:40.894)

And do I think you have my best interests at heart? And those two things are separable. You can trust somebody, even though you think they make idiot decisions, because you think they have your best interests at heart and will eventually look out for your best interests, et cetera. So trust, every time you kind of poke at it someplace at different levels, a societal level down to personal or family level, it just unpacks more and more like an onion, right? And so I think the problem is that we have a bunch of preconceptions around trust.

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Gerry Scullion (49:46.076)

Yeah.

‍

Gerry Scullion (49:59.519)

Hmm.

‍

Gerry Scullion (50:03.967)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (50:10.91)

And I think because if you watch too much local news, you'll be pretty sure that nobody out on the street is trustworthy, because all local news mostly shows you is stories of tragedy and difficulty in your neighborhood. And I was like, how's that gonna work? So as you move forward into trust, I think you have to A, start to understand the models around it and the practice of it, but B, you have to do some introspection. You have to look at your own behaviors and whether...

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Gerry Scullion (50:11.123)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (50:18.812)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (50:24.214)

Sure.

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Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (50:39.874)

they engender trust or weaken trust over time. And this can be personally or organizationally, for example. And that's a piece of what you would walk through.

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Gerry Scullion (50:45.951)

Yeah.

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So would I be right in saying that one of the things that you would encourage then is discussions around understanding and creating an alignment around what trust looks like to start from that point. So one of the things this is kind of like a completely lateral topic. I was watching some 80s movies and a lot of the baddies in those movies were Russian. And there was an area and then it was like.

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Jerry Michalski (50:59.026)

Absolutely. Yes.

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Jerry Michalski (51:14.396)

Mm-hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (51:16.714)

the Libyans and back to the future. And it kind of goes through these cycles around, you know, topics within movies and how they actually perpetuate fear into society. And that really has a knock on effect, I believe anyway, into how we trust people who might be seen as different. What are the things that you encourage young people or old people, whoever it is, to

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align on that definition of trust. The things that people can do, because if I speak to my mum, who's 83, nearly 84, she'll have a completely different belief system around certain topics. Whereas if I speak to my 15 year old niece, she's got a completely different perspective view. So I'd love to know with the benefit of hindsight that you've tracked for 26 years, all of this data that's in there, how...

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Jerry Michalski (51:58.583)

Mm-hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (52:14.014)

we can link those three things together as regard understanding and alignment and trust. Or do we even need to have to do this?

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Jerry Michalski (52:21.186)

complicated question. Trust is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you approach people with suspicion believing if your worldview is that people are born evil and that most people will take advantage of your do-you-harm if given the you know and the vaguest opportunity to do so and then you meet a stranger

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Gerry Scullion (52:22.687)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (52:27.132)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (52:34.718)

Hmm.

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Jerry Michalski (52:44.434)

and that's in your head, that's kind of your belief system, you're very likely to say or do things that indicate your mistrust. That is very likely to win you at least skepticism and distance, and maybe not trust in your direction, but maybe even the bad behavior you're fearing. It's kind of spirals down. When you start looking downward, it spirals downward. When you look at people and assume good intent and say, ah, you said something that I might've interpreted as an insult, but I think we just didn't understand each other, can you tell me more?

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Gerry Scullion (52:56.116)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (53:13.77)

and to be curious and sort of inclusive, that can spiral upward. Doesn't always. And there are a few people at the end of the distribution who are in fact just looking to con you or do whatever else, and you have to be alert. There's a little linguistic distinction I really like between being defenseless or being undefended. And my sport is Aikido, so it's a Japanese self-defense art, right? Which is not, it's not an aggressive art. It's a, I love this art.

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Gerry Scullion (53:35.839)

Mm-hmm.

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I know Aikido.

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Jerry Michalski (53:43.358)

And when you're defenseless, it means you couldn't defend yourself if attacked. When you're undefended, it means you'd be perfectly fine defending yourself, but you've chosen to lay down your arms to shake hands, to wave, which are old gestures to show I'm not holding a weapon. Uh, right. And being undefended is a, is a nice second step behind assume good intent. Which means you don't need to be naive and defenseless. You should figure out what the world might look like.

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Gerry Scullion (53:59.847)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (54:07.388)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (54:12.738)

but walk into the world looking up and looking for the best in people. And I gotta tell you, I've done a whole bunch of reunions where I bring people together that I look up to and I tell everybody, hey, like the people who are in this room, like I think are pretty awesome and well-intentioned and that the conversation just builds and moves upward from there because people are already looking into the room with that expectation.

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Gerry Scullion (54:13.226)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (54:32.138)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (54:37.026)

Yeah, it's funny when you're talking, I can hear so much sense making happening around communities because within the Human Centered Design Network, we have our own private community and we launched it a couple of months ago. There's about a hundred and something people in there and a lot of the people in there, we obviously all follow a similar belief system and there's a lot of sharing and trust and you know, we kind of talk to each other like equals and it's lovely.

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When you transfer that kind of belief system or you try and explore it out there in society and you see the likes of Fox News in America and they perpetuate all of these narratives that aren't really serving the best for the world. What can we do like as human centered designers to really challenge those narratives to ensure that we're giving ourselves the best chance of succeeding through the next.

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God knows how many years. So what are the things that people can do? Do you turn the TV off? Do you watch the news? Walk me through those practical things that you believe we could probably do more of.

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Jerry Michalski (55:47.126)

Yeah, that's sort of one of the questions of the hour, because this isn't just about the US election this November. This is about the global shift to the far right. This is about the post-truth world. This is about a bunch of different things that don't seem to be working well societally. And the default setting for where we're headed right now is pretty negative. I think that unless we make some big changes, the next 20 years don't look really very, very good.

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Gerry Scullion (55:55.783)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (56:10.185)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (56:15.626)

positive.

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Jerry Michalski (56:17.534)

it's very interesting. And so one of the things I've discovered, much though I love sense-making and facts and trying to express ideas more concisely and all of that, I think that membership and emotion trump reason most of the time and stories are the vehicle or the vessel.

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So on the one hand, I think that like a well-told story will actually have more traction than cleanly presented facts. But then next to that is the person you're trying to communicate with, they need to feel heard or seen. Whatever, whatever, whatever their point of view was, you're not going to get any place. If you think or if you call them evil or whatever, if you start from a negative place, they're just not going to hear you. And I'm concerned because

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a lot of people in the world right now that have really kind of crazy radical ideas that don't appear to be separable from those ideas. But I have a strange optimism that many people can actually sort of melt into being more normal humans over time and come back into society because the alternative, you know, one of the things that's happening on the left is way too much ab reaction to this behavior.

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Gerry Scullion (57:28.714)

Hmm.

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Jerry Michalski (57:38.434)

that turns into cancel culture and a bunch of other things that cause what they are trying to prevent. And it's like, you know, if you're going to strike back, you actually need to be a little more absorbent and understanding in order to open up these conversations, because we really need a whole mess of people coming back into relationship and figuring out how to govern together.

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Gerry Scullion (57:41.747)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (58:05.755)

in order to face some of the other things that we ought to be spending more attention on.

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Gerry Scullion (58:10.822)

Yeah, it's creating that commonality and that shared kind of belief and being able to work together like listeners of long time listeners of this podcast know that I'm a huge YouTube fan and I'm listening to Bono's long audio autobiography or audio book, whatever you want to call it. And he talks about getting into the room with Bush and.

‍

talking about, you know, going back to the band and they're like, what do you do? And like, you know, and he was like, well, if I really want to make the change, I need to find that common piece where we can actually discuss work towards that single point and ignoring all the other pieces. Like, that's the one piece of commonality that we have that shared perspective. And he worked so hard to do it. And like, you know, they actually became quite close.

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and won't spoil the rest of the book for you, but it was a really eye opening piece. And it's one of the things that I think we carry forward in all our lives, you know, rather than just discounting people for thinking differently, really finding the commonality so we can align, you know. What's next for you, because I know you're a big community you run Rex, is that still happening?

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Jerry Michalski (59:24.11)

Totally agree.

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Jerry Michalski (59:32.142)

So REX, I started in 2010. And in retrospect, I think it would be called a mastermind group. And I went out and recruited people. So I made a living from that for several years, exploring the relationship economy ideas that I came up with. And I also discovered that people are quite familiar with the attention economy and the experience economy, which are two ideas that I don't really like. But I've never written a book on the relationship economy. And I discovered that I would say, oh, I, you know.

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Gerry Scullion (59:35.751)

Yeah.

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Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (59:46.687)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (59:52.042)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (01:00:01.574)

I run a group around the relationship economy and I would get like a, people would cock their head like the dog that hears its master voice talking, but doesn't know exactly what the words meant. And I had to explain a lot. And it took me a few years to figure out that the through thread was trust. And so more recently, if you ask me, what do I do, I study trust in different ways. But then as I said early in this particular call, nobody's out there shopping for trust in particular. So you've got to figure out.

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Gerry Scullion (01:00:09.375)

Hehehe

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Gerry Scullion (01:00:15.09)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (01:00:20.723)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (01:00:30.15)

what is the result they need? What is the thing we're trying to fix or do or get done? For which trust might be an answer, but what is the presenting problem and how do you address that? So the thing I'm doing now is I'm getting myself back on the speaking circuit. I've done a whole mess of speaking in my life, but I'm an older white guy and I was like, you know, this is time and room for lots of other people instead of me to be on panels and on stage. And at this point in the last little bit, I've like.

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Gerry Scullion (01:00:33.994)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (01:00:39.466)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (01:00:46.259)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (01:00:54.175)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (01:00:57.73)

but I have a lot of things that I would love to say that might actually make a difference. So I'm sort of harnessing the horse again and getting back into that.

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Gerry Scullion (01:01:05.094)

Yeah, absolutely. You've got so much to talk about, Jerry. But on that point, Rex was the meeting point for Mike and Dave Gray and the two of them coming together. Um, I won't, if they're either listening, they're probably like, that's not right, Jerry, but basically liminal thinking. The book happened after the meeting and, you know, Mike runs liminal coaching.

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And, you know, Dave's gone on to do wonderful stuff. And a lot of the stuff that we've spoken there and belief systems and attention and focus, there's a lot of correlation between the work that Dave did for Liminal Thinking. So if you are interested in further reading that, I do recommend Liminal Thinking with Dave. It's a great one. But one of the pieces and probably one of the last questions, Jerry.

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with the benefit of hindsight as regards to recs and bringing it together as you call it a mastermind. What was the key piece, the key kind of thing that you took out of that whole kind of endeavor when you're bringing people together? What's the thing that we need to still it down that you can take away from it as a learning?

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Jerry Michalski (01:02:22.574)

It feels to me like my career is one long sequence of distillation or digestion or metabolization events, and that each of these is a stage. And the relationship economy thesis and idea are still really fruitful and useful, but they were kind of a step for me on finding my way to trust and finding my way to other sorts of things, which is why rethinking constraints feels really natural right now, because...

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Gerry Scullion (01:02:32.223)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (01:02:45.002)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (01:02:50.238)

I think my approach has been to see stuff that other people weren't noticing and then reframe the current context in a way that generated new actions or liberated people to do different sorts of things. So I think that's a big common thread and the lessons are that, well, the lessons are the things I'm trying to distill into a point of view about all this, which is, hey,

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Gerry Scullion (01:03:03.094)

Sure.

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Gerry Scullion (01:03:09.739)

Hmm.

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Jerry Michalski (01:03:17.526)

People are more trustworthy than we think they are, so assume good intent. Working openly is the only way we're actually gonna figure out how to solve things together. If we don't do that, things end pretty poorly. And doing that is difficult. It's challenging, but so is hard fun.

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Gerry Scullion (01:03:20.308)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (01:03:27.327)

Hmm.

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Gerry Scullion (01:03:31.338)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (01:03:35.338)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (01:03:38.758)

Yeah, absolutely. And this work generally working to design better products or services or societies or governments, whatever that might be. When you put human at the center of it and you try and work that way, it is much harder. It's it's it is hard work to do this stuff. So that's one of the points that we want to, I guess, kind of end on a little bit more. What?

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Jerry Michalski (01:04:04.886)

I don't know if that's such an upbeat point to end on, but I agree entirely.

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Gerry Scullion (01:04:08.51)

Probably not an upbeat point to end on, but what would be an upbeat point to end on, Jerry, would be putting links to your work. OK, because we can link directly to your brain. Dun, dun, dun. App dot the brain. Yeah. And we'll do Jerry's brain dot com as well. But you mentioned that you're doing some speaking. So is there a newsletter or a website or a LinkedIn or something that where people can stay up to date with all the stuff that you're doing?

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Jerry Michalski (01:04:23.595)

Love that.

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Jerry Michalski (01:04:37.458)

So if you connect with me on LinkedIn, I'm easy to find, first name, last name, first name, dot last name, I think is my LinkedIn ID. I just mentioned that you listen to the podcast because I get a lot of no comments sort of links and I try not to overdo that because my network is important to me. I have jerrymichalski.com, which I am rebuilding entirely right now. So what you'll see is a very simple kind of placeholder site talking about the Cyborg future, but not a lot of mention of this other thesis.

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Gerry Scullion (01:04:49.246)

Yeah, people.

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Gerry Scullion (01:04:53.669)

Yeah, absolutely.

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Gerry Scullion (01:04:59.689)

Yeah.

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Gerry Scullion (01:05:03.988)

Yeah.

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Jerry Michalski (01:05:06.206)

And then I also have desi So if you wanna learn more about design from trust, you can go there. There's a couple posts and my TEDx talk is in there as well.

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Gerry Scullion (01:05:11.475)

Okay, keep an eye on that.

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Gerry Scullion (01:05:17.046)

Very good, Jerry. I end every episode by thanking the guests for their honesty and their vulnerability and just coming on the show and literally letting me kind of go left and right like a like a sort of an unarmed boxer swinging, trying to get some good juice out of the guests. You've given us so much to think about. So I really appreciate you giving me the time and the energy and the focus.

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to really answer a lot of these questions. Thank you so much.

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Jerry Michalski (01:05:47.446)

It's been a giant pleasure and now I'm really motivated to go to Ireland, so beware.

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Gerry Scullion (01:05:52.261)

You gotta come over here. Gotta come over here. There's more to it than goodness.

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Jerry Michalski (01:05:56.909)

Love that.

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Gerry Scullion (01:05:59.494)

So I'll stop here.

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John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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