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Michio Kaku: How can we predict success in humans?


Well, if you look at the history of the evolution
of the brain itself, you realize that the brain is basically in three parts. The back in the brain is the so-called reptilian
brain, the oldest brain, the brain of space, the brain of a reptile, that has to locate
its prey, its mate, and understand its position in space. That’s the back of the brain. As we evolved, to the front we evolved the
monkey brain, the brain of society, hierarchy, emotions, the brain that tells you about manners,
about etiquette, how to respect your elders. That’s the central part of the brain, the
monkey brain. Then the front part of the brain is the most
important part for us, that distinguishes us from the animals. You see, the animals have a back of the brain,
the spatial brain. The animals have a social brain, like wolves. They have a pecking order in the center of
the brain. So what do we have? What do we have that the animals don’t necessarily
have? The front part of the brain governs time. It constantly thinks about the future. It constantly reruns alternate scenarios of
what could be the future, plans, dreams, strategizes. Animals don’t do that. When animals hibernate, it’s not that they
say, oh, I’ve got to hibernate. Time for me to get ready to hibernate. Nope. Animals simply say, instinct tells me I’ve
got to get ready, and I’ve got to hibernate. So what is it that makes humans different
from animals? And how is it related to success as a human? It’s the ability to see the future, to see
the future in all its messiness, to be able to recreate scenarios of the future which
are realistic. Now, let’s go to a psychologist and ask him
a simple question. Is there a test that correlates children with
success in life? That’s a big question. Success in life and childhood– is there a
test that you can perform? It’s not perfect, of course. But yeah, there is a test that’s been done
around the world. You test kids, and a few decades later, you
try to find out if they’re successful or not. And you find that, yes, there’s one characteristic
that does seem to correlate with success in life, lower divorce rate, higher income, higher
social status. What is that one characteristic? It’s measured by their marshmallow test. The marshmallow test– you give children the
option of eating a marshmallow now or two marshmallows a few hours later. And then you follow these kids for decades
in different countries. Now, it’s not perfect, of course. But you’ll find that there is a measurable
correlation. Now, what’s the lesson here? The lesson is the kids which wanted two marshmallows
later saw the future. They are the ones who want to plan, the ones
who want to go to college, the ones who want to make something of themselves, that hold
out. Now, who are the ones who simply get that
first marshmallow? It’s not perfect, but a lot of them want shortcuts,
shortcuts in life, the easy way out. Now, this was a science experiment that all
of us can perform. If you’ve graduated from school, and you meet
your friends years later, like at a reunion, mentally, you ask yourself a simple question. Where are my friends now? After so many years, I haven’t seen them. I think maybe they’re successful. Or I know this guy. This guy’s a loser. He’s not going to go anywhere in the world. And you meet them. And yeah, you make some mistakes. But I found that, when I go to my reunions,
yeah, the people I thought would be successful became successful. And the ones I thought took shortcuts, yeah,
they took shortcuts in life. And so that’s why I think the measure of success
is seeing the future, that is, running simulations of the future over and over again, day-dreaming. Should I go to college? Should I get a PhD? Should I become this? Should I do that? Working out all the different scenarios, versus
the shortcut. I can cut corners. I can steal here. I can fudge this. I could lie about that. That, I think, is the criterion for success
in life.

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