Beau Lotto: Biography highlights
Dr Beau Lotto is a globally renowned neuroscientist as well as Founder and CEO of Lab of Misfits Studio, the world’s first neuro-design studio.
Full biography of Beau Lotto
Beau Lotto’s Background
The lab creates unique real-world ‘experiential-experiments’ that places the public at the centre of the process of discovery. By spanning social and personal boundaries between people, brands and institutions, the Lab’s aim is to create, expand and apply their insights into what it is to be a perceiving human.
Public engagement, in the broadest sense, is at the core of what Beau does. By enabling people to experience what it is to be a scientist, Lotto’s aim is to encourage them to see science not as an academic investigation but as a way of being that is relevant to every aspect of their lives.
Beau Lotto has always looked outside the lab environment in order to collaborate with those who share his interest in exploring different ways of seeing – and doing – things, be they scientists, artists, musicians, educationalists, designers or entire businesses. As a result, his domain is as much a creative studio as a lab, whose output ranges from art installations and visual illusions to workshops designed for corporate leaders.
Lotto’s ambitious ideas about the relevance of science to ordinary people have taken him to places where few other scientists have ventured – including into exhibition space inside the world’s best-known Science Museum, in London, where Lab of Misfits was resident from 2010–12. While at the museum, Lab of Misfits pushed public engagement in science to new levels by involving the public directly in experiments. Lotto’s education programme led to the publication of the first-ever, peer-reviewed scientific paper written by school children.
Beau Lotto is currently a Professor at University London Goldsmiths College and a Visiting Scholar at NYU.
In 2017, Beau Lotto published his first major book, Deviate The Science of Seeing Differently. He draws on over two decades of pioneering research to explain that our brain hasn’t evolved to see the world accurately.
Watch Beau in action
How To Academy
I'm writing a short note (for now) to thank Beau for his incredible presentation yesterday. In 17 short minutes he managed to change the way that our audience perceived themselves and the world around them. Not only did he manage to excite them about his own work but he closed the morning session on a high that left them wanting more in the afternoon. We hope that he enjoyed speaking for the how to: Academy and look forward to reading more about his work in the future.'
'I simply adore these talks. Beau Lotto is one of those who studies a specific subject, such as our adaptation to illusions, primarily optical, that can be applied to any subject of human studies. For instance, it matters not what tools, wealth, knowledge, physical features, etc. we are granted in life, but rather how we choose to use them. Apply this to a scenario and you'll understand.'
London Science Museum
'Beau Lotto has been resident in the Science Museum for the past year. He has created a lab and a series of programmes that is like no other; it's not too far from the truth to describe his time here as like having a Renaissance man in our midst - Beau blends art, science, curiosity, illusion and music to entertain children, adults and scientists alike. The programmes that the studio have put together with the Museum are also truly inspirational and life-enhancing... I believe that our visitors will be strongly influenced and inspired by Beau and the Lab, and our mission must be to get as many people exposed to this opportunity as we can.'
'The event went very well. The speaker reacted very positively to a last minute change in the programme for which we were extremely grateful! Beau Lotto's speech was very pertinent and he involved the audience which is important at UFI meetings.'
'It was amazing! Sometimes a vision can be a little extreme but in this case, we absolutely nailed it. We have had over 50 emails and messages talking about how it was the most unique event experience they have ever had and how in some cases, it was life changing.'
'What a knockout! The feedback from all the members was fantastic, thank you very much. I have already had some interest from another multinational company who unfortunately were not at the meeting. I shall continue talking to other senior member executives in our membership as I think your material really is fantastic.'
'I worked with Beau Lotto for a film I made for the BBC2 science series 'Horizon'. Beau was our main contributor and organised an experiment, involving 200 people, which took place at the Science Museum and was the main thread through the film. Beau was great to work with - very creative, highly ambitious and with incredible energy. His communications skills are quite something to behold: when dealing with the volunteers from the public for the experiment, he held them in the palm of his hand and infected them with his enthusiasm. Respected by his peers and looked up to by his students he is someone who people like to listen to and learn from. I'd love the chance to work with him again.'
Darwin Healthcare Communications
'Our client saw Dr Beau Lotto on the Horizon programme and they were so impressed that they were interested in having him present at their annual glaucoma meeting. Dr Lotto was very accommodating from start to finish and his enthusiastic nature was refreshing. Dr Lotto's presentation was interactive, educational and entertaining. Both the client and delegates thoroughly enjoyed the nature of the presentation and it provided a welcome break from the seriousness of the meeting. On a personal note, Dr Lotto was a pleasure to work with. He was responsive to correspondence and a real character on site. I would happily recommend Dr Lotto to anyone interested in having him speak in a public capacity.'
'Beau was very energetic and his slides were visually appealing. His presentation style leaves delegates listening to every word and his enthusiasm for the topic helps engage the audience into what he is saying. He speaks about things that affect everyone and appeals to all types of audiences. He was a pleasure to work with, arrived on time and worked to the brief he was given without any fuss.'
Beau's speaking topics
There are two aspect to innovation: efficiency and creativity. I.e. the ability to create novel solutions to a meaningful problem and ability to realise that solution. Indeed, innovation is itself inherent in both of these processes. In recent decades we focused – at times almost exclusively – to efficiency.
What makes a good leader? When asked this question of a diverse audience, I’ll receive many, many different possible qualities that are ‘essential’. Here we will address these questions from the perspective of behavioural neuroscience, and consider a new answer: the quality of a leader is defined by how he/she leads others into uncertainty.
There is no inherent value in any piece of information! Data is meaningless. Why? This is because the brain deals with meaning and not information since information doesn’t tell you what to do. In fact THE fundamental challenge that the brain evolved to solve is to take meaningless data and make it meaningful. This is true even at the most fundamental level of our senses: seeing light. Which is why we never see the world in any direct sense. Instead what we see is the meaning of information grounded in our personal, cultural and evolutionary histories. And it’s the historical meaning of stuff that we literally see, experience and know (not the stuff itself). Here we’ll explore – and experience – how to see new meaning in data that has always been there, but remains hidden. The result will be an understanding of the principles by which the brain makes the meaningless meaningful.
There is no inherent value in change. Whether change is good or bad is – like everything else in life – context-dependent. Here, using principles in behavioural and perceptual neuroscience, we’ll explore what lives at the heart of change: why it’s often essential for success but equally the most feared of human activities. Indeed, to ask ‘why?’ is historically the most dangerous thing you can do. Hence, organisation, businesses, religions and even our education systems are designed to reduce question-asking. And yet all revolutions (and revelations) begin with a joke (“you mean it could be different from this?”). In this talk, we’ll see how and why questions and metaphor are mediators of change; what makes a good question; and how change – when properly pursued – has no direction or goal. Which means change is personal and – when properly considered – inevitable.
Arguably one of the most dangerous things one can experience in life is doubt. During evolution, if your ancestors weren’t sure whether that ‘thing over there’ was a predator, well … it would was too late for them. Thus, we hate doubt … and that’s usually a good idea (throughout evolutionary history). We are genetically programmed to do so: Sea-sickness, and indeed most of our mental health problems being direct manifestations of our fear. The deep irony, however, is that nothing interesting begins without it. So taking the risk to step into uncertainty is an essential aspect of adaptation, which we know is at the root of success in all natural systems. What’s more, nature also tells us when it’s best to risk uncertainty. So how to deal with uncertainty is the fundamental problem that your brain evolved to solve. Here we discuss in a highly experiential way how and why everything is uncertain, and nature’s solution to it.
Success in most educational systems is measured by the ability to memorise and reiterate facts. This is because education is in the service of society and businesses, which emphasizes efficiency over creativity. Schools – like business, then, focus on answers not questions through a competitive – not collaborative – environment. Getting the right answer and prosecuting it efficiently through competition is in fact a good strategy in a stable world. The problem is that our world is different … it’s complex, uncertain and evolving. Which is why to succeed in nature requires being adaptable to change (creativity). A necessary corollary of this view is the we need to teach not what to see, but why to look?
Here using the neuroscience of perception, we will explore this new way of thinking about education through concrete examples in the world of science education where children became the youngest published scientists in history. Born out of our research on perception, we will discuss a framework for a learning that is based on an openness to uncertainty and discovery that influences not just the way schools educate, but even the very architecture and design of schools.
Our framework is called ‘Seeing Myself See’, which recognises the importance of perception, of experience and imagination in shaping who we are as an individual – and also has the capacity to foster a different kind of learning: ‘this is how you see it now, but with a bit of courage it is possible for you to see it differently’. In this way children are guided away from the admittedly more comfortable black and white view of the world, to the more challenging, but a more enlightening realisation of the greys in between.
The 5 ‘C’s
We have distilled the idea of ‘Seeing Myself See’ in the context of education into five principles, which we call the 5 C’s: Compassion, Community, Choice, Creativity and Courage. These principles provide the intertwined threads of a tapestry, the actual colours and textures of which must be woven by the individual school. We argue that these principles can be achieved only if they become what we call the actual ‘ecology of education’. They are as much about teaching as learning, since teaching compassionately teaches compassion; teaching creatively teaches creativity; by guiding children rather than instructing them, they learn freedom and responsibility to choose; and situating one’s students in the context of a community enables the learner to become a unique part of a whole.
Imagine having a relationship with someone and treating them as the average man or woman. Not surprisingly, it’s not going to work for very long. The value of any relationship is defined by how well you ‘know’ someone: the more nuanced, creative and personal the narrative, the more essential it becomes. Branding is about creating a narrative and way of being that enables a brand to have a relationship with their audience. But brands treat people as averages, hence their stories do not foster what the brain truly needs to feel valued, meaningful and loyal. Understanding the mechanisms and principles of behavioural neuroscience that enable relationships to start, as well as what is need to maintain them (which are not the same thing) is essential to any brand. And key to this is authenticity. So how can brands be authentic? How can they understand themselves and communicate that to their audience? Who is your audience … at the human level? Are there general principles we can use? These are the questions with which we will engage in a highly experiential way through the neuroscience of perception.