Update: 2016-10-285


Humans adapt to physical and creative challenges in remarkable ways. How do we do it, and what happens when we can't? In this episode, TED speakers share inspiring stories about our capacity to adapt. (Original broadcast date: November 20, 2015).

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support for this podcast in the following message come from concur a service where employees get simplified expense reports and business leaders get full visibility into their company spending habits expense travel invoice learn more at concurred dot com slash Radio Hour hate it sky here just let you know that next week will be out with a new episode just in time for the US election but in the meantime take a listen to this one from our archives it's called adaptation and it's over thirty amazing and creative ways that humans have learned to adapt to our surroundings this is the Head Radio Hour each week groundbreaking had talked at the Ted Technology Entertainment Design Design at Stanford delivered and Ted conferences around the world gift of the human imagination we had to believe in impossible the true nature of reality beckons just beyond those talks those ideas adapted for radio NPR guy rushed so you might be a really terrible runner maybe it's just not your thing but this guy for air freight fee is out to convince you on Christmas to go on the author of Born to Run that millions of years ago evolution turned us into Rogers and Chris as running to be precise long distance running is basically all we got to think about this right now if you stripped me naked and you trust me on the Woodson I have no natural weaponry at all the humans as animals are strong you can climb very well swim very well we can find in the face we got nothing I probably would not walk back out is what's scary about human evolution and it argues that the human brain basically just exploded in size about two ago in a lot that growth came from food which included eating animals but we also know that humans only started to kill their prey with rocks and Spears about two hundred thousand years ago so the big anthropological mystery which Chris laid out on the Ted stage to somehow for two years we are killing animals without any weapons now we're not using our strength because we are the biggest cities in the jungle to every little stronger than we are their fangs and claws that enable this speed we think it's a multifaceted same boat he was asked by swirl were not fast that now he'll be given turn a swirly swirly gold medal so no weapons no speed no strength to face a loss how we killing these animals perhaps it's because humans as much to look at think of ourselves as masters of the universe actually evolved as nothing more than a pack of hunting dogs may we evolved as a hunting pack animal because the one advantage it's way better day earth we can sweat really well but the advantage of that is the fact that when it comes to running under hot heat for long distances were superb with the best on the planet the horse on a hot day at the fire six miles that horse has a choice it's not going to brief going to cool off but in doing both we can so what if we evolved as hunting pack and what if the only natural advantage we had in the world was the fact that we get together as a group out there in an African Savanna pick that an antelope and was a packed and run the thing to death and we essentially devolved to endure that's exactly and that is our one superpower yet I love it too because is not the superpower you would choose for yourself you know if you are given all of the powers of the animal kingdom your disposal I want to soar like a hawk I want to swim like a dolphin but actually it was an ability to sweat which meet every other great human achievement possible because the fact that it's what allows us to run super long distances on hot days yet rather than overpowering animals rather than out sprinting them weekend or we can go go go until you just collapse and fall over go go go this is how we became who we are by adapting and we think of meditation is something intrinsic like evolution can also be a choice and decision you make a change of power we all have so on a show today we're going to explore ideas about adaptation whether it's adapting to our biological circumstances or our physical limitations or the changing world around us for Chris McDougall the idea that humans adapted to run long distances means that somewhere deep inside of us were built for it so the obvious question Chris asked is if we're intrinsically meant to do this how come most of us don't and am who I can be found down in the copper canyons of Mexico where there to try a reclusive tribe called the total audience they've been living essentially unchanged for the past four hundred years when cookie stores arrived in North America you choices you either fight back and engage or you can take off the Mayans and Aztecs engaged which is why they're very few Mayans Aztecs the title Mata had a different strategy they took off and he did in this labyrinth sign networking kind of spider webbing system of canyons called the copper canyons and there they remained says the sixteen hundreds essentially the same way they've always been deep in all they age seventy in eighty years old these guys are running marathons running mega marathon not doing twenty six miles or two hundred hundred fifty miles at a time and power without injuring the problems I had this happen how it's a story we first went down to the copper canyons to look for the Ramada I fought the Rouse me finding was like Professor X's X Men Academy of Fine is a culture of like mutants write what I discovered instead was this is normal humanity I was looking into our own past if you're looking at what humans really are we're the ones that have adapted to an artificial culture that of my dark I'm like living Smithsonian exhibits they are preserving the scene natural abilities that humans relied on millions of years ago you can today Chris believes most of us actually over that we've lost something primal about how we run the story of how that may have happened starts with a guy named Bill Bauman said he was he coached the University of Oregon Aaron coach track and field there in the mid nineteen seventies he heard about a group of people in New Zealand who would run through the hills near their town former cardiac patients people who had had heart attacks and Dom I thought was crazy this this this idea of charging through the mountains is sane people die but we realize is these people actually prospering instead of their hearts giving out their hearts are getting stronger ok so long story short our running was not exactly the thing it is today back and the nineteen seventies so barren Springs The phenomenon of jogging to the US and starts by inviting students to come chai with them on the weekend and one of the students was a guy and build our men's track team his name was Phil Knight and he had an idea fills hey as long as people are interested in his new hobby of jogging there's not much we can do to capitalize on except for one thing the only thing you can use a pair shoes so Phil Knight started the company of Blue Ribbon Sports which became nice hot and he started to innovate and mess around shoes the early Nike running shoes were like the same kind of things at Jesse Owens in Roger Bannister was desolate hallways Jesse Owens ran pair slippers everybody again essentially it's actually not very different than what elite runners wear today which is the thinnest sliver of protection underneath their souls nothing else but what really made my keys fortune is bigger is better the bigger you can make it the more cushioning the more soft more people are going to be attracted to it sows really Nike came up with idea of the cushioned running shoe gang member was a kid the first time my son Nike airs he now use a little window in the shoe salon you cool your walking on air that something about it to the real big breakthrough that night he came up with is this idea that if you don't buy the right shoe are going to get injured and that's where all is cushioning and motion control all this foot Corrections began the U S for exactly what this all has to do with those tribes in Mexico and how Chris made that connection well he's a runner to just about every day and he started a couple years after college to lose weight they could get her knee injured and now see doctors still don't do like Shrek of course being injured so I gave running for years was only after I went down of copper canyons and watch these like eighty year old Adam on a runner's two of thirty miles to the mountains but I thought probably is a right way to run it took a few years of studying that Tera Mera Indians for Chris McDougall to figure out the secret but he still believes is the right way to run when he didn't figure it out it wasn't just a turning point in his own life that was a moment that would reshape the entire multibillion dollar running shoe industry here's the big light bulb moment for me in nineteen ninety four someone got the idea of entering a group of runners in this legendary race called the Leadville Trail one hundred hundred mile race through the Rocky Mountains ha they entered the race and they just obliterated the field not only do they win they have been given new running shoes to wear unlike them so they went to the town dump and carved out sandals from discarded tires try them on and ran hundred miles in them so I sent you with the Did wise they preserve the patients which allowed humans to survive in hostile environments for most of our existence and once Chris wrote about this and you can imagine what happened next it inspired the entire barefoot running movement Chris is the reason you see people wearing those five fingered toe shoes at the gym the reason running shoes and get lighter and lighter every time you go out looking for new pair and when Chris gave this Ted Talk Back in two thousand ten that movement was just taking off so we'll be seeing today is there is kind of a growing subculture of barefoot runners people who got rid of her shoes and what they found uniformly is get rid of the shoes you get rid of the stress get rid of the injuries in the elements and what you find something that not of known for a long time that this can be whole lot of fun I've experience a person myself I was injured and then in my early forties get rid of my shoes and we should point out that there's been a lot of public debate about the health benefits of running barefoot in fact more than a few people have been injured trying to run barefoot Christmas doodles theory on our over adaptation that make you wonder whether we've lost something primal about how our bodies work if you look at the foot the foot is amazing piece of architecture as an arch with absorb shock as he five toes which Brown balance it has twenty six intricately connected bones and ligaments and tendons in centers it is an unbelievable miracle of creation and yet somehow some guy are in the lab thinks he can sketch something which is better than that it made sense as certain time in our history that we had to adapt to chase his elves we needed to be barefoot but now we have to adapt to walk the long aisles of Costco to load our car so is there a possibility that you know another to three hundred years of ocean running will just change your physiology and will be fine I hope not so unnecessary why would you bother why would you bother to try to adapt to some of it we could adapt to hitting ourselves in the face with a hammer which had a long enough but you know what maybe to put the hammer down don't do anymore I'm actually glad that we don't have cheese because elderly mark yes or no you haven't moved to the copper Canyon to live on the other hand if you're running culture can be materialistic so you know you now courting much crafting working nine to five in the contest new neighbors who dislike children can run the Chris McDougall he wrote Born to Run you can check out his entire talk show today ideas about adaptation and Guy rise and you're listening to the Ted Radio Hour from NPR the R O headline Just a quick thanks to two of our sponsors who helped make this podcast possible first two cheap ole for twenty three years they've been committed to sourcing the best most noble ingredients they can find prepping them with care and cooking them using simple recipes without the use of artificial flavors colors or sweeteners they spent hours marinade and seasoning and pampering the ingredients to perfection whether hand chopping hand slicing hand placing our hand matching the ingredients are cheap ole get the royal treatment every day thanks also to optimize their health services and innovation company optimum power of modern health care by combining data and Analytics with technology and expertise to serve the whole health system they collaborate with partners across health care providing the tools for better decision making and better outcomes learn more at optimum dot com slash healthier it's the Ted Radio Hour from NPR and Guy rise in a show to date idea is that adaptation in Chris McDougall who just heard from was talking mainly about an adaptation that had to happen for the survival of our species but for Daniel Kish the adaptation was about his own survival and for dinner yeah I know St she like residual checks from NPR I well we'll have to make an arrangement because he may have heard Daniel on NPR before he was on an episode of invisibility a but in case you don't know his story he's been blind since he was an infant and yet somehow by adapting Daniel figured out a way to see yes it is a form of seeing that the form of seeing that it's really quite native to the human brain it Daniel season with sound mind demonstrating what the taxpayers likely in the room you're in awe this is not a room that's very well suited to the acoustic Lee its head the padded estudios the radius to yes I'm at that but having said that the meat just grab something that's happens to be here on the table it's a clipboard so I'm just going to make a sound and I'm going to move this clipboard toward and away from my face trying not to bang the microphone here ok she she demonstrating here is the way sound changes depending on what's around you in certain animals can use those sound changes to get a sense of their surroundings it's called Flash sonar echo location while baths in hell fans are born with this ability for Daniel for any human it's an annotation well now that fishing isn't really conducive because that will tire you out so instead of shame Daniel learned to click his tongue he uses these clicks to get all kinds of information clicks go out the sound bounces up say at table it comes back to Daniel's ears and it helps him figure out how close the table is he would know there's something there ok don't bump into it but he can also tell whether that object has a hard or soft surface and as I'm talking now this thing toward me in a way for me kind of hear this sort of a hard surface compared to something like this what I have in front of me is is absorbent Daniel learned to text is kind of small differences when he was just over eighty year old in the house I might discover the curtain sounded softer than the than the wall um the refrigerator you know would have sounded different from the oven so an infant will start to build these things up very very fast in an infant's brain is just really really conducive to that effect what's going on in Daniel's brain is similar to what happens in your brain when you see with your eyes he really does get kind of mental image of the world around them I refer to it as three dimensional fuzzy geometry um so you get three dimensional representations of physical surfaces and their arrangements and layouts so it is a form of seeing read in that process for Daniel it's all about neural real estate basically your brain's capacity to handle different information and for most people vision is what takes up a lot of that narrow real estate some would say as much as forty percent of the brain is is dedicated to visual processing so that's that large chunk of brain by the computational power is already there the system matter of kind of changing the input channels and that's exactly what Daniel has done he's adapted to his blindness basically we purposely his brain ever since he was a baby as he described on that stage I was born with bilateral retinal estimate retinal cancer my right eye was removed at seven months of age I was thirteen months when they removed my left eye the first thing I did upon awakening from that last surgery was to climb out of my crib and began wandering around the intensive care nursery probably looking for the one who did this to me and that curiosity never really stopped he just found a new way to keep exploring and of course his parents played a pretty big role but mostly they did that by letting Daniel find his own way to adapt they understood that ignorance and fear were but matters of the mine and mine is adaptable they believe that I should grow up to enjoy the same freedoms and responsibilities as everyone else in their own words I would move out which they did when I was eighteen I will pay taxes thanks and they knew the difference between love and fear see here immobilized is us in the face of challenges they knew that blindness would pose a significant challenge I was not raised with fear they put my freedom first before all else because that is what love does the the for Daniel this was the main difference between him and other blankets he was given the freedom to figure things out on his own in this way Daniel was both pretty normal and really unusual because he was a blind kid who has raised more laughs like a kid who could see cited infants learn to see from experiencing the world and by systematically withdrawing our support from the incident were not holding their hand for support all of this time and we're not bringing things to them all of this time because we expect that by the age of about twelve months that they're going to start taking the first apps and world very happy about that and if you're lucky a captured on film that is not the way this happens for blind kids cow but it is the way it happened for me when you are a key key child were you just sort of like climbing trees unlike lang stuff and trying to just do the things that any kid does yet so I pressed hard to get into things and on to things and up things and over things so and you know it's kind of funny in a way because with blind kids we tend to characterize blindness within mobility yet and we couldn't be further from the truth because for a blind kid to act upon that sense of curiosity that tends to be natural they have to move a half to become very physical about their environment and to restrict that is devastating so today Daniel spends most of his time trying to undo those restrictions and he does this by teaching kids who are also blind had to do what he does have to get around the world more independently and what is constantly telling those kids is that their social barriers are much bigger than their physical ones think for a moment about your own impression of lightness think about your reactions when I first came onto the stage for the prospect of your own line is that error is in comprehensible to most of us because blindness is thought to eat eh demise ignorance and an awareness hapless exposure to the ravages of the dark unknown how poetic fortunately for me my parents were not poetic they were pragmatic I was not raised to think of myself as in any way remarkable I have always regarded myself much like anyone else who navigates the dark undertones of their own challenges is that so remarkable I do not use my knives I use my brain now someone somewhere must think that's remarkable I would be up here but let's consider this for a moment everyone out there who has ever faced a challenge raise your hands sheesh okay Watson hands going up a moment to do a headcount take a while lots of hands in the air keep them up those of you who use brains to navigate these challenges put your hands down okay anyone in their hands still up as challenges of your own so we all face challenges and we all face the dark unknown which is endemic to most challenges but most of us fear ok but we all have brains that activate to allow us to navigate the jury through these challenges all d think that you adapted to your blindness or do you think that you adapted to a world that is designed for people who can see both it would be both because you adapt to your conditions and your conditions include your characteristics as well as the characteristics around you so a creature like a dolphin who functions mostly in the dark had developed a way of functioning in the dark yet so they develop their sonar same with bats and bats very cleverly realize you know what most creatures in the world see and don't really travel very much in the dark so why not travel in the dark so I guess is as a human who was blind I adapted to my blindness by finding a different way to see in a world that isn't really conducive to not seeing me it seems like you know you did when humans are just can actually meant to do write like we're wired to do this that our bodies our minds we we adapt to the circumstances and the challenges around us that's just it one of the first critical functions of our brain is to adapt to adapt to conditions to understand its conditions so if you tried a contrived around that you're seriously second guessing what the brain is capable of so I would say that that's true I would say that that the brain is naturally inclined to adapt and really what my what my own circumstances did when I was younger was to let that play out the location he founded World Access for the Blind you can see his entire talk at Ted that come so we've been hearing about all the ways humans have adapted to survive but what happens when people don't and at the rather Mon to adapt and is fascinated by the year twenty forty two it's a year Rich Benjamin love is really interested in and I'm senior fellow at the most which is a public policy organization were rich studies in equality and race and by twenty forty two at Pres and that's when the best a minor fee shows that whites will either be an American majority so give or take a few years or just about thirty years away from white Americans no longer being the majority in America which is why Rich Benjamin has been asking how white people are attempting or not attempting to adapt with increasing diversity and to answer this question Rich zeroed in on a trend places where white populations were shrinking but growing cities and towns he started to call light O P is a way to piano has three qualities first Light O B A has posted at least six percent population growth since two thousand secondly majority of that growth often upwards of ninety percent comes from white my trance and the third quality of a light O P A is said it has a special feel jealous a club or social charm and so once I kind of identified the phenomenon the fast growing white communities with white immigrants I just had to look into this rich decided he didn't just want to sit at desk and pour over census data he wanted to live a good idea in these white Toby is I just didn't want to be in our unfair is the theology is in sort of imagine what these places are like I really decided that in order to understand what was going on what these communities are how they're taking I had to go there myself I guess this is a place where we should describe you physically because it's the radio and sold lots of people don't know what you look like so tell me we look like I am dark skinned black person in so yeah that was an interesting wrinkle the rich spend about two years living in
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