Guy Kawasaki's Remarkable People

Temple Grandin: Different Minds for Different Times

Episode Summary

Today we have the honor of speaking with one of the most accomplished and influential figures in the world of autism, animal behavior, and engineering. Our guest is none other than Temple Grandin. Temple is a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University and a bestselling author. She has been named to Time Magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world and inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has also been featured in multiple documentaries and biopics, including the Emmy-winning HBO film "Temple Grandin. She also has the distinction of winning the best shirt award on Remarkable People. Today we are discussing her new book Visual Thinking: The Hidden Gifts of People Who Think in Pictures, Patterns, and Abstractions. Join us as we delve into Temple’s extraordinary life, her remarkable achievements, and the insights she has gained.

Episode Notes

Welcome to Remarkable People, where we bring you conversations with the world's most accomplished and influential individuals. Today, we are honored to have Temple Grandin as our guest.

Temple is a renowned professor of animal sciences, a bestselling author, and a leading advocate for autism awareness. Time Magazine has recognized her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, and she has been inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Temple has also been the subject of numerous documentaries and biopics, including the Emmy-winning HBO film "Temple Grandin," chronicling her life and achievements.

In this episode, Temple discusses her new book, Visual Thinking: The Hidden Gifts of People Who Think in Pictures, Patterns, and Abstractions. She shares her insights into how individuals who think in visual patterns and abstractions can leverage their unique talents to succeed in a world that values linear thinking.

Throughout the conversation, Temple reflects on her remarkable life journey, including her experiences with autism, her groundbreaking work in animal behavior, and her contributions to engineering.

So join us for an illuminating conversation with one of the most extraordinary individuals of our time. Tune in to Remarkable People with Temple Grandin.

00:20 to 01:47- Intro
23:38 to 24:36 - Why visual thinkers could be useful in jobs that could fix equipment
38:46 to 39:18 - Teaser for next segment
39:18 to 39:42 - CTA + Rejoiner
55:01 to OUT - OUTRO


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Guy Kawasaki is on a mission to make you remarkable. His Remarkable People podcast features interviews with remarkable people such as Jane Goodall, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Marc Benioff, Woz, Kristi Yamaguchi, and Bob Cialdini. Every episode will make you more remarkable.

With his decades of experience in Silicon Valley as a Venture Capitalist and advisor to the top entrepreneurs in the world, Guy’s questions come from a place of curiosity and passion for technology, start-ups, entrepreneurship, and marketing. If you love society and culture, documentaries, and business podcasts, take a second to follow Remarkable People.

Listeners of the Remarkable People podcast will learn from some of the most successful people in the world with practical tips and inspiring stories that will help you be more remarkable.

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Episode Transcription

Guy Kawasaki:

I'm Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. We're on a mission to make you remarkable. Today, we have the honor of speaking with one of the most accomplished and influential figures in the world of autism, animal behavior, and engineering. 

Our guest is none other than Temple Grandin. Temple is a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University and a bestselling author. She has been named at Time Magazine's list of the 100 Most Influential People in The World, and she's been inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

She's also been featured in multiple documentaries, including the Emmy-winning HBO Film, Temple Grandin, and to top it all off, she also has the distinction of winning the Best Shirt Award on Remarkable People. 

Today, we are discussing her new book, Visual Thinking: The Hidden Gifts of People Who Think in Pictures, Patterns and Abstractions.

Join us as we delve into Temple's extraordinary life, her remarkable achievements, and the insights she has gained. I'm Guy Kawasaki. This is Remarkable People, and now, here is the remarkable Temple Grandin.

Temple Grandin:

Visual thinking, it's called an object visualizer, thinks completely in pictures, in photo realistic pictures. 

I didn't know that other people thought in words until I was in my late thirties, and then I discovered that other people think verbally, but everything is a picture. 

It's also associative thinking. On a podcast I was just on, a parent of an autistic child asked about their child having complex issues. I saw housing development. 

Now, I know that's wrong for the word complex. I'm also seeing some signs for some businesses. I know that is wrong. A thing a visual thing is good at is being very specific. I don't know what a child's complex problem is. Tell me specifically what the problem is and then I might be able to help you.

See, the verbal thinker tends to overgeneralize. That's what the verbal thinker does. 

How do you make it inclusive and how do you implement it? I was just reading my MIT Technology magazine and they were talking about design thinking, and one of the problems they mentioned in that article was they don't talk about how do you actually implement something.

Now, what object visualizers are really good is inventing mechanical things. I worked with a lot of them that build equipment for me because I spent twenty-five years in heavy industry supervising construction of my projects. I worked with object visualizers who barely graduated from high school that might have twenty patents each for complicated mechanical equipment. 

These are the things that object visualizers are really good at and we're terrible at abstract math. Most of the people I worked with, shop people that invented things, are terrible at math.

Then you have the other part of engineering. That's your mathematical side, and you need the whole team. In a food plant, object visualizers build and sign the equipment and the degreed engineer will do boilers, refrigeration, power, water requirements, wind loading on the building, snow loading on the building. You've got to have the whole team.

Maybe that explains what an object visualizer is, but I know that some educators, especially now that so many schools took out shop classes, don't really understand what object visualization is. When I was doing a book signing for my book Visual Thinking in October, that's just a few months ago, they did one of the talks at a school and I talked to the principal and he didn't know what object visualization was. He understood verbal and math thinking but not object visualization.

I'm very concerned that object visualizers are getting screened out because we can't do Algebra, but you need us. 

Another reason why you need us is if you want to build something now like a new poultry processing plant, you got to import all the equipment from Holland because they did not take out shop classes. We also don't make the state-of-the-art electronic chip making machine, as in electronic chips, not potato chips. The object visualizers need to be there. They're part of the team.

Guy Kawasaki:

Do you think that this lack of appreciation for object visualizers and the dependence on standardized testing and passing Algebra to get further in STEM, do you think it's literally a threat to our country?

Temple Grandin:

I'm going to say we're losing skills. I'm very concerned about this. The next time you see somebody fixing an elevator, check out their age. They're turning gray and they're not getting replaced. The small shops that I worked that built my equipment, they're all retiring out. 

They are not getting replaced because those kids are playing video games in the basement with an autism diagnosis, and I'm going to estimate that about 20 percent of very skilled drafting technicians, people laying out entire factories with maybe a single drafting class, people patenting equipment, specialized mechanical equipment that I worked with are either autistic, dyslexic or ADHD, and my colleagues are retiring out. They are not getting replaced.

Now, we're going to have some problems. Who's going to keep the power grid from falling apart, the water systems and falling apart? Some people say, "Well, everything's going to be computers." They still got all these mechanical devices controlled by computers and I don't think elevators are going to have anti-gravity anytime soon and they're going to be mechanical devices for a long, long time maybe controlled by computers.

Guy Kawasaki:

I loved your story where you noticed that the mummies, the art was getting worse and worse-

Temple Grandin:

That was in Egypt.

Guy Kawasaki:

... and you asked the person, "What's happening here?" Can you tell that story?

Temple Grandin:

Well, that was a fourth grade field trip to the art museum. They had a big Egypt exhibit. and this is why I think it's important that schools have field trips. I was fourth grade and I was fascinated by the mummies, but then as we went through the different dynasties, going from the early dynasties to the later dynasties, the art wasn't as pretty. 

It was more crude and I asked my teacher why, and she said their civilization was falling apart. That's what she told me.

Guy Kawasaki:

Is that what you see when you look at bridges and overpasses now?

Temple Grandin:

They're not being maintained for one thing. I was just out doing book signing out in Maryland in a really affluent part of town and went over a bridge that was horribly not maintained, rusting out, and my mind gets really concerned about that.

Guy Kawasaki:

So as a visual thinker, are you in a sense cursed with seeing disasters and potential disasters everywhere? You see the bridge, you see the overpass, you see the 737 MAX with only one sensor, is everything just making your head explode?

Temple Grandin:

You see in my book, on Visual Thinking it talks about disasters. Mathematically trained engineers calculate risk. Visual thinkers see risk. When I found out why Fukushima burned up, to me it's just unbelievable. How could you not put watertight doors on it to protect the electric emergency cooling pump? 

I can't design a nuclear reactor. I don't have the math skills for that, but I know that electric pumps don't run under water, and when you need that pump, you really need it or you're going to have a disaster.

I think what happens is the mathematical mind doesn't see it. They had a ten-meter sea wall. Thirty minutes on Google I discovered that, looking at historical data only took me thirty minutes, that sea wall would be breached. That would not be high enough to keep the tsunamis out. That wasn't very hard, and what I'm realizing is that they don't see it.

I think the thing with the Boeing max in the beginning was a visual thinking mistake, one sensor, very fragile. When I found out what an angle of attack sensor was, I'm going, "This is very fragile. A pigeon could take that off a plane," and you wired it to one of them and nobody asked the question, "What happens if I just break it? What's the MCAST computer going to do?" That's a very simple question.

Then you're talking about a sensor that breaks all the time. That was easy to find online, and I just see a bird hitting that and it's going to break it, but they don't see it. They don't see it. 

Now, since the book was written, I sat on a plane next to a Boeing engineer. This is not in the book. The engineer told me that the shop people had warned them and they didn't pay attention. That's according to a Boeing engineer sitting beside me on a plane.

Guy Kawasaki:

This is because it was all about time to market and lowering the cost to make and develop that plane.

Temple Grandin:

There was other stuff. The flight manual done was really bad, but in the beginning, it started out as a visual thinking mistake, and it could have been very easily corrected, very easily corrected. It wouldn't have been expensive at all to correct that in the beginning. 

Some of these problems is they don't see it. I've looked at some of the reviews about my Visual Thinking book and some of the people have called it conjecture. I think people that are verbal thinkers, they don't understand visual thinking. I can see a pigeon hitting that angle of attack sensor and breaking it off, and my thinking is associative. I'm also saying a fake owl that they put on one of the jet bridges at the Denver Airport, which I didn't keep the pigeons away very well, it's associative thinking.

Guy Kawasaki:

To go back to the question, do you always see these potential problems?

Temple Grandin:

Oh, well, some of the best parts of my career was when I was out working on these projects and working with all kinds of people in the shops that barely graduated from high school and they have twenty patents to their name. 

People that started out with a single welding class now own a big shop, sell specialized hydraulic equipment around the world, and since they're not declared on their autism, I have to be vague about what that equipment does. Got to be vague about it.

Guy Kawasaki:

What is the relationship between autism and visual thinking.

Temple Grandin:

What tends to happen in autism is you have extremes. Most people are mixtures of maybe visual, mathematical, and verbal thinking, but when you have autism, you can have an extreme object visualizer or a very extreme mathematician who is brilliant at math and programs computers for Silicon Valley. 

They can also be autistic. Then there's some that are more verbal that learn ten languages. You tend to get more hyperspecialized if you're on the autism spectrum.

I worked with shop people that I know undiagnosed autistic, and what's happening right now is they're getting shunned in special ed, and then I talked to special ed teacher just the other day right here in town and she told me that they won't let these kids take shop, "These are the individuals we need to be fixing things. 

We've got water systems that are falling apart, electrical stuff with all kinds of problems. In engineering, there's a place for the visual thinkers, and we also have to have the mathematical thinkers. Let's take fixing power grid stuff and all those power plants froze down in Texas."

Everybody talked about it in abstractions. If we got to figure out how to fix them, let's make a list of the plants and what piece of equipment actually froze because some stuff's easier to fix than other stuff. 

I like to fix the easy ones first, but nobody talked about it in that concrete manner that you would need to make rational decisions about what maybe to winterize first, and maybe some of them can't be winterized. Then it's up to the mathematicians of balance of power grid. I can't do that.

Like I said, let's say we can get these three stations back online. Can we at least do rolling blackouts, scheduled rolling blackouts? That's not very nice but that's better than being completely off. The mathematicians can tell me whether that's possible. 

You need both kinds of minds, but I see something like a piece of equipment froze, maybe I can build a building over it. Now you can't do that with the gas equipment because they have to be open so you don't have explosions. That equipment all has to be open to the atmosphere. Can't put a building over that, but that's stuff I see.

Then the older I get and the more things I see, the bigger my database. I'm like artificial intelligence. I'm visual artificial intelligence. I'm only as good as my dataset, my training set. So the more stuff I get out and see, the better I get.

Guy Kawasaki:

I got to say, Temple, I just love your metaphors. In the book, you used the metaphor of your desktop versus what's stored in the cloud. I loved how you use those kind of metaphors in your book. Thank you.

Temple Grandin:

I think it makes it clear when I talk to people about autistic sensory nervous system problems, I tend to use electronic terms because I think they explain it better like, "I have a slow processor speed." Some of these kids are like a phone on one bar of service. It takes time for them to get the word up and say it. I find that people understand that better than using neurological language because people understand that a one bar phone, one bar service can't download a website very quickly.

Guy Kawasaki:

You are the master of the metaphor, I have to say that.

Temple Grandin:

When you're a visual thinker, I have to understand things, I have to relate it back to something I can visualize. There's a lot of very abstract top-down thinking like have an inclusive classroom or an inclusive something or other, and it's all very abstract, but the visual thinker can think about, "How would I actually implement this?"

What do you mean by inclusive classroom? For people on the spectrum, I want to get rid of the LED lights that flicker. That's big number one. That is something that is specific. It's not abstract and it's something I can actually do.

Guy Kawasaki:

Let's say somebody's listening to this and they're buying into what you're saying. Is it possible to take a verbal or a math thinker and fine tune and add visualization to the repertoire or are you born and stuck as a type?

Temple Grandin:

I think there are a lot of people that are mixtures, and that makes them a lot more flexible, but they pounded away on me with Algebra and there's nothing there to visualize. You get in the extremes of this. I think a lot of it is innate. 

The first step, and I talk to a lot of business leaders, is you have to realize different kinds of thinking exist and how they can bring complimentary skills to the table.

For example, when Betsy Lerner and I did the Visual Thinking book, I would write the rough drafts associational. Betsy, a super verbal thinker, would change the order and smooth them out. So that's an example of complimentary skills working together, fully being aware of how they are complimentary skills.

Guy Kawasaki:

I was going to come to this later, but you opened the door right now. I have to say that I am amazed at just how beautifully written this book is. As I was reading it, I was always asking myself, "How is someone who says she thinks in pictures able to put text down so well?" Can you explain that to me?

Temple Grandin:

I would write rough drafts and they'd be more associational, and if you want to see some of my writing without a co-writer, you can look at stuff on, livestock stuff I've written. What Betsy did is smooth it out, but on the other hand, Betsy would not have been able to write about the Fukushima nuclear power plan or about Boeing. 

She wouldn't have been able to do that in million years. So I wrote about that, but she smoothed it out.

That's the different kinds of minds working together, recognizing our different skills. Everything with me is associational, and for certain kinds of stuff, it can be really valuable. For example, I went to a travel website's corporate office, disability, talk about disabilities, and you get a lot of abstract stuff. 

Finally, I asked the blind person that was there and we got to talking and he says, "You know what really drives me crazy at the airport and I get so frustrated with is finding gate." I'm thinking of making an app for his phone, whereas he walks down the concourse, the gate numbers will just get spoken to him. Now, you see, I'm going to call it gate finder.

That is something that is specific. Then I thought about I can do it with transponders, the little tags they have for the toll gates or maybe I can do it with AI if the gate number signs are big enough, which they are at our airport. I think an AI program could read the signs. You'd have to hold the phone up. Which way would I go?

Now, that's something specific that somebody could actually do. It's not talking about make an airport inclusive. I don't know how to implement that. So I immediately got to thinking about, he told me the one thing that when he's at the airport that really was frustrating, walking down a big concourse, trying to find the gates, having to ask somebody where they are constantly. I visualized that.

You'll have to just look at something like the iPhone. Steve Jobs was an artist. He did not know how to program, but he made an interface on that phone where you didn't need a degree in engineering to use the phone, and that's why it was so successful. Programmers had to program it. That's a visual thinker, made the interface and the mathematician program.

Guy Kawasaki:

Did you ever know Steve when he was alive? You two would've gotten along very well.

Temple Grandin:

I never met Steve, but I've read a lot of his things. I also have in my Visual Thinking book the collaboration between Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, the two Steves. Now, Steve Wozniak wanted more features on the computer, like five expansion slots and stuff like that, and Steve Jobs is going, "Well, that's too complicated for the consumer. We got to make a computer where you have a slot for the printer and one other thing and that's it." 

You've got to make it simple for the homeowner, regular person to use. The engineer with mathematical mind wants to fill it up with so many features that nobody can understand. I've got so many electronic features on this card that I don't how to use most of them.

Guy Kawasaki:

I'm friends with Steve Wozniak and he's been on this podcast and I work for Steve Jobs. So your analysis of their relationship, as far as I understood it anyway, I thought was very insightful and very useful.

Temple Grandin:

You see, the different kinds of minds, but those two minds working together produced fabulous computers that everybody used. What's worrying me today is my kind of mind is all these math requirements. I'm talking to students all the time trying to, let's say community college, get a veterinary nurse degree and they're on their second and third Algebra class, they're flunking, and you don't need that to be a veterinary nurse or a veterinarian. 

You need arithmetic, yes, and there's a few algebraic equations for drug dosing that can be memorized. Those have to be learned, but we're screening out somebody that might be the very best veterinary nurse, actually the very best veterinarian that can visualize things wrong with animals.

Guy Kawasaki:

I'm going to go back to one more question about writing because I'm a writer, so I'm interested in how you do this. So I counted forty-three pages of references in this Visual Thinking book and there's an average of about twenty references per page. 

So there's about 800 references. So I want to know how a visual thinker compiles and digests so many scientific studies into a book.

Temple Grandin:

I looked up all that stuff. This book was done during COVID. It was our lockdown project. Both Betsy and I had nothing to do, so did this, but when I write, I describe what I see. So I've got a lot of stuff on, my livestock website, where you can see my writing without any editing. 

It's been very effective in teaching people how to handle cattle, teaching people how to build corrals. I just describe what I see as I write it. I describe what I see and I looked these papers up, and I wanted to make sure I document it. I've got a whole chapter in there on visual thinking, how it works, and I put all those references in there because I want to show people this isn't something I just made up, that there's actually some science behind this.

So I dug up every article I could find, and on the Boeing max thing, I looked up all kinds of stuff to support what I'm saying. One of the things that I'm really good at since I'm a bottom up thinker, I'm very good at surfing the scientific databases, very good at surfing the internet. 

I'll try different keywords. I always tell my students or my students have to do a project where they look up scientific articles. Cattle has six keywords, cow, steer, bull, cattle.

So let's say I want to look up the literature on feeding wheat to cattle. I'm just making something up. I also need feeding wheat to steers because if the paper only had the word steer in it, it's not going to be found with just the word cattle. 

So I'll do what I call triplet searches. So I'd put like “feeding wheat cattle”, “feeding wheat steers”, “feeding wheat cows”, especially those steers, “feeding wheat bulls”, and those would be four separate searches just for something simple like that.

Guy Kawasaki:

Wouldn't you say that shows a great deal of verbal skills, not visual?

Temple Grandin:

I have verbal skills for describing the things that I see in my mind, and I have to thank the teachers when I was young that red marked up my work to correct the grammar, thank the teachers for doing that, but I'm an associational thinker rather than linear. 

Betsy being highly verbal is very linear, but as we worked on the book, she got understanding individual thinking because she had some repair people come to her house to fix the fireplace and fix something else. She says, "I started to watch how they think, how they figured out how to put the rock on the fireplace and got a new appreciation for that."

Guy Kawasaki:

So do you think this concept of twice exceptional, do you think that it's always true if you have a deficiency, you have something exceptional? Is it the two come together?

Temple Grandin:

Oftentimes, the two come together. You have a super brilliant mathematician who's also autistic, and then there's lots of people that are in the middle, mixtures of the different kinds of thinking, lots of middle of the road people, but some of these extremes, often they are twice exceptional. What I see happening is verbal. 

When you go to meetings like the twice exceptional maybe for gifted and for autism and there's a lot of overlap, but you go to the book tables and the books have very little overlap. Each group is just reading their stuff, but I'm very concerned that a lot of visual thinkers that we need in high end skilled trays, and I'm not talking about laying floor tiles. 

I'm talking about things like inventing mechanical equipment, electricians, plumbers, heating and air conditioning, things that really require high level skills. Fixing elevators would be another one. They're not getting replaced and a lot of these kids are getting screened out at Draconian and algebraic requirements. I don't think I could graduate from high school in California, but there's back doors into jobs.

Somebody might say, "That's just old fashioned stuff of Temple Grandin in her seventies. That's old fashioned stuff." There's some new ones like a guy that got a job in a fiberglass tank factory, and six months later, he repaired every piece of equipment in that factory. That's now. That would be somebody who was an extreme visual thinker because he could see how the machines worked.

Guy Kawasaki:

So do you think that a country like Germany where there's apprenticeships and there's not this drive towards standardized testing and getting into an Ivy League school, do you think they're going to have an inherent advantage?

Temple Grandin:

I can tell you right now that if you want to build a pork processing plant or poultry processing plant, you're going to be buying the equipment from Europe, not the building, not the refrigeration, but all the mechanical devices. We used to make some and that's a fact.

In fact, after the book got written, another poultry plant went up in Canada and all the equipment is from Europe. There's a link here between this and education, and the visual thinkers are getting shunted in specialties. We can't do algebra. We don't pound away on algebra. There's nothing there to visualize. I can only visualize photo realistic pictures. Now, I can understand something like pie times the radius squared for sizing hydraulic cylinders, but I see the cylinder on the excavator machine. It's not abstract.

Guy Kawasaki:

Let's suppose that I'm a parent of a kid who is twice exceptional or just autistic or just a visual thinker or whatever. How do I spot an institution or a teacher who will help a neurodiverse child?

Temple Grandin:

The first thing is a lot of those terms are very vague. I've got to look at where the kid's skills are at. You might have a kid who's my kind of mind, very good with Legos, but nobody thinks to progress to tools. I'm seeing too many kids growing up today, they never use tools. 

I was using tools in second grade, pliers, hammer, and screwdriver. I'm using them in second grade. Kids are not doing that today. By taking a lot of the hands-on classes out, kids aren't getting exposed to enough different things to find out where they might be really good at something. That's the problem. I don't think the verbal people understand that.

You've got educators today, they don't know anything about heavy industry. I come out of that field. I spent hours and hours, I'd be building a big Cargill plant. I was walking around the whole entire thing even though my job was just to do the corrals and the cattle restrainer, but I watched them build the whole rest of the factory, and you realized it was some of these people, it's a different form of intelligence.

Guy Kawasaki:

What would be your advice to teachers who encounter these kind of students? How can you help them best?

Temple Grandin:

I want to give them places where their skills can shine. If it's my kind of mind, building things, art. Mechanics, art, and photography, and animals all go together. Art and mechanics go together. 

Now, if you take the automobile shop out of the school, the child doesn't have a chance to find out he's good at motors. I worked with two people where big career started in patented equipment with a single welding class. That's where it started. If you take that class out, that person isn't going to get the opportunity.

All right. Let's take a kid who's a math person, that's twice exceptional, a math kid. If you don't have them do the harder math, he's just going to get bored and turn into their behavior problem. You got to expose them to the higher math. 

They have to be exposed to these things in order to do them. So I'm a big fan let's expose kids to lots of different things and see what they gravitate towards. I get asked all the time, "How'd you end up in the cattle industry?" I was exposed to it as a teenager. That's how I got involved in that.

Guy Kawasaki:

You talk about your exposure to cattle and horses and what a big effect it had, but you also had one teacher in particular that you'll highlight named William Carlock. Could you just explain the role he played in your life?

Temple Grandin:

I was not interested in studying, and bad grades in English and history was just goofing off. By giving me interesting science projects, he showed me how studying was a pathway to a goal. It wasn't just to please the family, it was a pathway to a goal. 

So I knuckled down and started studying. Now, by the time I got to that age, I was a really good reader. When I was an eight years old, I had no reading and mother taught me with phonics, but he gave me interesting projects and got me motivated. He was very important. This is where a good teacher really makes a difference.

See, first of all, you've got to get exposed to things, and then what you have to do is be mentored. Then there was a contractor named Jim who helped get me into the construction business. He saw my drawings and seeked me out. 

Another important mentor, he showed me how to get my business started, but the thing is we need all the different kinds of minds. You have a kid who could be a math genius. If you don't expose them to higher math, he's just going to become a behavior problem. I'm seeing that happen.

The other thing about these kids that are math geniuses, the verbal thinkers want them to show their math step by step. That's not how these kids think. 

Just let them do it in their head. They don't think the same way, and teachers have a hard time understanding that. They just see it. That's not my mind, but that's the mathematical mind.

Guy Kawasaki:

This is a very personal question that I didn't quite understand the nuance, which is you draw this really great distinction between pilers and filers in terms of neatness and stuff.

Temple Grandin:

I'm a piler.

Guy Kawasaki:

Okay, but you discussed that there are pilers who pile stuff, and then you bring in this example of I think it's Mr. Patriarca and-

Temple Grandin:

That was a teacher in elementary school, he always kept things neat, but I tend to have a lot of papers piled up, and if somebody moves my piles, then I can't find anything.

Guy Kawasaki:

So what's the dichotomy? In a sense, he was enforcing neatness, which you discussed positively, but you also discussed that pilers nowhere, everything-

Temple Grandin:

I had this table at home where I had all my parachute and airplane experiment mess, big table, and I knew where the stuff was. That was at the same time that I would've been in Mr. Patriarca's shop and what the rule was I could have any mess I wanted on that table, but not in the rest of the house.

Guy Kawasaki:

I was wondering if I should force my kid to clean his room or not.

Temple Grandin:

I think there's some stuff…I can be messy. I don't know, one time years ago, they made all the faculty clean up their offices and I did it. I can tell you one place I draw the line is food mess. That I don't have. I'm living by myself, but I hand wash the dishes every time I eat.

Guy Kawasaki:

Well, I'm sitting in your kitchen. I can see that.

Temple Grandin:

It's clutter. I draw the line on food mess. That I don't have. I can see things getting into my apartment I don't want, ants and all this stuff I don't want.

Guy Kawasaki:

I'd love to get your thoughts about ChatGPT and AI in the sense of-

Temple Grandin:

I've been working at that really carefully. It's a bottom up thinker. It's a bottom up thinker. I'm horrified at the New York Times conversation with it, where it was asked to look at its Jungian self of what it might like to do, not allowed to do but might like to do, talking about deleting all of Bing's files, making gibberish and putting up offensive comments. It actually said that. I was reading that on a plane and getting creeped out.

Now, another was that ChatGPT was in love with this person who said that he would never go to dinner with their wife and I'm going, "I can't believe this thing's writing this." Another reporter was saying, "I could steal your Social Security number and reputation," but you see what they were doing was pushing it. So what Microsoft's going to do now is limit it to eight questions, but it can be pushed into bringing some real rubbish up.

I can see how it thinks. It thinks the same way I do. I got all those references in my book. I read those papers too. This was done during lockdown, so I had lots of extra time too, but every one of those references, I can relate it back to something in the book. Normally as an academic, I would've put the little reference numbers in, but the publisher says that they didn't want to do that.

I would've had more pictures in it too and they said it was too much money. So I went along with that, but I managed to put some of my drawings in there for decoration. I wanted people to see some of my drawings.

I would put all the references, and if someone challenges, I can go back and get those papers and say that this is not conjecture, this is really true, but when I think that a lot of verbal thinkers have a hard time understanding, especially the really verbal, understanding thinking and pictures. 

Then the other drawing program that does art, it only takes pictures that have captions on them. Then ChatGPT is all language-based, but I can understand how it works. It's bottom up, not top down.

Guy Kawasaki:

I might make the case that ChatGPT and AI is going to replace many fundamental math skills-

Temple Grandin:

Oh, I think it's going to replace the program.

Guy Kawasaki:

... and not visual thinking. It's going to be much harder to replace the way you think than the way algebra works.

Temple Grandin:

That's the thing. The other thing is for years in my class, my livestock handling class, I have to do scale drawing. I have lecture all about cattle behavior, there's a lab, but one of the things that I've been having them do for about fifteen years is a database searching project because I found out that 30 percent of my students, these are college students, did not know that databases like PubMed and Google Scholar existed. I was pretty shocked at this.

This is going to get more and more important as you get ChatGPT writing stuff on social media. I think more and more we've got to teach students. You got to go back to primary sources, and your default setting tends to be, "Well, you write on social media, everything has to be verified," and I'm going to be telling my students that.

Then what I let them do is pick out an animal behavior topic, any animal behavior topic they're interested in. Let's say you want to ask a question. Do birds have a magnetic sense? That'd be something I'd let them do. 

Then they have to go on those scientific databases, not regular Google, but that scientific databases, two scientific studies on Google Scholar, two off of PubMed, two off of Web of Science, and two off of the ScienceDirect Elsevier database.

Do birds have a magnetic sense? Then you have to write an abstract, which I think ChatGPT will be extremely good at, and students are probably going to use it. I've also found out it passes the plagiarism software, but the thing I am most concerned about, I want them to know those databases exist and they need to be looking in them.

Okay. Let's say it's something about politics and I don't discuss politics, but they need to go back to primary sources, Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, something that is a primary source. When something on social media says a politician said something, go back, verify. 

I've been doing this searching project in my class for fifteen years, and after I found out about ChatGPT and all that stuff, I think it's getting more and more important that young people learn how to do this, primary sources, check stuff, and check it from sources where you can verify. ChatGPT doesn't give references yet, but let's say it did. Let's go back on the database and check it.

The other thing as a senior, I'm appalled at the amount of scams I get on my phone. Your PayPal account has been compromised. They're going to close down your Amazon account, a fake insurance stuff, fake car insurance stuff, fake Medicare stuff, fake IRS stuff. My default setting is scam until proven otherwise on a lot of stuff.

Now, I showed somebody else a fake Amazon thing and they looked at that horrified. I just deleted it, but I think more and more, we need to be teaching young people to verify sources. Now that ChatGPT is out there, I'm going to be pushing even more that what you're going to learn in this database project is how to search primary sources, and this is getting more and more important.

Guy Kawasaki:

Let me ask you something. So you consider the New York Times, Washington Post a primary source as opposed to the Journal of Applied Psychology?

Temple Grandin:

When I say a primary source, but especially for political stuff, I want to know who wrote it. I'm not saying the Wall Street journal's perfect, but I think I would trust that more than some blogger, something that has a ... No, but you're a blogger, but okay, if there's big blogger has a reputation, but I've read all about the troll farms. I read a lot of stuff. 

I get Nature, I get Science, I get Wired, I get MIT Technology today. I get it all in paper. I love to sit and have breakfast and enjoy a two-hour long read of Nature. I spend a lot of time reading The Economist. I'm not saying these things are perfect, but I think they're better than something where I don't know where it came from. If ChatGPT starts having references, I'm going to start verifying them. I'm going to go online and make sure that's in a database.

I've got to say as a senior, the amount of scam phone calls, scam mail I get, scam text crap on my phone, delete, delete, delete, delete. Then I show that to some of the young students and I show them the fake Amazon text that my Amazon account was blocked. They're going, "Ah!" and I go, "Delete," because I've learned how to look up the web addresses and I've learned all the tricks. I've read them in the stuff that I read at breakfast. 

No, it's terrible. I'm getting ten of these things a week. That's what they're doing to seniors right now, suck them in that bunch of scams.

Guy Kawasaki:

So you discuss many instances of tech startups, and basically, most stories about tech startups are two guys in a garage and it's two guys, was in jobs and they're both male and they're in a garage. So why is it always males in a garage?

Temple Grandin:

See, and the people I worked with, it was one welder starts on the back of a truck and the little tiny shop, I can remember some of the people I worked with, one of them on single welding glass, multi-gillion dollar business with a corporate jet now. 

I remember when he was tiny, build a little tiny cattle handling facility for our experiment station, and the people that grew up working on cars and built equipment for me and had twenty patents because I looked up the patents. I'm just saying what I see.

The thing is in every industry, little people innovate. Little people innovate. Big guys buy up and copy. Little people innovate. Big people buy up. Now, I'm seeing the Borg in Star Trek assimilating people, buy up and copy or copy stuff. 

I do know one lady that has her own very successful business. She's autistic lady and she has a very successful business. See, I had to search the database to find that.

She fixes programmable logic controllers on industrial equipment, for example, of a programmable logic controller that controls a gigantic machine that makes gears that are as wide as this room for giant industrial equipment, and she is a lady. It's not a huge business, it's a small shop. 

She has a niche, especially programmable controllers with some of the older equipment like this gear milling equipment. This is very expensive stuff. She has a niche market in that. Just started out small. I had a chance to go look at some of her work at the Gear Factory and I noticed that the milling machine that she had programmed ran smoother. I could see it. See, now I'm in her file looking at what she's done.

Another innovator, and it's a lady that's making a cardboard box for berries, and I've tried to be really supportive of that to get rid of the plastic box. That would be a small startup. That's woman-owned business. The thing is you got to get a big customer finally to buy it. 

So that's a startup, but since I was working on equipment, most of the time, the first things I pull up in my memory are the ones I directly worked with, but then I started searching the database just like that art program does. 

I have to keep all these people names out of it, but those are two women there in startup businesses. Little people innovate. That's a real basic principle.

I can tell you the biggest barrier that I had in the seventies was being a woman. Autism wasn't a barrier. Being a woman was a big barrier. I had to be twice as good as a guy. I had to be whole, whole much better. 

Then the way I sold jobs since elsewhere was I simply would show off my work. There's one of my drawings right there. I sold Cargill. I designed the front end of every Cargill plant and I sent them back in the late eighties, drawings and pictures from jobs. That's how I sold them.

Guy Kawasaki:

This is your thirty-second reveal, right? You blow them away in thirty seconds with your drawing, not your bullshit.

Temple Grandin:

I call it the thirty-second wow. So when Mr. Fielding, the head of Cargill, opened this up, this is pre-internet, a big two foot by three foot drawing of one that was very similar to this. It wasn't this drawing, but it was a very similar drawing. 

Then there was a couple of plastic pages with pictures, a brochure and a couple of trade magazine articles because I wrote about my stuff, something you look at very quickly. It was like the elevator speech. Wow. I don't put much junk in it. That was the packet of stuff. When I do lectures, I show slides of that stuff, the stuff that I put in that packet.

Guy Kawasaki:

You mentioned Elon Musk quite a few times in very positive light.

Temple Grandin:

Well, this is all before Twitter was put in that way.

Guy Kawasaki:

Has this recent actions changed your mind?

Temple Grandin:

I'll have to wait and see, but I really respect him as an engineer when it was SpaceX and with cars, and the thing about Twitter is you got a lot more social stuff here. Everything I wrote was before Twitter. Let's just leave it that way.

Guy Kawasaki:

Let's say Joe Biden calls you up and says, "Listen, Temple, I need a secretary of education. I need someone who's going to bring back shop class and bring back art class and make it so that America can fix its infrastructure. I want you to be Secretary of Education. Just revamp education in America." First, do you take the job? Second, what do you do?

Temple Grandin:

I would tend to fix it one school system at a time and then write about it because one of the ways that I spread my cattle handling stuff is I wrote about it. I wrote about it in the scientific press and I wrote about it in the cattle industry press. I just wrote about how to do it. 

I've seen a lot of very innovative stuff that some schools are doing and nobody's writing it up, just how to do it. I put out all these publications. Designs for corral systems, just put it out there so that people could just use it.

The first thing I would do is I want to get all the hands-on classes back into the schools, art, sewing, cooking, woodworking, theater, music, auto shop, welding. Then kids try all this different stuff and they find out what they gravitate towards, but if they're not exposed, they wouldn't know that they might like fixing things. 

This whole thing saying everything's going to be run by computers, let's go back to elevators, run by computers.

In MIT magazine, I just read about a programming glitch in elevator. Yup, that's going to take the computer people to fix, but elevators are mechanical devices, and I don't see them being anti-gravity anytime soon. They're either hydraulic or they work with cables. 

Those are mechanical things. I've been on some rather questionable elevators lately that have not been certain. One of my friends got hurt with a door that could have been really serious because it didn't work.

Guy Kawasaki:

So this is a big hypothetical. So let's suppose that you and Jane Goodall and Greta Thunberg go into a bar, and you're having a drink, and they start telling you, "Temple, the meat industry is creating climate change. 

It's the methane, it's the resources, it's moving the cows. Temple, what's with this? Do you see that maybe your work in the cattle industry is not helping climate change?"

Temple Grandin:

I wrote a paper about this. It's open access saying basically that I've been in this industry for fifty years. Have I been in an industry that's bad and was paid first title grazing sheep and goats are an important part of a sustainable agricultural future. 

First of all, I've checked out the methane figures. Leaking oil field equipment is the same. Swamps put out way, way more. Another thing that one of the reviewers put me to a reference that before Europeans came to North America, herds of bison put out 85 percent as much methane as we're putting out today.

Now, the other thing, when activists say cattle just take up too much land, we have huge amounts of land that can only be grazed. You cannot raise crops on it. There's not enough groundwater, there's not enough water coming out of the sky. 

For example, if you go out the Denver airport and you go east on I70, you're going to go about fifty miles, that's about as far out as the houses go, and then you are on 100 miles. I've been there. It's just there this fall of grazing land, only can be grazed. It's plains land.

What do you do with that land? A hundred miles of it. Also, as a place for the grazing animal in crop rotation. We do know that cover crops improve soil health. You make them pay, you can graze them. That also would cut down on artificial fertilizer. So this is a place where the grazing animal could actually help improve the environment.

I have a hundred references to back up what I say that I got off the scientific databases. This paper is open access. Grazing cattle, sheep, and goats are an important part of a sustainable agricultural future.

Now, let's look at things like biofuels. Right now, the airlines are talking about feeding planes biofuels. There was one point where we had almost half our corn crop going into ethanol. 

If you start exporting ethanol, it's no longer sustainable. Biofuels are only sustainable to a point, and then if you exceed that point, they're no longer sustainable. They're talking about feeding garbage to airplanes.

I get this magazine called Chemistry and Engineering News. I call it chemistry for people that don't know math, and it talks about the chemical industry and this little magic box, that shipping container thing, they start making garbage into airplane fuel. 

Then when I run out of garbage, but okay, I think that's a good thing, but what I'm seeing is it's only sustainable to a point. Now, I'm seeing tubes coming off the top of dumps, regular landfill dumps. They put out methane and a bunch of it.

See, let's just get this in perspective, and I looked all this stuff up. Now, you want to see the reference list for this paper? Show it to you right now. Right there, references. Another page of references, another page of references, and these are numbered into the text. Another page and another half page of references. They're referenced into the text because it's a scientific paper.

I did this paper this summer because I basically started out, I said, "I've been in this industry for fifty years. Have I been in an industry that's bad? I spent fifty years of my life working in this industry." 

I've also been to the rural areas just about every state in the US and every province in Canada. I've been to the outback in Australia. You've got a huge expansive land that can only be grazed. What do you do with that land? I'll never forget flying over that land in a small plane and landing at a remote cattle station off the grid. That's the real serious stuff we got to think about.

You always have to look at your inputs. So we talk about veggie burgers. You might have five vegetarian ingredients to go into that. Each one of those has a supply chain with diesel trucks. Let's really figure out what your energy inputs are in that supply chain. Now, that's something I can visualize. It's easy for me to visualize that.

Now, just recently, I was talking to a customer. I can't say what they were doing because I can't reveal what they did. We were talking about supply chain and I asked them where the factories were located that made a raw product for his product. He did not know where they were, and there was a lady there too. She did not know either where the factories were located for the main raw material for their product.

This is now. They had absolutely no idea where they were and they're in charge of supply chain? You see, that's getting too language-based and way too vague. Now, you need to know where the factories are. They didn't know. You see, that's why there's problems lots of times with implementation.

Then I said, well, they knew where they were. I would've Google Earthed them right there in the restaurant because I can get an idea of the size of the factories by Google Earthing it and looking at all the vehicles in the parking lot. You see, now I'm seeing it and I'm seeing it with meat packing plants. 

Oh, and by the way, meat packing plants are paying a lot better now. I'll walked through the parking lot of one of our big beef plants and there's a lot of very nice vehicles there now because they're making a lot more money. You see, there's a need for visual thinker. So much policy is so vague. They don't discuss about how we actually claim to do something.

All right. Let's go back to the inclusive classroom. Fixing LED lights that flicker is something I can actually do. For 20 percent of the population, it's really important. That's doable. So always got to get back to implementation.

Guy Kawasaki:

Temple, I've known you for all of about an hour and five minutes right now, and I have known Jane Goodall for years. I guarantee you the two of you would get along very well. Absolutely.

Temple Grandin:

Well, nice. Jane Goodall did a lot of pioneering work by observing. What she did was observation. Another thing I talked to my students about in my livestock handling class is the importance of observation. 

You've got some people saying, "It's not science unless you have a hypothesis." Observation forms the source of a hypothesis. After all, James Webb Telescope doesn't have a control. It observes the most expensive, coolest projects ever done. It observes. There's no control. Do you have back on earth or something for control? That doesn't make any sense. 

I see that and how stupid that would be. I see it back in the clean room. Is that the control? No, it's there strictly to observe.

So observation's important, and Jane Goodall always found out the tool use, and she had the patience to sit with the chimpanzees until they would do their natural behavior in front of her. 

Now, I have to admit, I'm a heavy user of airplanes, and I know what they do in terms of carbon and stuff like that, but I think that when I do those flights, they are not vacation flights. The places I go, I think, maybe do more good than the fuel the plane burns up. I've thought about it.

Then I've watched them fuel planes and I'm thinking of stuff I don't want in that plane's fuel and that's palm oil. I looked right at this plane. This is a couple months ago I'm like, "I hope they never feed you palm oil," because there's nothing sustainable about that monoculture.

See, that's an example of biofuels that are not sustainable. Now, if I can feed the plane garbage, that's sustainable until I run out of garbage. You see, nothing's abstract, and then you got to look at your whole process. Cobalt for batteries does not come from a nice place, for example. Nothing's abstract.

Guy Kawasaki:

So Temple, what brand of boots do you wear?

Temple Grandin:

I used to wear just a regular cowboy boots, but then I had a very bad fall in a restaurant and broke everything in my nose. My nose hit the table going down, smashed everything in there, and that was the end of the cowboy boots. 

I got lace up areas because I got to wear a tight shoe, and that's what I wear because they're comfortable and I got to wear a lace up shoe. I got to wear a tight shoe now because the cowboy boots contributed to falling down in the restaurant and it's breaking my nose all up, hitting the table, going down.

Guy Kawasaki:

Thank you for listening to today's podcast featuring the remarkable Temple Grandin. We hope you found her insights and experiences enlightening and inspiring. 

Temple's work has been instrumental in advancing our understanding of animal welfare, autism, and engineering. We encourage you to explore more of Temple's work, including her latest book, Visual Thinking: The Hidden Gifts of People Who Think in Pictures, Patterns, and Abstractions.

I'm Guy Kawasaki. This is Remarkable People. My thanks to Peg Fitzpatrick, Jeff Sieh, Shannon Hernandez, Alexis Nishimura, Luis Magana, the drop in queen of Santa Cruz, Madisun Nuismer. 

They are the hidden gifts of Remarkable People. Until next time, mahalo and aloha.