Robots Can Teach Us the Value of Flailing

A friend of mine recently admitted to me that the last year of her life had largely been flailing about trying to find her way.

This comment reminded me of a robot I had read about years ago. The robot, shaped like a starfish was designed to be able to locomote across alien terrain through a process of self-modelling and adaptation.

Essentially the robot begins its life by flailing about. Through the feedback the robot receives it learns about its own body, where its limbs are, and what types of movement give it the best forward movement. Starting from the flails it gradually refines its process and learns to walk in the most efficient way possible in the environment. When it encounters a new terrain and its ability to move is impeded, it returns to its flailing beginning to discover a new method of movement.

This robot provided a beautiful metaphor for how important and effective flailing can be, provided we approach it with awareness and a desire to learn. Flailing is an essential part of encountering a new environment. In fact the more you ‘flail’ metaphorically, the more chance there is to discover a new and more effective way of moving.

Remember to allow yourself to flail and flounder. It is an essential component in discovery and it also tells you that you are moving into new environments an essential part of growth.