Emerging Futures Podcast: Connecting Communities
Connecting Communities to Increase Public Safety
LOCI Founder & CEO/CTO Samantha Mathews was recently interviewed by The Emerging Futures Podcast host Joe Mardell. In the episode, Samantha explains how her roots set her on a journey from a small community on a remote Vancouver island with party-line phones, to live-streaming and go-pro hacking, to designing virtual worlds and using them to change behaviours and make the world a safer, more present place.
1:41: From no electricity to the metaverse.
Samantha describes her origins in a close-knit and remote island community on the coast of British Columbia. They explore how growing up in this very special time and place informed her values and vision for LOCI, and how each unique step in her journey—from music and performance, to hacking and virtual reality, to neuroscience—are present in the tools she builds today.
18:40: What impact will LOCI have?
Samantha shares LOCI’s focus on connecting to the human brain and designing tools that create insight in individuals. What if everybody could have advanced knowledge about the places they were going to in a way that felt natural, that felt like they’d already been there?
19:32: GPS of the Brain: navigating without moving.
Samantha talks about the VR experiment that led to the Nobel Prize-winning discovery of the “GPS of the brain,” which describes the types of brain cells and regions of the brain that work together to build our mental maps of the world as we navigate.
“The first line of code in any memory is where you were. Even if you were sound asleep, [you remember] the position you were in.”
20:16: The method of loci.
Samantha explains LOCI’s namesake, the method of loci, which is an ancient memory technique that’s over 2,500 years old. The method is still used today by World Memory Champions to store vast amounts of information for speedy recall under pressure. Samantha shares her vision of unlocking the brain’s significant capacity for memory by incorporating the method’s principles into LOCI’s digital training experiences.
20:58: The Hippocampus is a muscle you can work.
Samantha describes a study of London cab drivers who memorized “The Knowledge,” a complete mental map of London’s 25,000 streets and corresponding landmarks, which they are able to recall at will when driving their passengers. The drivers had 8% more tissue in their hippocampus than the control group who did not do any memorization, demonstrating the “use it or lose it” nature of our ability to remember and navigate.
When we follow the GPS guidance on our phones, we’re actually using a different part of our brain that follows directions but does not record our surroundings in our mental maps.
“It’s more dangerous to our minds than social media… We’re losing the capacity to orient ourselves in the process. In doing that we’re actually making it harder to store memories and problem solve.”
27:05: The effects of emerging technology.
Samantha discusses the different impacts of technology designed to offload our natural abilities versus technology that empowers us and increases our functionality. They explore the ways that innovation can leave people behind, creating divides in the population based on accessibility, and problems inherent in trying to solve problems caused by technology with more technology.
“Cities are designing padded poles, or lowering speed limits because of distracted drivers. It’s so dangerous. We’re optimizing in completely the wrong way for public safety, public togetherness, connection to space.”
30:45: The LOCI-empowered future.
Samantha paints a picture of what the future of empowering tech looks like by describing how LOCI’s microlearning experiences are designed to help you put your phone away and confidently navigate the world.
“When you arrive at the airport, the fly-through shows you your route to your gate, security and conveniences along the way. Or you’re at a stadium for an event, and you get the fastest route to your seat, to washrooms, food, and exit routes.”
She contrasts this experience of being pre-informed of the places we go with the current approach, which has people tuned out to their surroundings and glued to their phones trying to find their way.
32:15: LOCI’s participation in Japan’s Risk Reduction Framework
Samantha shares that LOCI was one of nine companies selected to partner with Sendai City in Japan on their Safer City Initiative, as part of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030.
As an island nation on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” Japan has a complex risk landscape. Through the Sendai Framework, they’re building a comprehensive approach to disaster preparedness that other cities around the world can follow and adapt to their own unique risk profiles.
“I hope that through participating with…Sendai we can start to update how we approach risk, and not from the perspective of say, a container wall, but how we approach risk through people. Who we’re leaving behind from the basics of safety. If we can’t achieve safety for all, I don’t think we’ll be able to achieve our other [goals].”