Behavior, language, interaction, biology, society, economy, and, um, guacamole--yes, they're all related.
So we've heard a lot about two of the three revolving topics so far today--Systems and Solutions--and in this session titled after a book by Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind, we're backtracking a bit and hitting up the most enigmatic one: Psyche. In line with how broad (in the broadest sense) this subject can be, each speaker delivered compelling information and so very different from the others. So let's get to it already:
Okay, about the guacamole...Steven Pinker began the session with a talk on, well, "talk"--or specifically, "language." According to Pinker, we can use language as a window into human nature as it can negotiate the relationship we have with listeners. We often choose to communicate indirectly even when there is no real uncertainty in outcome (i.e. "If you could pass the guacamole, that would be awesome"--maybe you had to be there) because, ultimately, "humans think a lot about what other humans think about them and their relationships are ratified by this mutual knowledge." Language can be used as a clever way to avoid stepping on toes and promote a desired outcome in all types of relationships by way of the "creation" of mutual knowledge.
Louann Brizendine stresses that there is no such thing as a "universal brain" due to a wide variance in hormone types and levels between the male and female genders. This can be illustrated with behavioral statistics: Females are affected by mood disorders and depression at twice the rate of males, autism occurs more often in males at an 8:1 ration, and violent agression is also male dominated at a staggering 20:1 ratio--a statistic clearly proven by the male dominance in prisons. Brizendine's studies and conclusions revolve around the idea that sex differences in the brain play a very strong role in society and hopes that, sooner rather than later, "biology will not determine destiny because we will have a deep understanding of what makes the male and female brains different" and will accordingly respect each others talents and best attributes as humans with these facts in mind.
Dr. Lee Alan Dugatkin brings us back to the very core of our being, the will to survive, where he's analyzed the role of altruism as a possible metaphorical wrench in Darwin's theory. Darwin himself even found it "fatal to the whole theory." Selflessness between and for blood kin, or those who share a very similar genetic makeup, is a widely common thing throughout nature. A bee will sacrifice its own life not in self defense, but in the best interest of the entire hive. A ground squirrel or meerkat will stand alone issuing a predator warning call, making itself more vulnerable to capture, to ensure safety for the rest. Darwin's loophole becomes secured as we understand that the cost of voluntary, individual sacrifice is indeed worth the benefit of generations of many beings, genetically just like you, to come. Dugatkin closes by suggesting the consideration of modern, real-world social reform using such information gathered from the natural world. For example, financial incentives for low-income families who live in the same neighborhood with their blood kin could make for a better community because those who share the same genes tend to be good to each other.
Daniel Pink brings both comic relief and an excellent theory that uses the divided brain as a metaphor for today's economy. Logical, linear, and analytical abilities characteristic of the left brain hemisphere used to be of utmost value, but now have been quickly and swimmingly replaced by technology, software, and a massive offshore workforce. Accordingly, the right sides of our brains house creative and innovative strengths which are exponentially becoming more valuable as they cannot be replicated by less fortunate and non-human entities. On top of it all, in our world of great abundance, a.k.a. overconsumption (see Chris Jordan), "people have gotten richer but not happier." Pink used the keywords of Automation, Asia, and Abundance (catchy) to bring home the brain bacon. The severely variated abilities in our thinking processes can be separated into easily replaceable and simply irreplaceable categories, the latter of which we, as a society, are leaning toward in search of what's next.