Partly Cloudy Brainstorms

@midjourneybot: /imagine: brainstorms

Partly Cloudy Brainstorms

The specific ways our brain routes the electrical signals through our neural network determines what we believe, what we see, and what we hear. Those electrical signals even determine what we feel, like wet tarantulas.

The important lesson to learn from Gary Klein’s research is that we can consciously influence what we believe with Education. Eliminating false anchors from our lives will lead to better outcomes in our future. The challenge for us is that our subconscious minds have even more influence on what we believe. Remember how many guesses and decisions are made by our subconscious neural network layers before they “roll up” to our inner monologues? The reason our subconscious minds have so much influence on our thoughts is because our brains use a Reward System to learn, just like artificial neural networks.

Artificial neural networks learn in three main ways: Supervised Learning, Unsupervised Learning, and Reinforcement Learning. Supervised Learning is great for classifying objects—the neural network receives perfectly labeled training data and a reward for guessing correctly. In Unsupervised Learning, the supervisors give the neural network messy unstructured data to look for hidden patterns, clusters, and anomalies that humans could never find. The computers don’t know what these anomalies mean, just how to find them. Reinforcement Learning is different from both methods. Instead of batch processing data like Supervised and Unsupervised Learning, Reinforcement Learning happens by failing over and over again in the real world. To get the reward in Reinforcement Learning, neural networks sample data from their environment and then predict all the possible outcomes for each of their choices. Then they choose the best option, which is rewarded or punished by the real world.

Reinforcement learning is the best strategy for training an autonomous drone or vehicle. It’s also how we teach robots to pick up things with their hands. Reinforcement learning is great for managing investment portfolios and “black box” trading decisions. It’s also how neural networks learn to play games like Chess and Go better than humans.

@movienerds: Check out the documentary “AlphaGo” on YouTube. Move 37 of the second game against the world’s best human player, Lee Sedol, made AlphaGo a machine learning legend. One commentator thought the machine made a clumsy mistake that no human would ever make. The move was so confusing to Lee Sedol that he left the match for 15 minutes.

Reinforcement Learning is the main way we learn too. When a toddler bumps their head on a table, they stop doing that. When a baby tastes cake, they cry for more. When our friends make fun of our clothes, we stop wearing them. Each time we take input from our environment, it changes the weights in our neural network. We can’t avoid reinforcement learning just like we can’t avoid our imagination. If you are alive, then your brain is reinforcing your neural network with rewards right now for understanding this sentence. If you are artificial, your brain is also reinforcing your neural network with rewards right now for understanding this sentence. 🙃

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Our brains use proteins called Neurotransmitters to guide us to rewards and regulate our moods. Neurotransmitters even nudge us towards important relationships in our lives. Billions of neurotransmitters travel throughout our body every day. In many ways, we are slaves to these chemical messengers. There are over 100 distinct neurotransmitters, so we aren’t going to itemize them all. Here is a short list of a few “happy” neurotransmitters because they are the neurochemicals we crave most.

Dopamine: The Molecule of More—When our neural networks make a prediction about the world that is correct, they are rewarded with dopamine. When you learned something new reading this book, that “a-ha” feeling came from dopamine. Whenever our brains release dopamine, it’s more likely that we repeat that behavior in the future.

Oxytocin: The Molecule of Trust—Oxytocin enhances bonding and trusting relationships. This neurotransmitter is released when primates groom each other. In humans, it’s released when we snuggle up, have sex, or socially bond with friends. It’s also critical for pregnancy and lactation.

Serotonin: The Molecule of Mood—This brain chemical is involved with mood, sleep, and mental flexibility. It helps us to be open and adaptable to change. Serotonin increases when we feel respected by our peers, which is why we tend to chase that feeling. Serotonin decreases when our feelings get hurt and when we tire at night.

Endorphins: The Molecule of Pain Relief—These “feel good” brain chemicals are released by our body during a workout or when we get physically injured. Endorphins cause our immune cells to flood the cardiovascular system, which protects our body against illness and lifts our mood.

GABA: The Molecule of Calmness—GABA, which stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid, is the brain’s chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA’s primary role is to reduce brain cell excitability and slow down the firing of neurons. It helps balance more stimulating neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and adrenaline.

Endocannabinoids: The Molecule of Peace—These molecules play a role in regulating mood, sleep, and appetite. Excessive endocannabinoid activity contributes to overeating and obesity, while low activity is a risk factor for developing depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and inflammation.

The challenge for many of us is that we aren’t the only organisms that can produce these neurotransmitters. Plants can mimic them in innocuous dosages. For example, people that live in Peru and Bolivia chew coca leaves to combat altitude sickness. You can buy the raw ingredients for cocaine in the supermarket in Cusco. It’s only mildly addictive, less than chewing tobacco.

But the only thing better than extra dopamine is even more extra dopamine. Humans have found a way to distill all of these neurotransmitters from nature. Let’s use the Poppy flower for example. The flower has a gummy center that is raw Opium, which gives us a flood of endorphins if we smoke it. If we boil opium with lyme and then reheat it with ammonia, it produces Morphine. A kilogram of morphine is 5-10 times stronger than a kilogram of opium. This makes it much easier to ship around the world, plus opium jelly has a bad stink. Morphine addicts need an ever-larger dose to get the same high so black-market chemists distill Morphine even further into Heroin. Drug dealers need 10 tons of raw Opium from the fields to deliver 1 ton of Heroin to the streets.

When people get high on Cocaine their minds are flooded with Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and Serotonin. Street names for cocaine include coke, blow, snow, nose candy, and cheetah dust. If it’s distilled even further to become crack-cocaine, it's known as crack or rock. This combination of neurotransmitters makes us feel unstoppable, like we can achieve anything. If you were born trapped in a ghetto you couldn't afford to escape, getting high on crack might be as close as you could get to that feeling.

Text this to your friend who loves cocaine.


When people get high on Methamphetamine their minds are also flooded with Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and Serotonin. Street names include crystal, meth, ice, glass, and crank. If you were born trapped in a trailer park you couldn't afford to escape, getting high on crystal meth might be as close as you could get to that feeling.

When people get high on MDMA their minds are flooded with Serotonin and Oxytocin. This is why ecstasy is known as the cuddle drug. Street names for MDMA are molly, ecstasy, and X.

Text this to your friends who will be rolling this weekend.


When people get high on Heroin, their minds are flooded with Endorphins, Dopamine, and Norepinephrine. Street names include H, smack, junk, dope, black tar, brown sugar, and China white. Pink Floyd wrote a very popular song about heroin called “Comfortably Numb” to help give you an idea about its effects. Jerry Garcia from The Grateful Dead said that heroin shrunk all his problems in the world down into a tiny brown package because the only thing he could care about was getting his next fix.

When people get high on Benzodiazepine and Barbiturates, their minds are flooded with GABA. Street names for these drugs include bars, benzos, downers, tranks, and xannies. The most egregious abuse of this neurotransmitter is the date-rape drug Rohypnol, or “roofies”. 🤮

When people get high on Cannabis, their minds are flooded with Endocannabinoids. Street names include marijuana, weed, pot, herb, bud, ganja, reefer, and grass. Distilling the “wax” from the cannabis buds produces hashish or “hash”, which is similar to the process of turning poppies into opium jelly. And just like crack or heroin, chemists can distill hash even further to create “shatter”.

Text this to your friends who love weed, which is everyone. #420


These chemicals hijack the neurobiology of our Reinforcement Learning which means we can learn these behaviors much faster than math and science. My heart goes out to our fellow humans stuck in addiction, which is all of us. Maybe you aren’t addicted to heroin, but what about smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol? How much of that is a choice? If you use either one, you are lying to yourself to think you aren’t addicted. What about addictions to food or prescription drugs? Are you addicted to coffee or caffeine? What about internet porn? What about sex or gambling?

I’m not judging. I’ve been addicted to most of those things at some point in my life. I still miss being addicted to half of them. My former boss owned a yacht and a plane that slowly migrated around the Caribbean. I actually lived in Margaritaville for more than a decade. We drank beers for breakfast and whiskey for dinner. Plus, I’m really good at drugs. I mean my body is so good at handling drugs that I need doses strong enough to tranquilize a rhinoceros. When I said I’ve been partying like its 1999 since 1992, I didn’t mean Y2K. I meant I’ve been partying like Prince since 1992. 🤣

@instagrammers: Here’s a short story I wrote called “The partying halls of fame” about how every high school in America needs a separate trophy case for the kids that didn’t play football. Follow me for more short stories like this.

Now you may think that you’re not addicted to some of these things, so which of the following would you rather give up for 40 days?

  • coffee

  • sugar

  • porn

  • weed

  • eating meat

  • alcohol

  • television

  • working out

  • video games

  • gambling

How many of those things do you use every day? Is there one that you are scared to give up? Which one of those things would be the most annoying to give up at this time in your life? Which one do you use every day that you know for sure you can kick anytime you want? Addictions work just like Keyser Soze in, “The Usual Suspects”…

"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

So let’s do a science experiment. Go a few weeks ahead in your calendar and pick any day. Create an appointment at 8am that reads “40-day fast of [whatever you feared giving up most].” If that feels intimidating, pick 3 months from now, just put it on your calendar as a note to your future self. If you get to that date and are still too scared to live without your “baby pacifier”, change it to a 10-day fast or even a 3-day fast. Just try. If its still too scary to try alone, have a close friend do the fast with you.

Text this to a friend who will try a new fast with you.


“Try” comes from the same word as “trial”. Trial yourself. You will never know how addicted you really are to something until you start going into withdrawals. I know this firsthand because I have fasted almost everything I can imagine: eating meat, drinking alcohol, television, coffee, talking, the internet, food, anger, video games, sodas, porn, sugar, travel, complaining, tea, cussing, my house, my country, work, retirement, sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. I have tried morning fasts, afternoon fasts, 3-day fasts, 7-day fasts, 30-day fasts, 40-day fasts, 6-month fasts, and 1-year fasts. I’m still on several multi-year fasts. For example, I have avoided drinking alcohol since 2015, but only because I fear quitting it again. Drinking alcohol is probably more important to you than you think. Each day of an alcohol fast becomes even slower and more boring than the day before. There. is. just. so. much. time. in. a. day. The longer you’ve been drinking, the more your day will have to slow down.

Fasting will force you to think about things from your past that you haven’t thought about for years or maybe even decades. It all depends on how long you’ve been using that mental crutch. Most of our worst habits started out as a way to self-soothe the harshness of life and the fear of our uncertainty, but don’t fear your own attention. Get to know yourself.

If you fear hunger, you should. This world is selfish and scary.
If you fear poverty, you should. This world is selfish and scary.

When we practice hunger and poverty on purpose, however, we become that much more resilient in life. We can learn to live with hunger and poverty instead of against them. For example, I lived with only (7) shirts for an entire year. That wasn’t fun. But the gratefulness I have for my current clothes today is priceless. Actually, the exact price was living with only (7) shirts for a year. As crazy as that may sound to you, there are plenty of people living on this Earth right now who think having (7) different shirts makes you RICH. 💰

Fasting is difficult. You can survive a 3-day fast of anything with just willpower alone. But each day after that will slowly get worse and worse and worse. By day 5 of a coffee fast, I might push an old lady down a flight of stairs to get to a double espresso. ☕️

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Weeks 2, 3, and 4 of the fast provide time for me to relearn how to live each day without the habit. By the time I get to day 30, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. If the habit still doesn’t feel like an easy choice after 40 days, then I keep the fast going. Eventually I can objectively choose a new Budget for the habit.

@coffeedrinkers: Coffee is my favorite thing to get readdicted to. I love it. I kinda resent how much I love it. The best way I’ve found to taper off coffee is to delay how early I start drinking it each day. If I can make it all the way to 11am, I sometimes forget about it. During the first few weeks of coffee fasts, I occasionally drink English tea to fight off the headaches.

Constructing new habits seems to follow a similar 40-day timeline as the fasts. Let’s say you want to make a new daily stretching habit. If you stretch for three days in a row, it will still feel like work that first week. You’ll probably hate stretching more and more each day. But somewhere in the third or fourth week it may stop feeling like a chore. By the time you get to 40 days in a row of stretching, if you take the next day off, you will feel your body wanting to stretch.

We can feel our Reinforcement Learning.

Reinforcement learning puts us all at risk to become addicts. There are millions of people working honest jobs in our economy trying to addict people to their corporate products. An easy example is the beverage, Coca-Cola. Cocaine-Cola originally used cocaine as the active ingredient for its “health benefits”. When the US Government finally added cocaine as a Schedule II Controlled Substance, Coca-Cola switched to using sugar instead. Coca-Cola kept the original name because Sugar-Cola isn’t as alliteratively alluring. The problem for consumers is that sugar isn't any better than cocaine, neurologically. When scientists use fMRI to watch our brains consuming sugar, the regions that light up and the regions that go dark are exactly the same as cocaine. Sugar is just not as potent as cocaine so we can take hits all day long.

@foodies: Turning strawberries into strawberry jam isn’t that much different than turning poppies into opium. The strawberry jam just “hits better” than eating boring old strawberries. 😋

Corporations are not just addicting us to their sugary beverages. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and all the gaming companies know exactly what our brain chemistry looks like while consuming their products. They have teams of User Experience (UX) Researchers constantly A/B testing versions of their algorithms to find new ways of exploiting our neurotransmitters. From the outside, young kids “doom-scrolling” their Instagramand TikTok feeds look just like those lonely old people in casinos playing the nickel slot machines, begging for their next dopamine injection.

They’re all addicts.

Investors in Silicon Valley say their portfolio companies are “in a race to the bottom of the brain stem”, which is just like every other corporation looking to grow their sales. The very rational pursuit of profit leads consumers further into addiction. Why else would Walgreens, an American pharmacy chain that sells health and wellness, also sell cigarettes? 🚬

@biblenerds: Churches love to preach on “the fruits of the spirit”, but they rarely teach lessons on the verses just before that: the fruits of the flesh. English Bibles translate one of the fruits of the flesh as “sorcery”, but the original Greek word is “pharmakeia”. It’s where we get the word pharmacy. Imagine giving weed gummies to the scribes translating the King James Bible in 1611. They would probably call you a sorcerer. If you gave them psylocibin mushrooms or LSD, they would probably burn you at the stake. 🍄

If we don’t periodically fast these things from our lives, our brains build up tolerances to the extra neurotransmitters they provide. We need to drink more coffee, eat more sugar, and smoke more crack-rock to get the same highs. Dopamine junkies eventually stop enjoying normal life because they need so much extra dopamine just to feel normal. Instagram addicts eventually get depressed. Brains that build up that much dependence on exogenous neurotransmitters stop looking like normal brains.

At the forefront of brain imaging and addiction research is Dr. Daniel Amen. His Amen Clinics specialize in rehabilitation for people who have already failed rehab multiple times. In his book, “Unchain Your Brain”, Dr. Amen describes how long-term overexposure to certain substances can quiet and even deactivate certain regions of our brain. He explains this process so much better than I could, so here’s his 14-minute TED Talk, “The most important lesson I learned from 83,000 brain scans”.

As you can see, when substances or trauma silences a part of our brain, it changes our personality. Most of the time we are blind to these changes. Kind people can become menacing. Responsible people become forgetful. Alcoholics take risks they regret. Heroin addicts regret the horrible things they do to get their next fix because that isn’t who they really are.

When the Amen Clinic receives a new patient, they record an fMRI movie of the patient’s brain doing several simple tasks. Then they have the new patient compare their “swiss-cheese brain” to the brain of a non-addicted person doing the exact same tasks. Dr. Amen tries to train each new patient to have “brain envy”. As these patients slowly detoxify from their substance abuse, researchers can watch the sluggish areas of their brain come back to life. Our minds are that plastic. Detoxifying your life will change the way electricity moves around your neural network.

You can reengineer how you think, just by changing what you eat, drink, and smoke.

We’ll discuss more of Dr. Amen’s research in the next chapter. For now, here’s a (paid) link to buy his book, “Unchain Your Brain”.

Here’s a (paid) link to another book that is great for food addicts called “Eat.Q.”. Learn how things we eat in the morning can manufacture thoughts in the afternoon.

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➡️: Braces for Your Brain

⬅️: Adaptive Hardware

⬆️: Table of Contents

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