About this author
Zack Lynch is author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World (St. Martin's Press, July 2009).
He is the founder and executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) and co-founder of NeuroInsights. He serves on the advisory boards of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, Science Progress, and SocialText, a social software company. Please send newsworthy items or feedback - to Zack Lynch.
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October 16, 2003

An Emotional Revolution

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Posted by Zack Lynch

When I started writing my forthcoming book on our emerging neurosociety several years ago, my working title and focus for the project was -- The Emotional Revolution. Human emotions are extremely complex and depending on who is doing the talking there still exists broad contention about what constitutes emotions.

Human emotions have been honed over millions of years by natural selection to be trigger-happy. Although deeply engrained emotions like fear, anxiety and anger were critical survival behaviors for our ancestors, many human emotions, at least the severity to which they are felt and expressed, no longer provide the same advantages. Instead, they actually get in the way of cooperative efforts to solve problems.

Emotional control, not cognitive enhancement, will be the area where neurotechnology will make the most decisive impact on productivity and society in the coming years. Whether one agrees with the philosopher Thomas Hobbes that our “future hunger” for pleasure drives our decisions or with the political economist John Locke that it is our “uneasiness” with painful circumstances that spurs humans to action, it is clear that pain, pleasure, and every emotion in between, influence our daily decisions.

Comments (2) | Category: Emoticeuticals


1. Randall Parker on October 20, 2003 6:15 AM writes...

The ability to control emotions will allow greater control of motivation. But motivation isn't going to allow a dummy to understand advanced physics. Motivation is important. But there are people who can put very little effort into understanding math or physics or complex technical topics and can do productive work in them with even only moderate motivation.

Part of the problem with discussing emotions and intelligence is that I think the two categories do not capture everything about cognition that affect how productive we are. Urges do not seem like emotions. The desire for food does not seem like an emotion.

As another example, there is distractibility. How easily does your mind lose its chain of thought if exposed to an interruption or noise? That's partly a function of how big and fast your short term memory is. But distractability strikes me as a quality in its own right.

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2. niall gartlan on October 21, 2003 6:06 PM writes...

I would agree that in providing greater emotional control, neurotechnology can make an enormous contribution to the rapid development and increased productivity of our society if only by decreasing the friction emotional instability currently presents. Disorders like chronic depression and anxiety cost the society as a whole countless hours in lost productivity. This refers not only to all those who suffer from thses conditions, but all their families, friends, and support groups as well, both public and private. If neurotechnology could alleviate or remove emotional instabilities, we would see enormous gains not just through the increased productivity of those who were originally suffering from these conditions, but also from those who were burdened, both physically and psychologically, by their need for support.

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