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About the guests

Brené Brown

Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, where she holds the Huffington Foundation Endowed Chair at the Graduate College of Social Work. She also holds the position of visiting professor in management at the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business.

Brené has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She is the author of six #1 New York Times bestsellers and is the host of two award-winning podcasts, Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead.

Brené’s books have been translated into more than 30 languages, and her titles include Atlas of the Heart, Dare to Lead, Braving the Wilderness, Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, and The Gifts of Imperfection. With Tarana Burke, she co-edited the bestselling anthology You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience.

Brené’s TED talk on the Power of Vulnerability is one of the top five most-viewed TED talks in the world, with over 60 million views. Brené is the first researcher to have a filmed lecture on Netflix, and in March 2022, she launched a new show on HBO Max that focuses on her latest book, Atlas of the Heart.

Brené spends most of her time working in organizations around the world, helping develop braver leaders and more courageous cultures.

She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, Steve. They have two children, Ellen and Charlie, and a weird Bichon named Lucy.

Barrett Guillen headshot

Barrett Guillen

Barrett Guillen is Chief Partnership Officer for Brené Brown Education and Research Group. With her team, Barrett supports both Brené and the organization by managing relationships and Dare to Lead client engagements. Barrett holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Kinesiology from the University of Houston. After more than a decade in education in the Texas Panhandle, Barrett and her family made the move back to the Houston area to join the BBEARG team in making the world a braver place. Having the opportunity to work with her sisters every day has been one of the great joys of her life. Outside the office, you can find Barrett spending time with her family (immediate and extended), enjoying her daughter’s games, floating in the water (any water!), or on the pickleball court.

Show notes


Brené Brown: Hi everyone. I’m Brené Brown, and this is a crossover Dare to Lead Unlocking Us episode. Hey Barrett.

Barrett Guillen: Hi.

BB: I’m excited about this episode. We’re coming to the end of an eight-episode series called Living Beyond Human Scale, the Possibilities, the Cost, and the Role of Community. And the whole kind of driver for me behind this series was trying to step maybe, I don’t know, back or up, and look at what’s going on around us. It feels, do you agree it feels untethering?

BG: It does. Yes, I agree.

BB: Yeah, I think the velocity of change, social media shitshow, AI conversations in every nook and cranny of every organization we’re doing work in. What stands out to you as the most disorienting, if anything is disorienting?

BG: I think it’s interesting because between the podcast episodes that we’ve done, and then the events that we’ve been doing over the last several weeks, I think it’s just the uncertainty that everybody’s in and not really understanding what’s next. And then you said something the other day at an event that really has stuck in my head that we’re already not on solid ground and solid footing, so we don’t have a real foundation to even start to build and understand what’s next.

BB: Yeah, I think that’s true. I think, by the way, if you haven’t guessed yet, this episode is going to be just me and Barrett reflecting back on these episodes and what we’ve learned and kind of what our go-to plan is from what we’ve learned and what we’re still confused about, which is the biggest category, maybe.


BB: I think this is the point. You have AI, social media, an election year, absolute devastation and violence and tragedy all over the world right now. And it’s important to understand what’s happening and it’s more than I think we’re neurobiologically wired to handle. And so, the point that you just brought up is like, it’s not like we’re, “Hey, shit is getting ready to get real, so make sure you’re grounded and you’re feeling good about yourself, and…”

BG: [laughter] I wish.

BB: “Well rested, well fed, well moved, well connected, let’s go.” It’s we’re on the ground and the whole room is spinning up and down and we’re trying to get on our hands and knees and climb up, and then all the shit is coming at us at the same time, because we’re not okay. People are not okay. Do you think that talking about the human scale metaphor or story is worth repeating? I did it on Esther’s the first podcast in the series.

BG: Yes, I totally do.

BB: Okay. So if you haven’t listened to Esther’s, the podcast with Esther, which we did live at South by Southwest, which kicked off this whole series. The idea came to me because maybe 10 or 15 years ago, I was getting my hair done, and the stylist at the salon looked at me at some point and I had like all those foils in my hair, and I had my phone against my ear, talking to somebody at work, and then I was also on my laptop. And he goes, “Man, you are like shot out of a cannon.” And I was like, “Dude…”

BG: I’m working.

BB: Yeah, you do your focus, I’ll do my focus. I got shit to do here. I’m at work. These appointments take 90 minutes to get to my natural color. And so you focus on you and I’ll focus on me.” And I just kind of looked at him and I’m like, I don’t know what that means. I’m shot out of a cannon. Anyway, I got shit to do and I’m on my laptop, I’m on my phone. And he came back and then he goes, “Wow, just really living beyond human scale.” And I was like, okay, enough is enough. What the hell? So I got off the phone, I closed my laptop and I said, “What do you mean?” Because I knew when he said you’re living beyond human scale, what I looked like in that moment with a hundred foils in my hair and a phone tucked under my ear, my laptop open, I knew that I looked like a maniac. And so I was like, “What do you mean living beyond human scale?” And he said, “Well, I’m a private pilot.” And he said, “When you first get your pilot’s license, it’s really amazing.” And I related to this, because as you know, I took flying lessons.

BG: I do know.


BB: In a two-seater Cessna, when I was in high school as a way to bond with my father. And so he’s like, “You just take flying lessons and you’re in these old two-seater planes and it’s really amazing because you take off and you’re flying.” And as he said it, I could feel it. “And if the wind blows hard, the plane moves. And if you throttle down, you can kind of feel it in your stomach. And if you do this like, you are in a plane that’s built completely at human scale, it seats two people. It goes fast, but not super fast.” And he’s like, “But you get tired of that. And so then you want to fly a jet.” Well, I never got there, because I never even did my solo on the two-seater human scale plane, let me just tell you.

BB: At some point my flight instructor was like, “I really can’t in good conscience keep taking your money for these lessons, because you have so many hours now and we’ve done all the stuff, you just got to go up by yourself.” And he goes, I was like, “Well, this is where our story ends, because if you think if I’m going to get up in this damn thing by myself, you are not okay.”


BB: So he said, “Then you get the jet.” And he said, “When you get the jet, and you start flying the jet, you can’t feel anything. And it’s not built to human scale. It’s going like beyond human scale fast. And now you’re not in the moment at all. Now you’re thinking ahead 30 seconds or a minute, you can’t be in the human moment, because if you’re in the human moment, you die. You’ve got to think way out ahead. So you’ve disembodied and your body is in this moment, but your mind is in this moment and you’re thinking ahead, and this is where very few people crash in those little planes.” But in those big planes, he said, it’s controlled flight into terrain. Meaning, as a pilot you think you have control of the flight to the minute you’re dead. You just fly into the side of the mountain and you’re like, oh, I wasn’t far enough out thinking. And he said, “So I think it feels like you look like you’re living beyond human scale.” And I was like, “Why? Because I’m on my phone, my laptop, and I’m trying to get signals from out of space with my foils in my hair. Shut up. You don’t know me.”

BG: But did he?


BB: But he did know me. I never went back to that guy again. I was like, you’ve got to leave me alone, but I thought about it ever since, so I wanted to do this series on living beyond human scale. We’re disembodied, we’re not tethered in our bodies, we’re not grounded, and we’re being swept away by change, and so that’s what this was. So let’s start. So we started on Unlocking Us with Esther Perel, which is great. What were your big key takeaways from the podcast with Esther?

BG: Well, number one, I just thought it was really fun to be at South by Southwest for that conversation, and to have the live audience. But I think the conversation just about social media and comparison and the connection is not really real. And I love how you kind of frame it sometimes about social media is not a tool for connection.

BB: Yeah, it’s a communication tool.

BG: Yeah. And so I think for me, that’s where I kind of sat in the conversation with Esther.

BB: I think my big takeaway from her is when she… The image for the podcast on social media said, I have a thousand friends, but no one to feed my cat. And that is exactly to your point, I think, like that we have 10 or 15 or something million followers on social media, I do.

BG: Yeah.

BB: I know 20 of them.

BG: [laughter] Yeah.

BB: And then whatever, 20 minus 15 million is, that number, 40% of them are just following, hoping that something really terrible happens to me and they’ve got some good collective schadenfreude material. Yeah, that’s true.

BG: Yikes. Yeah, and I think it’s true. Yeah.

BB: Yeah, yeah, once you get to those numbers, you got, like every week on Instagram, I get something that says, “You have a hundred and something thousand followers that we believe are spam.” I’m like…

BG: Yeah, it’s nuts.

BB: Well, if they’re nice, they can stay to balance the people who are actually real or who are hateful. But it’s just, I don’t know, I don’t think we’re built for it.

BG: And how she framed it as artificial intelligence. The AI is artificial intelligence. I loved that.

BB: Oh yeah, as artificial intimacy.

BG: Oh yeah. Artificial intimacy.

BB: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I love that too.

BG: Yeah, that was so good.

BB: And I think, I guess one of my big takeaways that I’ve thought of a lot is that attention is an undervalued form of love.

BG: Oh, yes. Yeah.

BB: It’s big. Yeah. I highly recommend y’all listen. I’m going to say that to all of them though. Okay. Then we talked to William Brady. And so Esther Perel is a therapist, amazing live conversation, funny, fun, and hard, and really about love. Yeah.

BG: Yeah. It was definitely there are a lot of truths in that.

BB: Then William Brady, who is a scientist, scientist, and he is so interesting because he studies moral outrage on social media, and the importance and helpfulness of moral outrage, there’s a lot of shit we should be absolutely outraged about. If you look at the treatment of some of the student protestors, if you look at what’s going on in Gaza, if you look at what’s going on in Sudan, Congo, if the response to that is not moral outrage, then I think something is wrong. What I learned from this though, was helpful because this was the start of a thread for me of understanding, talking about an indictment of late-stage capitalism, what happens when you’ve got technology including social media, that’s built to leverage human vulnerability for commercial gain? That is my big takeaway from all of this, to be honest with you.

BB: What happens when moral outrage, if you study the construct of moral outrage, which I’ve mostly studied other people’s research, I don’t study it myself, but you understand that it does serve a purpose. It can be a catalyst for activism and change and wonderful things. It can also lead to dehumanization. Like for me, I just use the student protestors as an example of the treatment of them by armed, basically military-looking police on campuses, to me creates moral outrage in me. The treatment of Jewish students on campus also creates moral outrage in me. And so I think one of the problems is that with moral outrage also comes this self-righteousness that we become the monster we’re trying to kill.

BG: Yeah. And I think what one thing that was so interesting in this conversation for me was kind of the common enemy intimacy and this vicious cycle of connection that’s not real, but oh, do we hate the same people? So you kind of find yourself on the extreme ends of the spectrum, because you’re so looking to belong to a group of people. And when Dr. Brady talked about that, I thought it was really powerful to find yourself just in this vicious cycle of looking for connection, but is that really where you’re going to find it? And is that really what you believe, or are you just so far in now to the connection that you think you have with this community?

BB: I do think that there are people in my life that I’m connected to genuinely. And there is room for disagreement in those relationships. That counterfeit connection around moral outrage is so powerful, and then the social learning of oh, the more outraged I am, and then his study that shows like they looked at hundreds of thousands of tweets and these things, and then talked to the people who turn out to be less pissed off and outraged than what they appear in their social, in their avatars on social media, but they’re trying to belong to a group of people.

BG: And the more outraged you are, and the harder your comments are, the more the algorithm puts it in front of everyone. I was like…

BB: This is the bullshit part to me, because this is where commerce meets the exploitation of human people, because they need us to stay on these platforms to serve us ads. And the second we forget that, we’re just fucked.

BG: Yeah, dang.

BB: We really are, because I saw this… We’ll link to this in the podcast page. I want everybody to watch it. It was life changing to me, sending it to my kids. There was a psychologist from Oxford talking about are some mental illnesses, illnesses or a hashtag? And what happens when the velocity of messaging around us that if you have these three things, you have this diagnosis.

BG: Oh man.

BB: If you have these four things, you’re probably this. If you have these six… Let me tell you, I’m not even kidding you. I take those tests. I’m like, that’s what I have.

BG: [laughter] I know.

BB: And look, I’m a social scientist and I’m like, oh my god.

BG: I know.

BB: I have five of these five things. This is my diagnosis for sure, and I’m just not getting the right medication. And if I do get the right medication, my whole life is going to be great.

BG: But in the next swipe, you’ll exactly see what you need to take for that to be better.

BB: I know. And then the next swipe, it’ll tell you, “Whatever you do…”

BG: Don’t do this.


BB: “Don’t take that medication.” You’re like…

BG: I know.

BB: Yeah. So I think William Brady has a lot to teach us about polarization, about… Again, if you’re not outraged by some of the stuff you’re seeing, you’re not paying attention, but my whole new thing about advocacy and activism, it’s an interesting place where that dissects with my… What’s the word I’m looking for, dissects?

BG: Intersects?

BB: Intersects. God dang. Son of a sea-cook. Yeah, that’s it. Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.

BG: Takes a village.


BB: But no, listen. Oh, yesterday, was yesterday the 12th? Yeah, 28 years of sobriety yesterday.

BG: Oh, happy birthday.

BB: Thank you. Thank you. This is what I think about activism now. Hey, friend, you take your inventory about your activism and I’ll take my inventory about my activism. You have no idea what I’m doing. You have no idea what I’m giving, you have no idea who I’m talking to, who I’m writing to, who I’m calling every week. You don’t know anything about what I’m doing. And if you’re going to evaluate what my activism from what I do on social, you’ll have no understanding of me at all, and I believe the same thing about you. So I’ll take my inventory on activism, you take your inventory. And my hope for everybody is that they are as comfortable with their inventory as I am with mine.

BG: Amen.


BB: Let’s go to the next person. S. Craig Watkins. Oh my god, this was a good one too.

BG: Oh, damn. Woo.

BB: Okay. Y’all need to listen to him. He has a joint appointment at University of Texas at Austin, Hook ’em, and MIT. And I think the big takeaway for me is that when we start unleashing AI in vulnerable industries, like our vulnerable spaces, like policing, prisons, healthcare, and we’re not careful, AI is just a machine that people put stuff inside of and we’ll be scaling injustice. And so the examples he gives about that are so powerful. And I love, where is that quote? He taught me the phrase, the alignment problem. I think the phrase is 20 years old. But the alignment problem with AI scientists is, are we building systems that are aligned with our values as a democratic society? And the answer right now is no.

BG: Yeah.

BB: What did you think about this?

BG: Number one, I was so grateful that he spoke to us in terms that were so easy to understand.

BB: Yeah. Oh yeah, he’s so good.

BG: Yeah, he’s so good. I loved that he talked about the right people being at the table to build the AI systems. And I also just really loved… He really brought into focus for me, AI is just what we make it. And we’re going to screw it up or we’re going to make it great. And the other thing is that, he talked about that I thought was really disturbing kind of, but then at the same time, hopeful, because someone’s talking about it, is that we just don’t have any guardrails yet.

BB: Yeah. Oh my god.

BG: And what does that mean?

BB: Yes. Like he was… The first time I understood… His conversation with us was like the first time I understood what the consequences are when tech moves faster than policy. He said, we’re going to look back in 10 years and be like, what the heck? What were we thinking? And this idea that when you’re building AI, it’s great to have the engineers and the computational mathematicians at the table, but you better have the ethicist, the people with lived experience, the liberal arts folks. Like, shout out to all the liberal arts people. Let’s go. The social workers, the humanists, they better be at the table too.

BG: Yeah, and I also just really love and gave a shout out when he said, “Well, so far in this 30-minute conversation, you said scary six times” or whatever he said.


BB: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

BG: I was like, yeah, sure did.

BB: You’re smiling from ear to ear, because you’ve got to talk to him offline a lot. Coordinating, he was so great, right?

BG: Yeah. He is so great. Yeah.

BB: Yeah. So we love that talk. So thank you to him too. Okay, so Jennifer Valentino-DeVries and Michael Keller, both New York Times just award-winning journalists. They wrote a piece for the New York Times about young girl influencers on Instagram who are managed by their moms and then stalked by men. And this got a lot of comments and a lot of feedback across social. This was a hard conversation.

BG: It really was, yes.

BB: And their reporting, and not everyone’s going to geek out on their methodology, but as a researcher, I thought their methodology was just so elegant and sophisticated and amazing. I thought the article was really disturbing and scary and sad about parents running influencer accounts of young girls. Not really often making a ton of money, but getting a lot of free stuff. And then, the men who follow those accounts and really send completely disturbing, lewd, inappropriate, sexualized comments and are scary. And it was interesting because I think we talked very much about how you’re reading this and your focus is just like, what are these moms doing? What are these moms doing? And then the invisibility of the men and I think the men need to be held accountable. And I don’t think… There’s again no guardrails. No policy. The platforms do exactly whatever they want.

BG: Yep. It was such an important piece to understand, but it was also kind of the underbelly of what social media can be. But it’s also important to understand as moms of kids and understanding what social media is and what it isn’t, and the conversation, I thought it was really interesting that when they talk, because they talked to so many of the people that they were interviewing.

BB: Yeah. It’s beautiful.

BG: Most of them started off in just like simple ways to really showcase what their kids are doing. And then all of a sudden it just materialized into this monster thing almost that they couldn’t shut down. And so I thought that was really interesting aspect.

BB: And that’s where I would like really pause and double click on the couldn’t shutdown.

BG: Yeah.

BB: They can shut it down.

BG: They can shut it down. Yes.

BB: But if you’re listening and you’re thinking, “Yeah, you can shut it down.” Well, are you listening right now, and social media’s hurting you, but you’re scrolling anyway?

BG: I know. Yeah.

BB: I mean, are you on social media?

BG: Yeah.

BB: Are you scrolling?

BG: Yeah.

BB: Does it hurt you?

BG: Yeah.

BB: Yeah. Same.

BG: At 1:30 AM when I’m like, “Damn, I’ve got to be up at 5:00.”

BB: Yeah, yeah.

BG: Yeah. And so mentally, all of it.

BB: Yeah. So…

BG: And we asked somebody in our organization the other day, we had this conversation and you asked them, why are you still on social media? And I can’t remember what their response was, but it was something along the lines of, because this is how we all stay connected and communicate with each other.

BB: I don’t want to miss anything. How do I… And I don’t know, I got off social media for a year because I just… The mental health of it as kind of a public figure. And literally, you know me probably better than… You’ve known me since the moment they brought you and Ashley home.

BG: Hey. Yeah. [chuckle]

BB: I mean, can you think of anyone who’s less cut out to be public than me?

BG: No, I can’t.

BB: I’m super introverted and I get my feelings hurt. And I keep my feelers open because that’s what my research part of me likes to do. So I’m terrible at it. And everyday I’m thinking, I just shut this whole thing down.

BG: I know. It’s such a double-edged sword. And this conversation was really helpful and just kind of like shined the light in some of the areas to pay attention to, I think.

BB: Yeah. It’s a good conversation. But I even wrote in the caption, I think on social media, ironically, that I got really judgy. I came off that podcast saying I’m going to lock all the men up forever. And then I’m going to get the moms into some deep therapy and then I’m going to enact the rules that they have in France. No one under 18 on social media. And you can’t even put your kids’ pictures up. That’s it. We’re done. I’m like a… I’m a closet dictator. Don’t even say anything.


BB: I don’t even know. I don’t want to hear it.

BG: It was really good conversation. As hard as it was, it was really good and helpful.

BB: Yeah. Okay. So then our crossover episode was Amy Webb. And she is incredible. She is… What’s the official thing that she says that she is?

BG: She says strategic foresight.

BB: Strategic foresight. Okay. I just think she’s a badass.

BG: She’s a total badass.

BB: Yeah. So this was the crossover episode where it was on Dare to Lead and Unlocking Us and if you could see the line at South by Southwest every year to get into her talk. And probably about 20% will get in and the other 80% do not get in. And people are in line if her talk is at 10:00, at four o’clock in the morning to get in because she’ll say, “Here’s what’s coming, here’s where we are. This is how it’s going to go.” And it’s amazing. And she’s borderline prophetic in her what she says.

BG: I mean, I love this conversation. I thought it was so good. And again, she has an incredible way to make really complicated things easy to understand and follow. And she had a really good metaphor in here that I’ll let you explain about steering into the…

BB: Oh yeah.

BG: Steering into the curve or to steer in the ice.

BB: Steering into the ice path. Yeah.

BG: Yeah.

BB: She’s like where we are basically is when you’re driving and you hit a patch of ice, your human reflux is a slam on the brakes and kind of steer out of it and what you have to do, because she grew up in a place where there’s a lot of ice, is you have to keep your foot off the brake and steer into it a little bit. And she said, that’s the uncertainty we’re in right now. Like we’re hitting some spinning out of control ice stuff. And we’ve got to take a deep breath, maintain some composure, and steer into it a little bit until we can gain control of… Really I think the car in this metaphor is our nervous system like until we can do that. So I thought the metaphor was incredible. I also thought the information that we’re in a technology supercycle, three big things, which is artificial intelligence, wearables. Which if you’re listening, you’re like “Oh my God, I’m not going to be doing that. I’m not going to work with a helmet on my head that casts my thoughts onto a wall.” No, no, no. I’ve got wearables all over me right now. I’ve got an Oura ring, these are wearables.

BB: And then the last one is biotechnology. And that’s coming. That’s here. That’s the thing about artificial intelligence that I think… And I’m not saying if you’re on Facebook that you’re old like me, but the Facebook comments were so decidedly different on these podcasts than the others, they’re like, “I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to do artificial intelligence. I don’t believe in that. We’re losing our minds.” And it reminds me of Me-Ma at the Piggly Wiggly. Like everybody, every person in midlife has a line where they’re like I don’t give a shit whether I’m old or not, I’m not doing this part. And I think our grandmother’s, Me-Ma’s, was “I’m not getting money out of a machine in the wall and I’m not putting any check. I’m not doing the ATM.” But when she went to Piggly Wiggly, the grocery store, that’s really, really big in this, I guess, I don’t know, Texas or South, I don’t know where it is, but I can’t imagine the people in the North would have a store called the Piggly Wiggly. But she went and they were scanning groceries and they’re like 299, 399, 49 cents. And she was so appalled. And she said, “I just don’t think it’s fair to keep those people crouched up like that underneath this conveyor belt. Looking up and reading those signs to people like 299, 4.”


BB: Having to explain to her that it was like a computer reading a barcode. Do you have a line? Or are you like… Do you hear new things coming and you’re like I’m done with that now?

BG: I just think back to, I don’t even know how many years ago, it was probably like 16 years ago. And I remember sitting on my back patio with my teacher friend and I was like, “I’m never going to text. Like why would people text?”


BG: And she made me text. It was so funny. So I don’t know my line right now.


BG: It’s a really curvy line. But I tell you what I do hate is when my 14-year-old has to teach me something on my phone. I hate it.

BB: Oh yeah. Oh god. I hate it. Yeah.

BG: But the other thing I do love about Amy’s talk was the concept of Gen T.

BB: Oh, Generation Transition.

BG: Yeah. Because I thought that was really powerful. Because all of us, no matter how old we are going to be in that.

BB: Oh yeah. We’re all in the Generation Transition for sure. That’s funny.

BG: I skipped right over your line question. Did you notice?

BB: Yeah.


BB: Well, I can tell you this. She has agreed to text, but she doesn’t answer ’em. Okay.

BG: That is not true. I am a good responder.

BB: Okay.

BG: Well, we should get Dad on the podcast one day and ask him who’s the better responder. Nevermind.

BB: Oh Yeah. You want to do that?

BG: Nope.

BB: Let’s call him. Let’s call him right now.

BG: Nevermind.

BB: You want to?

BG: Nevermind. Maybe 10 years ago.

BB: He calls me once a week and asks if you’re dead. So no. Uh uh. Okay. Then we talked too, love this conversation too. Because at this point I was like kind of doom… not doom and gloom, but I was kind of going back and forth between, okay, I understand the cost, but what are the possibilities?

BG: But I will say too, before you say what you’re going to say, because I know where you’re going. One thing I did love about Amy’s talk and what she said is what an exciting time it is to enter the workforce…

BB: Oh yeah.

BG: For young people. And I did think that that did feel really hopeful for me because we have a lot of really amazing young people coming in right now to the workforce too. And I thought that was really important and it’ll hopefully piggyback on what you’re getting ready to say.

BB: Oh yeah. So Lisa Gevelber, so she talked about AI for Good and some of the things that are happening, how people are using AI, for example, lesson plans for teachers, which was incredible.

BG: Oh my gosh. I was thinking like when she said that people are putting in their lesson plans and they’re like, “Give me four different reading levels, two languages.” I was like what the heck? I didn’t even do lesson plans on my computer until the very end of my teaching career. I hand wrote them.

BB: Yeah. I mean it’s incredible, right? And plans for kids who have to miss two or three weeks of school because of illness or family emergencies. Just to say, feed in this is what we’ve been doing. What’s a great catch up plan for someone in this grade, with this reading level and this proficiency here. What’s the best way to catch this? Like it’s…

BG: It was incredible. I was really shocked in her conversation that there was still such a digital divide. I had no idea when she talked about the work that they do to get people email addresses.

BB: Yes.

BG: They go into libraries and help people set up email addresses. I don’t think I even understood. Number one what all you need an email address for. Because I think I just take it for granted. And number two, that there are people out there that don’t have internet and don’t have email addresses. And so, I was surprised by that. And so grateful for the work they’re doing to catch everybody up in that area.

BB: Huge. And the role of libraries. Especially as they’re defunding them here left and right.

BG: I think your love for libraries and librarians has rubbed off on me. And so that was really important when she said that. I loved it.

BB: Yeah. Libraries are where people go for high-speed internet when they don’t have it at home. And so, when you defund a library, you can change the economic future of an entire family. So cut that shit out. So this was really good. So Lisa Gevelber for AI for Good, also Google Certificates was a conversation here. And I just read an article about Google offers certifications in technology that you don’t have to have a four-year degree to do and they’re online. And asynchronous, meaning you can be busting ass doing some job waiting tables. I always refer to that because that’s what I did for so many years. But during the day or whatever. And then take these classes at night or vice versa. So they’re super flexible classes. At the end, you’re certified to do a tech job and you’re certified from Google and these folks are making six figures and changing families trajectories.

BG: I mean, it’s incredible.

BB: Yeah. So I love that.

BG: And the other… Yeah, I did too. The other piece I really loved in Lisa’s conversation was the human loop. And I think it just ties back to other conversations that the humanness of the AI systems that we’re building and the technology.

BB: Yeah. Keep a human in the loop. And so I think it was S. Craig Watkins that said, it’s interesting what people said from the top. Esther Perel said, AI artificial intimacy. Craig Watkins said, AI should be augmented intelligence because it should be augmenting human intelligence, not its own. And then we have Dr. Joy.

BG: Oh my gosh.

BB: Our final, like…

BG: What a way to end this series.

BB: I love this. One of our colleagues sent me a text, well first of all, three or four of the people who work here from the youngest people to the most senior texted me and said… One of the youngest people texted and said, “Oh my God, Dr. Joy.” And then one of the most senior people said, “Dr. Joy’s career, making me rethink all my life choices.”


BB: Joy Buolamwini on Unmasking AI. She is the founder of the Algorithmic Justice League. She’s an MIT researcher, an artist, a poet, a Rhodes Scholar, a Fulbright Fellow, a recipient of the Technological Innovation Award from the Martin Luther King Jr. Center. I mean, she really walked me through it.

BG: She’s so incredible. And well, she’s so funny and she’s so human.

BB: God. Yes.

BG: And when she just talks about… I have a new mantra because of y’all’s conversation. And I’m like well, if she can do those push-ups, I can do those push-ups. [laughter] If she can play basketball, I can play basketball. So I’m like if she can be a Fulbright scholar, so can I. It’s like I just love the possibilities that come along with listening to Dr. Joy. It’s incredible.

BB: Yeah. And how she’s dedicated her life to looking at AI and technology. And some people call AI generative intelligence or generative learning. And she’s like “No, they’re regurgitating. It’s regurgitating. Because they’ve been fed your books. And they’re regurgitating that stuff.” And so she really talks about equity and justice and consent and yeah, she just… The daughter of a scientist and an artist, bringing poetry and coding into a justice lens. Amazing.

BG: Yeah. I mean, her study on gender shades, I could not even wrap my head around how people, how companies were missing being able to identify people based on the color of their skin and the shades of their skin. I was in awe of her approach to what she was doing and a little mortified that we weren’t doing better.

BB: Yeah. No. Yeah. I mean, what a group of people.

BG: Oh my gosh. I feel like we’re so lucky.

BB: Yeah. I feel like we’re so lucky too. It’s a job, to be able to talk to these folks and learn. So let me ask you this, I’m going to put you on the spot.

BG: Okay, great.

BB: What did you learn that’s changed how you’re thinking about your 14-year-old daughter’s social media use?

BG: Well, that’s not the question I thought you were going to ask. I think we’re at a really weird time. So she’s 14. So some friends don’t have phones yet. Some friends have phones, but no social media. And what’s interesting is they feel like it’s so critical to belong. For belonging. And so, we have a rule that we go through it together. And anytime I want to say like, “Hey, let’s check in.” We all had this rule for our kids. I think it started with you, so thank you for that. But when they started on social media, they had to start, they can only follow the aunties and like cousins.


BG: And so, I think it was really helpful, good little start to navigate Instagram. And I just this week let her get Snapchat. And I mean, it’s fun to watch her and like I love how she… What’s the word I’m looking for? The style she has on Instagram.

BB: Oh, got it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like developing an esthetic that’s hers.

BG: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. And I love that. It’s so fun. And it’s private. So just FYI, that was like… We are on lockdown on all the accounts.

BB: Oh Yeah. Same.

BG: But I think it’s like having to be really careful. It’s such a great opportunity for trust building with us. Because she had to sign a contract number one. Here are all the rules for social media. Here are the things that if you do these, you’ll lose social media. And we also have a three strike rule around the house. Like if she’s not being helpful or not getting her chores done, strike one, strike two, strike three, you’re off social media. So, I think it’s helpful in a lot of ways. And I think we’ve also had to have conversations about people only sharing the best of them on social media, and to watch out that not everybody has the best of everyday.

BB: Yeah. I think it’s interesting and…

BG: Hard.

BB: Hard. I think it’s hard. My kids are older. They teach me a lot, you know. So I think in one of the podcasts, I talk about my two buttons that I use when I’m scrolling through all of the experts. If you have these five things then you mean have this. If you have these four things, oh, did you? You know? And then the ones that feel really vulnerable to me, that make me super hateful were like oh, if a parent with dementia, you can not have dementia if you eat… You know?

BG: Oh my gosh. Yes.

BB: Like you see all those? Like they must have known that Mom had that, that kind of grifty expert. Like who are you?

BG: I know, there’s like no… Zero credentials for some of these people talking about really important things.

BB: Yeah. And that’s really, I think it’s why I went off social media. Because I was scrolling through that one day and I just saw, I was so heartbroken. Because it was kind of toward the end of Mom’s life and it was… Are you taking care of someone with dementia? You should do these three things. If you are taking… whatever you do, don’t do these two things. And it was the same things as that. And I was getting like overwhelmed and then I came up in the feed. And they had clipped something that made me seem so certain and so definite because on social media, that’s why we’re really careful about, we have to review clips now. Because they cut out the part where I say, “Geez, I don’t really know, or I don’t study that, or I’m unsure or I’m struggling that with myself,” and then they leave the definitive part. And then I’m like I can’t be another one of these people contributing to this bullshit. And so that’s why I went off for a year. Because I was just like, I can’t do that. Because the more I understand, the less I know for sure. And so, I think that part’s hard. Grateful for everyone who was part of the series for sure.

BG: Yeah. And the one last thing that I always just add is.

BB: Please.

BG: It’s been fun to be back out on the road and do all these big events. And I think what’s been so interesting is just how AI is the topic of so many conversations in organizations and big conferences and big HR conferences that we’ve done lately. And I think it was so helpful to hear all these different perspectives. There were some overlaps in how people are thinking, but the different perspectives, especially when we hear what’s going on inside of organizations. I think it was really helpful to have this series right now in such a transformational time in the world.

BB: I mean, I agree. And I think sitting on top of that, which we haven’t really talked about publicly, is the fact that I’m in the middle coming maybe 70% into understanding the skillset that we’re going to need to navigate this at work. So looking at leadership and AI for non-coding people. What skills are we going to need to survive the change that’s coming? And so, to have this podcast series on top of that research that we’re doing right now, and then on top of being out talking to people, it’s been exciting.

BG: I agree.

BB: Yeah. And I think people will be surprised by the skillset when we get there. I can say this, you don’t have to know Python or R or those things. It’s not about coding skills, but it is about probably some neuroplasticity and really being in our bodies to understand how much our nervous system can take and not take. And how to regulate emotion probably. It’s going to be big parts of it. All right. Well, thanks for doing this summary with me. It was fun.

BG: Oh yeah. You’re so welcome.

BB: So all the notes from this podcast, will be on brené under this podcast page.

BG: Episode page.

BB: The episode page. And then we’ll be back for another series in a couple of months. And I think it’s been hard to find the podcast because we’re trying series instead of every week, both podcasts. I just can’t do that and do my research and my work. And so we’re trying time-limited series. I think it’s been hard for people to find them because they’ve been across Dare to Lead and Unlocking Us. And so we’re going to work on that.

BG: Yeah. I’m excited. I think it’s an exciting time.

BB: All right. Y’all stay awkward, brave, kind.

BG: Bye.

BB: Bye.


BB: Unlocking Us is produced by Brené Brown Education and Research Group. The music is by Carrie Rodriguez and Gina Chavez. Get new episodes as soon as they’re published by following Unlocking Us on your favorite podcast app. We are part of the Vox Media podcast network. Discover more award-winning shows at


© 2024 Brené Brown Education and Research Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Brown, B. (Host). (2024, May 15). Brené and Barrett reflect on the “Living Beyond Human Scale” Podcast Series.[Audio podcast episode]. In Unlocking Us with Brené Brown. Vox Media Podcast Network.

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