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David Amerland
Author, Speaker, Analyst.
Author, Speaker, Analyst.


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How We Think

There's more to this than just this loop but you begin to see the process. And yes, before you ask, intelligence and cognition are two different things. Intelligence is the abstraction that powers us, think of it as thinking about thinking, while cognition is a series of processes that are activated due to existing conditions (thoughts, ideas, knowledge etc) and circumstances to lead to an outcome.

To make this a little harder, Cognition feeds back into Intelligence and vice versa. :)

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Bennie Has Skillz!

After a hard morning's fighting off green-skinned lizard invaders a High-Five is just reward. :)

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Precuing your mind

A mind that fails to prepare is truly preparing to fail. Precuing alerts us at a subliminal level and we end up making great use of resources. #thesnipermind

h/t snipernaut +Zara Altair
Seeing What You Don't See
Visual precuing, training the brain, and my 2 cents

In The Sniper Mind +David Amerland takes a look at how snipers train to hide themselves by looking for ways to feed the brain of the observer the information it expects to see or disrupting the flow of information so the brain does not see what it should.

Visual precuing is training the brain to see by giving it an instance of a pattern that can then be recognized in a different situation.

The simple experiment is to stand on the ground and toss a penny over your shoulder. Then try to find the penny. Usually, the penny is difficult to spot and requires some searching.

To speed up the process, you can toss a second penny in front of you, notice it on the ground, and scan again for the penny tossed over your shoulder. Once you've seen the penny in front of you, the first tossed penny is easier to spot.

My results were a bit skewed. I tossed the penny over my shoulder. Because it was new it shone out from the rough ground. But then, continuing on with the experiment, I tossed the penny in front of me. It bounced and went... somewhere. I didn't see it.

I turned around looked at the first penny, got the image in my mind, turned again and immediately saw the second penny hidden in the leaves. The precuing worked. (Just not exactly as expected.)

First image - the over-the-shoulder penny.
Second image - the tossed-in-front penny.

Can you spot them?

The Sniper Mind p.46
2 Photos - View album

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It's not what you are made to do that changes you. It's what you make yourself do.

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Apt Accompaniment

I am still partially away from here on a short break. I am using the time to do some heavy writing and thinking. Total Eclipse of the Heart has been with me in one form or another since 1983 ( Today, of all days, with the American eclipse ( it coming on my phone (set to play random) seemed the perfect choice.

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The Neural Signature of Bravery

Lord Byron, in his poem The Isles of Greece ( famously wrote:

Must we but weep o'er days more blest?
Must we but blush?—Our fathers bled.
Earth! render back from out thy breast
A remnant of our Spartan dead!
Of the three hundred grant but three,
To make a new Thermopylae!

The Spartans were the result of history's earliest example of eugenics and state-wide military culture. The result is not so much in the breeding of great warriors as in the rewiring of the brain to perform uncharacteristically brave under pressure.

Doesn't mean the Spartans weren't scary dudes. They were very scary actually.

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When a disabled man drowned we found out about it when the video of his death surfaced on social media ( More shocking perhaps is the realization that frequently, when we fail to do what is human and decent, there are few laws to compel us to.

We live in a world that is paradoxical. It is increasingly polarized just as it becomes more infused with information. It is increasingly transparent just as we realize that there are limits to what transparency can do when there is no mechanism of accountability.

In the world’s transparency index ( the countries that consistently score well, unsurprisingly, are also the ones that top the world’s happiness index: Who wouldn’t want to feel happy in a country where the government is responsive to the needs of its people, every politician is held directly accountable and everything done is communicated well in a way that helps establish relationships and build trust.

Unsurprisingly (again) the world’s trust index which ranks countries in terms of the trust their citizens feel towards each other and the institutions that govern them, the countries that top it appear to overlap with the world’s happiest countries and the world’s most transparent ones:

It’s a no-brainer. The overlap between transparency, accountability, happiness and trust (and you can read these four ingredients in any order you like) is so obvious that obviously we have never really thought of legislating for qualities we all strive for. Or rather we should all strive for. Until now.

The key is data. Not because it allows us to see just what works but also what doesn’t: In the past, living trapped inside our own minds, housed in bodies that were trapped by locale and geography, we couldn’t aspire to anything beyond our own survival. We couldn’t try for anything beyond the small, achievable moments of our own happiness. The world was too ponderous and too imperfect in its connectivity for any one individual to do anything about. The inertia was too large to overcome. The task itself momentous.

But we don’t live in that world any more. We now see what happens in India ( like it was occurring in the street outside our own house. We can see what happens when a man is stopped in a ‘routine’ traffic stop as if we were there: We have data that correlates the intangible (such as trust) with the tangible (such as crime) - And we begin to understand that while there is no legislature or laws or guidelines helping us be human, helping be better there are laws and regulations that frequently help us be the exact opposite:

It seems insane that we would legislate against our own better nature but find it difficult to legislate for it. There is a reason for that. We expect things to be better than they are: because to expect otherwise is to descend into cognitive dissonance ( of the kind that soaks up mental and physical resources we usually do not have. So, we hope that the world is kinder than it is, better than it is, more responsive than it is. And, incredibly enough, by and large, this hope pans out.

We are willing to trust strangers, for instance, ( because we project in that act our own willingness for the world to be better ( We all want to live in a better world and we hope it will come about naturally.

In that expectation we are half right. Our own hope and projection, applied widely enough, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People appear to be mostly good. And mostly kind. Which then makes moments like the unnecessary drowning of a disabled man all that much more jarring. So, what gives?

Here’s the thing. We may not have evolved to be anything beyond what our own tribes accepted as necessary to survive: cruel to our enemies, kind to our fellow tribes people. Remorseless to our prey, full of extravagant largesse to our pets, back at home. Joshua Greene, certainly thinks this is the case and that can also become key to understanding what we now have to do: His theory is not without criticism ( but the criticism itself is subject to scrutiny and though looking at qualities that we should consider, always, as somehow ‘given’ rather than consciously developed will always sound better when reductionism ( of any kind is not involved the truth is we are complex creatures.

We are programmed to survive. The complexity of our internal make up makes us subject to logic failure. More than that it makes us subject to the kind of failure that eventually rules against our own survival. There are two saving graces in this admittedly grim picture. One is as old as we are. The other is new. We now need both.

The old one first: We are hardwired to connect: That means that we are hardwired to be social. For us this is the prime directive ( Socializing exposes to normative influences ( that help our own internal complexity recalibrate. We become less weird, more moral perhaps. We certainly work within the broader range of a more widely accepted norm.

The new one is technology: our own tech not only allows us to connect more and see more it has also began to show us how we function ( When morality itself ( is an emergent phenomenon ( then we have the means within the social structures we create to ensure that normalization is the norm across a much broader swath than it is to date. That means we have to find ways to legislate for morality and human behavior much like we try to not demonize it:

It may seem odd that we have to use specific techniques and regulation to be what we broadly call “human” but the truth is (and it is an unpalatable one) that being human is ill-defined, that being kind and tolerant and gracious towards others is not our default mode. We learn all this. We learn to love. We learn to be better. And it is now more important than ever that we work hard to ensure that what we create helps us all “step up to the mark” (

As our world becomes more and more complex we need to find ways to help our ancient brains adjust faster, be better and become smarter. That is the only way we can ensure that our species succeeds at extending its timeline ( Or, in Bill & Ted’s immortal words: “be excellent to each other and PARTY ON DUDES!” -

There is no current legislation for coffee and donuts, croissants, cookies and chocolate cake but there should be (and you must, currently, add chocolate ice cream to the mix). Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.

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Strategy, Adaptability and the Brain

+Oleg Moskalensky and yours truly discuss some aspects of The Sniper Mind.
Skills, Initiative, Triggers, Mind Training

+David Amerland and +Oleg Moskalensky in conversation about theories behind The Sniper Mind

Awareness in every moment. Application of mental state.

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Echoes of Distant Lives

I am working on something I cannot yet talk about (and quite possibly this may be my first and only hint about it for some time) and before you ask about the image, yes, I re-watched 300 on Netflix last night ;). It would appear that climate in the Med, particularly on the Greek mainland, has remained unchanged for over 2,500 years. This has led to specific coping strategies when it comes to dealing with the summer heat.

These strategies offer natural advantages in terms of behavior that are transferable to other areas of life. All areas of life. When it comes to facing an opponent you've never fought before where would you choose to face them? And does your choice reflect making the best use of your particular strength?


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Bennie Takes a Selfie

I'm on a bit of a break so here's the shot of Bennie taking a selfie. I'd left my phone on a tripod to test the timer and settings of the camera app and Bennie happened along :) Have an awesome Friday.
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