Right brain overthrows left brain

“New Right” Manifesto

Our economy and society are transitioning from an information age based on logical, linear, computer-like abilities to a conceptual age, where the economy and society are built on creative thinking, empathy, and holistic abilities.

Daniel Pink’s new book is despairing – if his predictions come true, it means that China, which is currently celebrating its coronation as the new “world factory,” is unknowingly falling to the bottom of the world food chain. Those of us who have been well-trained in left-brain thinking will be enslaved by those who are leisurely right-brained, working like cattle and horses, unable to turn over.

This is not sensationalism – the era of computer programmers who write code, lawyers who draft agreements, and MBAs who crunch data has passed (at least in the United States), and the future will belong to those with different thinking (such as artists, inventors, designers, architects, consultants). Our economy and society are moving from an Information Age based on logical, linear, computer-like abilities to a Conceptual Age where the economy and society are built on creative thinking, empathy and global abilities.

All this is happening and coming on strong.

The left brain is a fox and the right brain is a hedgehog

Until recently, most people still believed that the two hemispheres of the brain were not only separate but also had a hierarchy – the left hemisphere was the crucial half, rational, analytical and logical, meeting all human expectations for the brain and determining what it means to be human. The right brain only played a supplementary role. It had no language ability and was unbalanced and instinctual. It was a natural-born organ that had become outdated and degenerated.

The rise of right-brain research has only been in the last 20 years. However, research in this field is being carried out on an unprecedented scale and depth worldwide: The World Health Organization launched a “Decade of the Brain” campaign in 1995 to promote brain science research and improve human quality of life; The U.S. Congress has approved “Brain Research Decade” as law; The European Union has also developed a “Brain Research Program”; Japan and Russia have also organized manpower to strengthen research on right-brain function.

The right brain is increasingly valued: The left brain focuses on a single answer while the right brain extends to gestalt perception. The left brain focuses on classification while the right brain focuses on connections. The left brain captures details while the right brain sees the big picture. As described in ancient Greek fables, the left brain is a fox while the right brain is a hedgehog – foxes know many things while hedgehogs know one big thing. Left-brain thinking used to be like driving while right-brain thinking was like being a passenger. Now things have changed and right-brain thinking has suddenly taken control of the steering wheel and accelerator pedal, deciding where we are going and how we are going.

There are already extremists who want to abandon their left brains. Japanese educator Shichida Shin said: “Left-brain memory is an inferior memory that quickly forgets whatever it remembers. Right-brain memory is amazing because it has the ability to ‘never forget.’ The ratio of these two memories is simply 1:1000000. Left-brain memory can’t compare with right-brain memory.” Former U.S. President Clinton actively promoted a “right-brain storm” from his inauguration and it has been proven that during his tenure, the U.S. economy achieved strong growth that has been rare in recent decades.

How the right brain overthrew the left brain

Looking back on our childhoods, we were all taught to be “useful to society.” What does “useful” mean? Growing up, we have gone through thousands of exams, either multiple choice questions testing our logic and analytical abilities and requiring us to choose the only verified answer, or essay questions requiring us to conform as much as possible to the standard answer. If you are lucky enough to pass, congratulations, you will become a so-called “knowledge elite,” entering white-collar society and becoming middle class.

In the 20th century, machines were proven to replace human physical labor. In the 21st century, many new technologies have proven to replace human left brains. Material abundance, the rise of Asia and the prevalence of automation have made contemporary civilization surpass the “efficiency first” values of the industrial civilization era. Aesthetic and imaginative experiential values are increasingly valued and the shift from left brain to right brain is a major trend.

These transformations are reflected in: social form, from a “demand society” to an “affluent society”; survival philosophy, from traditional Western metaphysics back to Eastern aestheticism, from rationalism back to sensibility; production methods, from digital to experiential, from technology to emotion; lifestyle, from efficiency to satisfaction, from function to beauty, from usefulness to entertainment. And these are all strengths of the right brain.

Those who rely on their left brains for a living are in danger. If your job can be done faster, better and cheaper by a computer, why wouldn’t an employer hire a computer instead? Chess genius Kasparov’s brain can calculate one to three moves per second while an ordinary computer can calculate 200 to 300 million moves per second! But even the most genius computer can’t produce beautiful poetry, pleasing music or timeless paintings. Can it understand human needs and desires? Right-brain talents are beginning to be valued as scarce resources in society. In the UK, Unilever employs painters, poets and comic book writers among its staff to inspire others. A football club in north London even has its own full-time poet.

Whether a product is good or not is up to the right brain

Indeed, it is the left brain that has made us rich. But in an age of material abundance, satisfying only logical rationality and functional needs is far from enough. This product must also be beautiful, unique and interesting, meeting “aesthetic needs.” As Andrew Delbanco of Columbia University put it: “The most striking feature of contemporary culture is its relentless pursuit of excellence.” In a popular American drama series, a thief breaks in and steals an electric coffee pot designed by Philippe Starck and several pairs of Gucci leather shoes from the male protagonist’s home – you see, even thieves’ hearts can be moved by functional but simply designed items.

Innovative appearance design is a magic wand that can continuously create profits. Statistics from the American Industrial Designers Society show that for every dollar invested in industrial design in the United States, sales revenue will increase by $2,500; statistics from Hitachi Corporation in Japan show that for every increase of 100 billion yen in sales revenue, industrial design accounts for 51% while technological transformation accounts for only 12%. The creative industry centered on product design has become the focus of competition between countries. British analyst John Hawkins estimates that Britain’s creative industry generates about $200 billion annually and he further estimates that this industry’s global output will reach $6.1 trillion over the next 15 years.

Apple founder Steve Jobs told the industry early on that IT companies’ main battleground in the future would not be in laboratories but in consumers’ right brains and left atria; technology products should not be high above waiting for customers to learn humbly but should participate in consumers’ lives and excite them with imagination and creation. Pleasing the right brain means pleasing the soul; experience economy means right brain economy.

Where have all of China’s right brains gone?

Once upon a time, the Chinese were considered the most developed race in the world in terms of visual thinking. Precisely because of the outstanding expressiveness of Chinese in terms of visual thinking and other aspects, some Westerners have rated it as the language closest to God. Traditional Western writing is read and written from left to right, exercising the left brain, while traditional Chinese is read and written from right to left, exercising the right brain. While Westerners have long known that humans think with their “brains,” Chinese have always believed that humans think with their “hearts.” In this way, Westerners are good at logical thinking and thus their left brains are under too much pressure. Technological progress cannot enhance people’s happiness and may even reduce it. Easterners are good at sudden enlightenment and their right brains are always in a state of high pleasure. However, their left brain memory banks have never been well organized, so happy Easterners have suffered from Western guns.

However, especially after the liberation of China’s education system reform, immature visual thinking gave way to immature logical thinking, training a group of left-brain talents who only follow rules and lack adaptability and creativity. Especially in the “duck-stuffing” rote memorization of exam-oriented education, the left brain that masters language, logical analysis and digital processing is constantly strengthened, while the right brain responsible for visual thinking is idle. As a result, the higher the education level, the lower the right brain ability.

Nothing kills human creativity more than college entrance exams and standard answers. In 1998, a provincial college entrance examination essay question was “Perseverance – The Character I Pursue,” and tens of thousands of candidates began with the formulaic idea of “Growing up alone since childhood with both parents dead and bearing the heavy responsibility of family.” Knowledge acquisition should be “in progress” rather than “completed,” but the existence of college entrance exams and standard answers will only make people treat all knowledge as completed and only care about “standard answers.” Students’ thinking becomes more and more convergent while their imagination withers.

Of all standardization, the standardization of education is the most unforgivable. In China alone, the large-scale adjustment of faculties and departments in the 1950s resulted in the marginalization of humanities and social sciences in university teaching systems and discipline settings. Architecture, which has strong humanistic connotations and brings beauty to people, was incorporated into science and engineering. No wonder some people say that Chinese architects design houses that can’t be seen but can only be lived in. High school students are divided into arts and sciences classes, with arts students not loved by their mothers or fathers. Politicians and business stars are all science and engineering majors. Generation after generation repeats the left-brain education model and right-brain talents are strangled – of course, this can’t really be blamed on anyone. Since the rise of Western industrial civilization hundreds of years ago, this has been the trend of the whole world.

China is not short of million-selling book writers, Oscar red carpet movie stars or commercial artists priced at tens of millions. What is shameful is that not only have none of China’s more than one billion people won a Nobel Prize to date, but in the past 30 years, China has never produced a truly world-class literary or artistic master. The economic miracle has proven that China’s left brains are extremely successful while its right brains are shameful. It is said that artists like Xu Bing and Tan Dun have shown extraordinary and high-quality right-brain qualities, but unfortunately they are not popular in their homeland because they are “too non-standardized.”

Link: Sina

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