CEO of Cybersmarties Ltd.
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”
I watched a film recently called “Dean Spanley” which was about a man, who when he drank the famous wine “Imperial Tokay”, believed himself to be the reincarnation of a Springer Spaniel dog. (Similar hallucinations have long been documented in Ireland after a particularly joyful wake!!). Was this a children’s movie I hear you ask? No on the contrary, it was a very satirical, but brilliantly acted movie featuring an all-star cast of Peter O’Toole, Sam Neill and Bryan Brown. As to the veracity of whether past lives were in fact possible, Sam Neill declared that “Only a closed mind is certain”. And this statement got me thinking.
When I was a young man (or rather should I say, a younger man) I was certain of many things. I was certain that I would be famous, I was certain that Limerick would win an All-Ireland, I was certain that I would one day most likely rule the world, I was certain that women would find me irresistible and I was certain that I would not get old (or should I say older). It has been quite a rude awakening to find that I have been proven wrong in all of my certainties and even though the gate hasn’t been closed on all of them yet, I am becoming less and less certain. When I think about this statement from its truest, non-satirical standpoint then I find myself thinking about the importance if not necessity of having an open mind. Despite ourselves, our conditioning forms our opinions on society, religion, beliefs, politics and people. We are quick to judge and hold steadfast to our beliefs without ever really questioning why we think the way we do.
I often wondered about this in relation to religion and the vigorous way in which people would argue their God was the only true God, even going as far as cause wars in their name. I wonder if their conviction is actually rooted in fear, not in belief. Is it the fear that they may actually be wrong? and if so, would their belief system be shattered? everything they thought or believed to be true could be wrong and so rather than face this, is it easier to rail against it? Being certain, by its very nature, can be very dangerous as it rules out all other possibilities. Being certain excludes all other opinions except ones own and those who agree with you and this could be a very narrow way to live. Until Ferdinand Magellan conclusively proved the world was round by sailing around it, for millennia everyone was certain the world was flat. Within decades, whole fleets were circumnavigating the globe. Being certain that something cannot be done is extremely limiting to our potential as individuals and society. I know that there are numerous things I have convinced myself that I am incapable of doing or am bad at without ever really trying to see if I am wrong. It is “easier” not to try, it is easier not to have to face the truth or work at something to dispel the myth I have convinced myself of.
When we started building Cybersmarties over two and a half years ago, everyone told us what we were attempting wouldn’t work. They said behavioural technology could not be built. They said there was no way to authenticate a child as a real child. They said nothing could really be done about cyber-bullying. They said a lot of things. Tomorrow, Primary schools around Ireland begin using Cybersmarties for the full academic year. Today we were contacted by schools in the UK asking to join the network and yesterday by schools in the US. It was not that we were certain we could build behavioural technology but we kept an open mind as to the possibilities of what could be done. One cannot rule out anything until it is explored and after what was a very hard struggle, the Cybersmarties Team now know that our technology not only helps prevent cyber-bullying by educating positive behaviour but that it will spread into other countries education systems. The Socratic Paradox where Socrates was alluded to have said “I know one thing; that I know nothing” is actually very liberating. It allows the mind to roam the full spectrum of possibilities and I think we should approach education in this way. What we can do as individuals and achieve in this life is down to how open we are to life’s possibilities and how we deal with what life throws at us. We are working on new technology know which pinpoints “creative skills” in different fields as a means to encourage children to pursue their natural talents. We may not get it right, but by keeping an open mind at least we leave open the possibility of getting it right. I may not believe I will come back as a reincarnation of a Springer Spaniel but who then who am I to say…..I could win Crufts one day.