Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Hey it's me Destin.

  • Welcome back to Smarter Every Day.

  • You've heard people say,

  • "It's just like riding a bike"

  • meaning it's really easy and you can't forget how to do it, right?

  • But I did something.

  • I did something that damaged my mind.

  • It happened on the streets of Amsterdam

  • and I got really scared honestly.

  • I can't ride a bike like you can anymore.

  • Before I show you the video of what happened

  • I need to tell you the back story.

  • Like many six year olds with a MacGyver mullet

  • I learned how to ride a bike when I was really young.

  • I had learned a life skill and I was really proud of it.

  • Everything changed though when my friend Barney called me 25 years later.

  • Where I work, the welders are geniuses, and they like to play jokes on the engineers.

  • He had a challenge for me.

  • He had built a special bicycle and he wanted me to try to ride it.

  • He had only changed one thing.

  • When you turn the handlebar to the left, the wheel goes to the right.

  • When you turn it to the right, the wheel goes to the left.

  • I thought this would be easy so I hopped on the bike

  • ready to demonstrate how quickly I could conquer this.

  • - And here he is ladies and gentlemen,

  • Mr Destin Sandlin.

  • First attempt riding the bicycle.

  • - Yeah, yeah.

  • I couldn't do it.

  • You can see that I'm laughing but I'm actually really frustrated.

  • In this moment I had a really deep revelation.

  • My thinking was in a rut.

  • This bike revealed a very deep truth to me.

  • I had the knowledge of how to operate the bike,

  • but I did not have the understanding.

  • Therefore, knowledge is not understanding.

  • Look I know what you're probably thinking.

  • Destin's probably just an uncoordinated engineer and can't do it.

  • But that's not the case at all.

  • The algorithm that's associated with riding a bike,

  • in your brain, is just that complicated.

  • Think about it.

  • Downwards force on the pedals,

  • leaning your whole body,

  • pulling and pushing the handlebars,

  • gyroscopic procession in the wheels,

  • every single force is part of this algorithm.

  • And if you change any one part it affects the entire control system.

  • I do not make definitive statements that often,

  • but I'm telling you right now,

  • you cannot ride this bicycle.

  • You might think you can, but you can't.

  • I know this because I'm often asked to speak at universities and conferences

  • and I take the bike with me.

  • It's always the same.

  • People think they're gonna try some trick or they're just gonna power through it.

  • It doesn't work.

  • Your brain cannot handle this.

  • For instance, this guy.

  • I offered him two hundred dollars just to ride this bike ten feet across the stage.

  • Everybody thought he could do it.

  • [crowd exclaims] No no no. You didn't understand.

  • So.. this way, not that way. [crowd laughs]

  • Alright so, whenever you're ready.

  • Remember you have to keep your feet on.. [crowd laughs]

  • [laughing crowd]

  • You've gotta start rolling at least. And go.

  • Keep your feet on the pedal, go.

  • [laughing crowd]

  • Just keep your feet on the pedals.

  • Alright, one more time.

  • Once you have a rigid way of thinking in your head,

  • sometimes you cannot change that, even if you want to.

  • So here's what I did.

  • It was a personal challenge.

  • I stayed out here in this driveway

  • and I practiced about 5 minutes every day.

  • My neighbors made fun of me.

  • I had many wrecks.

  • But after 8 months, this happened.

  • One day I couldn't ride the bike, and the next day I could.

  • It was like I could feel some kind of pathway in my brain that was now unlocked.

  • It was really weird though.

  • It's like there's this trail in my brain,

  • but if I wasn't paying close enough attention to it,

  • my brain would easily lose that neural path and jump back onto the old road it was more familiar with.

  • Any small distractions at all, like a cellphone ringing in my pocket,

  • would instantly throw my brain back to the old control algorithm and I would wreck.

  • But at least I could ride it.

  • My son is the closest person to me genetically

  • and he's been riding a normal bike for 3 years,

  • that's over half his life.

  • I wanted to know how long it would take him to learn how to ride a backwards bike

  • so I told him if he learned how to ride a backwards bike

  • he could go with me to Australia and meet a real astronaut.

  • Are you gonna give up?

  • - No.

  • - Go ahead.

  • This is how it starts.

  • Look at this.

  • This is such a big deal.

  • Get up, you got it.

  • Did you see his brain get it?

  • So he, in.. How many weeks we been doing this? Two weeks?

  • In two weeks he did something that took me 8 months to do,

  • which demonstrates that a child has more neural plasticity,

  • am I even saying that right?

  • Than an adult.

  • It's clear from this experiment that children have a much more plastic brain than adults.

  • That's why the best time to learn a language is when you're a young child.

  • Alright, today's bike log.

  • I can ride smooth, I can ride fast.

  • I'm thinking the experiment is over.

  • OK now I'm in Amsterdam,

  • a city that has more bicycles than people.

  • The question is, can I ride a normal bike now?

  • I mean I have spent all this time unlearning how to ride a bike,

  • If I go back and try to ride a normal one will my brain mess up?

  • So I've tweeted a Smarter Every Day.. meetup, if you will.

  • And I'm gonna see if somebody brings a bicycle and I'm gonna try to ride a normal bike.

  • It's backwards, it's backwards.

  • This was one of the most frustrating moments of my life.

  • I had ridden a normal bike since I was six,

  • but in this moment I couldn't do it anymore.

  • I had set out to prove that I could free my brain from a cognitive bias,

  • but at this point I'm pretty sure that all I've proved is that I can only re-designate that bias.

  • So what you're not seeing is there's a group of people here,

  • looking at me.

  • Looking at the strange American,

  • that can't ride a bike, cause they think I'm dumb.

  • But I'm actually two levels deep into this,

  • because I've learned and un-learned. Alright.

  • After 20 minutes of making a fool out of myself,

  • suddenly my brain clicked back into the old algorithm.

  • I can't explain it, but it happened in a very specific moment.

  • [laughter]

  • I've got it, I've got it, I've got it!

  • I'm back.

  • Oh it clicked. It clicked!

  • I've got it, I've got it!

  • OK there it is.

  • There was the moment.

  • OK I can ride a bike.

  • I tried to explain this to the people around me,

  • and they just didn't get it.

  • They thought I was faking the previous 20 minutes

  • and I couldn't get anybody to believe me.

  • That looked like I faked it, didn't it.

  • You think I'm faking. You don't believe me.

  • - It looked so weird...

  • - You think I'm lying, don't you?

  • I'm not lying.

  • I felt like the only person on the planet who had ever un-learned how to ride a bike,

  • and I couldn't articulate it to anyone

  • because everybody just knew that you can't forget how to ride a bike.

  • So I learned 3 things from this experiment.

  • I learned that welders are often smarter than engineers,

  • I learned that knowledge does not equal understanding,

  • and I learned that truth is truth.

  • No matter what I think about it.

  • So be very careful how you interpret things

  • because you're looking at the world with a bias

  • whether you think you are or not.

  • I'm Destin,

  • you're getting Smarter Every Day,

  • have a good one.

  • OK if you wanna support Smarter Every Day

  • you can download a free audio book at audible.com/smarter

  • I recommend Commander Hadfield's book

  • which is An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth.

  • I read it, it was awesome!

  • If you think about it, I had to learn how to ride a different kind of bicycle

  • and my son did it as well,

  • but Commander Hadfield had to learn how to ride a different space ship.

  • Not only that, but a different type of space station.

  • He was on Mir and the International Space Station.

  • Anyway, if you're interested in supporting Smarter Every Day,

  • audible.com/smarter, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth.

  • I'm Destin, you're getting Smarter Every Day.

  • Have a good one.

  • [crowd cheers]

  • Everything is wrong... My instinctive reaction is wrong.

  • (Destin) Why don't you ride it? You just build it?

  • - I can't ride it, I just build it.

  • [laughs]

Hey it's me Destin.

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

A2 US ride smarter brain bicycle learned crowd

The Backwards Brain Bicycle - Smarter Every Day 133

Video vocabulary