Introducing the World in Mind: A New Blog at Big Think
“Do you think we should get our brains scanned before getting married?” a friend asked me as we browsed a crowded department store, selecting important items for her bridal registry. At first I thought I must have misheard her. She threw the question out much in the way she might have asked how many bridesmaids are too many, or if she should bother registering for two sets of fine china in this economic climate.
“Where did that come from?” I replied.
After reading an advance copy of my book, DIRTY MINDS: HOW OUR BRAINS INFLUENCE LOVE, SEX AND RELATIONSHIPS (Free Press, 2012), my newly engaged friend came across an old LiveScience piece online entitled, “Brain Scans Could Reveal If Your Relationship Will Last.” As a woman about to walk down the aisle (and ask her friends and family to invest in some seriously overpriced sheets and crockware sets), she wanted to know if I thought it was legit. Perhaps, one day in the not-too-distant-future, couples like her and her fiancé would be registering for fMRI scanning sessions along with table settings for 8.
It’s not an outrageous question. Technology and science have now advanced to the point that disciplines like biology, genetics, epidemiology, evolutionary science, psychology, philosophy, computer science, and medicine have converged into the catchall field of neuroscience. More and more, neuroscientists are demonstrating that the brain is behavior—the two simply cannot be teased apart. These advances allow researchers to use science to view even the most complex of human behaviors—including love, free will, morality and parenting—through an entirely new lens.
It would be one thing if these studies stayed in the laboratory. But neuroscience has reach far beyond the Ivory Tower. Today, findings are not only influencing public policy but the way we now think about our day-to-day lives. We want advice and direction, whether it’s about the best way to parent our children, at what age it is ethical to execute deadly criminals or, yes, even whether a marriage license should also require some biological proof of commitment, backed by cold, hard science. More often than not, society is now looking for answers to a lot of those big universal questions about life, love and the rest of it, in genetic profiles, cell cultures and brain scanners.
My name is Kayt Sukel. I am a passionate explorer and science writer—and, admittedly, a bit of a brain nerd. I’m also a single mother, a political junkie, Kindle addict, world traveler and natural born skeptic. WORLD IN MIND will discuss the latest neuroscientific studies—the ones that are popping up in headlines, think tanks and courtrooms across the country—to discuss what the results really mean and how they might be applied, both today and in the future.
Going back to marriages and brain scans, I told my friend that, at this point, she’d probably get just as much out of flipping a coin as she would from any neuroimaging results. There’s no definite proof of love—yet. I knew before I answered that it wasn’t quite the answer she was looking for. But I won’t apologize. It’s likely that many of my posts will elicit as many questions as they do answers (if not more). But they are the kind of questions that will help us to learn more about how our minds act in the world, while still keeping the world in mind. I hope you’ll join me and ask a few questions of your own.
Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.
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Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.
- Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
- To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
- They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.
- The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
- Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
- As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
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