RICHARD DAVIDSON, author,
The Emotional Life of Your Brain
DAVID EAGLEMAN, author,
Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain
PETER BAUMANN, convener,
BEING HUMAN 2012
In 1989 I addressed the 20th reunion of my Harvard class. In 1969, we’d spearheaded student protests that led to a month long strike of the University. Our demands included removing ROTC from campus, creation of an African-American studies program, and reforming Harvard’s behavior as a landlord. Twenty years later, I encouraged my classmates to live up to our youthful ideals. I recall focusing on environmental challenges, including the mounting evidence of man-made contributions to climate change. But when asked where we needed to focus our attention to turn things around, I pointed to the environment within our own minds.
Now, over twenty years later, my conversations about politics, economics, technology, ecology, etc. focus more and more on the need to tinker with the human software that drives or interprets everything we do. As we use the tools of science to explore the nature of humanity, we are learning more and more about how our brains function and what motivates our behavior, built-in biases and blind spots. I find myself paying a lot of attention to the fields of behavioral economics, cognitive neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, social anthropology, philosophy – that promise to overthrow long-held biases and stories about what it means to be human.