The backwards-brain bicycle, created for Destin Sandlin, the host of a Facebook show called Smarter Every Day, is a regular bike that has been modified so that if the rider turns the handlebars to the right, the bike goes left. And vice versa. The short Facebook film shows the host and several others, in various countries, attempting to ride
the backwards-brain bike and failing. They can’t go four feet without putting a foot on the ground or falling. The point of the film is that the how-to-ride-a-bike algorithm is so strongly fixed in the adult brain that it takes months to retrain the mind to accept the new algorithm. It took Destin Sandlin eight months of daily practice to accept it; it
took his six-year-old son three weeks. Can an ingrained algorithm that compels citizens to purchase and consume more than they need, to accumulate rather than share, to accept shopping as a patriotic form of entertainment, be unlearned? The destructive effects of the algorithm are everywhere evident—from our polluted atmosphere to our polluted
oceans, from shrinking glaciers to depleted aquifers, from the rapid deforestation of the Amazon rainforest to the rapid extinction of species—and yet how many of us could adapt to living with even a little less? Our bicycle would have to be modified to go backward. Can this be done? Can it be done within our lifetime? Or our children’s?
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Tikkun 2016 Volume 31, Number 4: 72