Please, let's not offload our brains.

Here are some words written eight years ago:

"We are so deep into the 1s and 0s, the ons and offs, of the digital age that we have become resistant to imprecision. If it isn't in the data field, it doesn't exist. If it isn't in the inventory record, there is no point in schlepping to the storeroom to see if something was returned or recently delivered. If a mapping app gets us lost, we are powerless to navigate by our environment. In endless ways, now, we want an application to provide control over our moments rather than mustering our own response to them. We are outsourcing our very selves."

Now AI rushes at us, potentially speeding up the process of our offloading our brains.

In all areas of personal and vocational life, we are combating disorder, disarray, and dysfunction--not by experimenting, evaluating, and evolving--but by ordering, organizing, reorganizing, programming what already exists, and occasionally absconding with what others worked to develop rather than doing the needed, creative, executive-thinking level work. Our problem is that fewer people do the messy, imprecise, and creative work that benefits others. The disincentives are becoming more numerous. The drive to do so is diminishing. The desire for discovery is disappearing. And yet, it is in the frontier, those unmapped places, where disruptive technologies, processes, or services are made. Someone has to do the guessing, experimenting, and launching. Someone has to have the desire to try, permission to fail, and the driving sense of purpose to keep trying until breakthroughs are made. Future successful executive leaders come from this population of disciplined creatives. Unfortunately, we are developing fewer such leaders, and even fewer of them well.

Here is a recent illustration showing how quickly the technology offload of our brains can happen. I recently completed writing an article on which I'd labored for a while. I then asked an AI engine (not to be named here) to write a similar piece. I then asked the AI engine to make the writing more artful. Then, to make it more condensed. The almighty AI did all that in seconds.

My article, written for a specific context, was ultimately more suitable. The AI article said everything right, but it read like a general information piece for a business blog. Would I have written the article more quickly had I used the AI engine from the beginning and then shaped it to the context? Perhaps, yes. And most certainly a yes in the future. My experiment, however, was not comparing which article read better or which route was the most efficient. Instead, I wanted to check in about what was happening with my brain and body. The minute I shifted to AI, I moved from being a creator who used heart, soul, mind, and strength to fashion my writing. I became an editor, shaping an entity's writing for my audience. A great big chunk of me went into instant hibernation. I began functioning with just half of my brain. Creativity gave way to responding to a digital authority.

As a people, we are drawing further and further inward, venturing outdoors less, and wrapping ourselves in ever tighter predictable, and controlled technological cocoons. Our love for all things digital reduces our interest and capacity to respond to the rich mosaic of personalities and cultures. We stop engaging in religion, civics, and general neighborliness. Some might argue with me here, pointing to the increasing tolerance of modern society. But, let's observe that ignoring differences instead of being irritated by and then struggling to bridge them, is a step further away from human engagement rather than a step toward it.

The need to lead through imprecision to new possibilities and future value will not go away, and we cannot expect that people will come to us fully developed to do so. More than ever, we have to steer the learning of potential successors, not just to preserve our enterprise for the future, but to make sure there is a future we and our grandchildren's grandchildren want to live in.

This blog post comes to you via technology, so no Luddite sentiment is behind these observations. The hope is that if you read this far, you have a cup of coffee in your hand--that you will share this post with a colleague or friend along with an invitation to conversation, perhaps even some debate.

When you have that conversation, I suggest responding to at least one of the following two questions -- out loud, in the presence of someone, and intending to follow through.

  • What next step will I take to allow, value, and preserve imprecise space in my life so I don't amputate my creative problem-solving ability?
  • Who brings benefit to my life that I have been ignoring, and how will I work to restore and strengthen that relationship?

The creative space of life that benefits the world is a messy recipe. So is a good homemade pie. Grandma wore an apron and embraced the messy love her grandchildren still speak of. Let's be more like her, kneading the flour, presiding over the kitchen, and serving up love. Let's be less like wetware pressed into the service of technology.

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- Mark L. Vincent


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About The Third Turn Podcast & Maestro-level leaders:

With each episode of the Third Turn Podcast, we host a conversation among leaders who want the world to flourish for generations beyond their lifetimes.

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The Third Turn Podcast is part of the Maestro-level leaders initiative, a production of Design Group International. Strategically Connected's Jennifer Miller is the producer.

Mark L. Vincent
Post by Mark L. Vincent
May 16, 2023
I walk alongside leaders, listening to understand their challenges, and helping them lead healthy organizations that flourish.