History has already progressed through an agricultural revolution, an industrial revolution, and an information revolution. The Neuro Revolution foretells a fast approaching fourth epoch, one that will radically transform how we all work, live and play.
Neurotechnology—brain imaging and other new tools for both understanding and influencing our brains—is accelerating the pace of change almost everywhere, from financial markets to law enforcement to politics to advertising and marketing, artistic expression, warfare, and even religious belief.
The Neuro Revolution introduces you to the brilliant people leading this worldwide transformation, taking you into their laboratories, boardrooms and courtrooms for a unique, insider’s glimpse into the startling future now appearing at our doorstep. From foolproof lie detectors to sure-fire investment strategies to super-enhanced religious and aesthetic experiences, the insights and revelations within The Neuro Revolution will foster wonder, debate, and in some cases consternation. Above all, though, they need to be understood by those who will be most affected—all of us.
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ZACK LYNCH is the founder and executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO), a global trade association for companies involved in neuroscience, brain research institutes and patient advocacy groups. He is also the co-founder of NeuroInsights, the world’s leading market research firm covering the neurotechnology industry.
BYRON LAURSEN, bestselling co-author of ShowTime and The Winner Within with NBA legend Pat Riley, joined forces with Zack Lynch to help gather the advanced thoughts, amazing stories and stunning predictions from brilliant minds that you will encounter within The Neuro Revolution.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
One Time’S Telescope
As I rolled into that narrow MRI tunnel in San Francisco, my body tightly surrounded by what was then the very newest scanning technology, I was like a caterpillar entering a chrysalis. My hope was to emerge eventually into a better existence, my chronic pain erased. That hope was fulfilled, something I’m still thankful for every day. But an even greater transformation was launched for me that day. I gradually came to see possibilities far greater than the positive impact of this superior imaging technology on medicine and surgery.
It was about recognizing a gargantuan historic inevitability: Vast changes are gathering from this new technology, propelling humanity toward a radical reshaping of our lives, families, societies, cultures, governments, economies, art, leisure, religion—absolutely everything that’s pivotal to humankind’s existence.
This gigantic wave of transformation will reach every corner of the planet. It will create a metamorphosis as complete as the changing of a larval worm into a butterfly.
If enough of us realize what is coming, and if we can infuse this emerging wave with practical and benevolent intelligence, continuously keeping our aspirations aimed high, it will let us create a future of greatly enhanced, better-balanced, and more satisfying individual lives within a vastly transformed society that we will build through an unimaginably powerful capability we’ve never had before: increasingly precise control over the most complex entity in the universe, the single most important determinant of the quality of the lives we lead—our human minds.
Scientists are now building a phenomenal body of knowledge, at an explosive rate, about how our brains respond the way they do, and why, and how we might leverage this accumulating knowledge into innovations that will impact every part of our lives. Better understanding our brains will lead to more solid and reliable decisions, as individuals and as nations, creating more lasting happiness. We will tap potentials humanity has dreamed of and reached for across aeons—to live comfortably, harmoniously, and prosperously with our physical environment, each other, and our own emotions. Literally knowing our own minds will create new ways of learning, working, distributing wealth, experiencing cultures, and being creative. We will be able to ease chronic pain on every level, from physical to spiritual. Life in this now-emerging neurosociety will be as advanced from current existence as the Renaissance was from the Stone Age. We will see enormous modification of our personal relationships, the bases of political power, expressions of art, religious experiences, modes of learning, physical and mental health, and business competitiveness.
Profound questions will arise all along the way, and major controversies will mount, as these personal and social transformations challenge deeply held beliefs about what it means to be human.
You may already have learned some aspects of neurotechnology and neuroscience from recent magazine and newspaper articles that have described how researchers now can see the workings of the human brain in real time. Most of these early stories are centered on medical possibilities. Medicine is both vital and fascinating, but it’s really just one facet of the world’s approaching transformation. Neuroscience now drives many fields of study. University department walls are shape-shifting as many brand-new combinations are being created outright, at a rapid pace. Neurotheology, neurolaw, neuromarketing, neuroesthetics, and neurofinance are among the examples. These developments are morphing so quickly that even the most brilliant scientific minds at work today are often just vaguely aware of the neuroscience-propelled changes revolutionizing areas beyond their own fields of expertise.
The popular press reports on neuroscience that you may already have seen are your proof that the neurosociety has already taken baby steps. In the pages to come you’ll find proof that the time is coming remarkably near for neuroscience to begin taking long, broad strides, and to become as unmistakable on our horizon of time as history’s other great transformations did in their time.
I’ve spent the last several years positioned in full view of the coming attractions now being projected by some of the world’s most brilliant minds. My job is to relentlessly track neuroscientific projects under way within the many businesses, universities, and independent labs now pursuing breakthroughs. My mission is to synthesize all the information that’s flowing, shaping it into the best-informed ideas possible about where the rubber is going to meet the road.
The forthcoming chapters will reveal vital pieces of what I have seen from this unique vantage point, and your own visions of our possible tomorrows will take shape.
Change brings tumult, and inevitably it also inspires fear. The challenges ahead are tremendous. Deep social and cultural conflicts will arise, terrifying consequences may erupt, even as incredible benefits come about.
During the onrush of this neuroscience wave, it may seem at times—just as it often does today—that we are headed for a catastrophic future. Why shouldn’t reasonable people be afraid of the future? Hellhounds are on our trail right now. Our news is a parade of horrific imagery: terrorists in continual and bloody resurgence; global climatic shifts; food shortages across the globe; the evaporation of the middle class; startling increases in suicide; radically volatile energy prices; human and financial assets hemorrhaging in wars being waged across the planet; currencies tanking; babies born daily into desperate poverty; visions taking shape of an unstable multipolar world. This hydra-headed malaise makes today’s widespread prophecies of massive die-offs and possible extinction feel all too believable.
But thanks to the curiosity and drive of our ancestors, and to billions of us who will be working together in the near future within the neurosociety, we will be able to build a bridge wide enough for all of us to survive. We will also have the means to go higher than just survival. Depending on how we deal with the tumult, we will enter a flourishing age, riding a wave characterized by nearly unlimited access to the aspects of our humanity Abraham Lincoln summed up as "the better angels of our nature."
Since the dawn of civilization, humanity has undergone three societal revolutions. Each was driven forward by newly invented tools. Each of these technological leaps let people control the world around them to a far greater degree than was previously imaginable. Those surges of expanded control created three new epochs for humankind.
You are about to begin understanding the fourth.
Nearly ten thousand years ago, agricultural society came into being. Plows pulled by oxen replaced human muscles as the primary energy source for food production. Our ancestors were no longer forced to continually hunt, gather, and migrate. They began to gather surpluses. Sparse settlements grew into cities and city-states of hundreds of thousands of people. Specialized occupations were born, and the complexity of human life increased enormously.
Less than two and a half centuries ago, steam-powered engines became a reality, ushering in industrial society. Our control over energy creation, goods production, and resource distribution multiplied many fold. Distance became easier to conquer. New markets opened up around the world. The interconnectedness of human life was again magnified to a far higher degree.
In our time, the microchip gave birth to today’s information society. We can tap into instantaneous global knowledge exchange. This accelerated communication and expanded access has created, in turn, vast new efficiencies across every existing industry, and the birth of industries and occupations that never existed before. The complexity and interconnectedness of all our lives has reached a staggering new level in a very short time.
These new technologies not only brought us new industries; they also reshaped business competition, personal communication, artistic expression, and warfare, bringing on such wide-ranging transformations that the lives of future generations were completely and forever changed.
Today we sit on the cusp of another overwhelming societal transformation, beginning to feel the liftoff of a wave potentially more dramatic than any of the three that came before. It is the emerging neurosociety. Early evidence of this wave will meet your eyes in the pages ahead. You will gradually realize that this coming wave will give us undreamed-of control of two vast spheres of life: both the world around us and the universe within us.
The forces driving the neurosociety’s emergence are clear. Its arrival is both inevitable and already in progress. Even those who are now positioned closest to the unfolding wave cannot fully imagine the range and scope of impact on its way. It will be nothing less than the birth a new civilization.
Here is what I mean by inevitable: Global population has soared more than twentyfold over the past two hundred years, reaching over 6.6 billion. During the same two centuries, average life spans more than doubled, vaulting to more than seventy years. Current population projections say that the United States in 2040 will have 54 million people aged eighty-five and older, up from 4.2 million today. Today, those over eighty-five represent only 2 percent of the population. By 2040 they may represent almost 20 percent.
A population that is significantly older and massively larger, coupled with the recently created extensive global connectedness, has already created opportunities along with brand-new problems for modern humans. At the same time, it has intensified many of the old ones. We navigate our ever-changing lives with brains that have evolved very little since the Paleolithic Age. The problem-solving machinery in our heads is astonishingly complex, yet overwhelmed and overstimulated on a daily basis. It can turn quickly and insidiously, without our realizing it, into problem-causing machinery. We are constantly blasted with images of unattainable lifestyles, creating daily identity crises as we search for meaning in a world of continually shifting truths. Many of us are appalled by today’s uneven distribution of wealth and power. Others are well supplied with both wealth and power yet are disillusioned, not able to feel the happiness such assets were supposed to provide. On every continent, in every culture, we see uncertainty, depression, anger, and resentment surfacing on a vast scale.
However, after spending thousands of years improving our control over the physical environment, we are about to receive new tools that will improve our control over the mental environment. These tools are a logical next step for helping conquer the stresses arising from living in our highly connected, urbanized information society.
Building on advances in brain science, neurotechnology (the set of tools for understanding and influencing the human brain) will allow us to experience life in ways never attainable before. Neurotechnology will enable people to consciously improve their emotional stability, enhance their cognitive clarity, and extend their most satisfying sensory experiences.
The Neuro Revolution will bring much more than fantastic new tools to enable individuals to experience a life less constrained by their evolutionarily influenced brain chemistry. It will deliver the capacity to reshape the very fabric, the innermost essential workings, of every industry, organization, and political system.
Let me share with you a vision of what is to come.
Using the last 250 years of history as our guide, we can use Time’s Telescope to project forward over the next half century and see how businesses, governments, and personal relationships will shape and be shaped by humanity’s fourth epochal transformation.
I developed Time’s Telescope as a conceptual framework for looking at humanity’s developments that is more refined than broadly descriptive epochs. It organizes recent human history into a succession of technological waves that build on the ones that came before them. I’ll explain the model a little more thoroughly below, but I believe it gives us a reliable way to venture into long-term social forecasting. By forecasting I mean seeing what are the compelling forces at work, and what patterns they will follow as our future unfolds. Forecasting does not mean making highly specific predictions of finite events. It means mapping the direction and force of the coming wave in light of patterns that have occurred during previous periods of change.
There are good reasons for not making highly specific statements about what is to come. I believe in learning from history. History has shown that even the best-informed people are often terrible at predicting the future.
For example, in 1895 the eminent Irish physicist Lord Kelvin declared that heavier-than-air flying machines were "scientifically impossible." Five years later, the Wright brothers launched their test flights over the windy beaches of Kitty Hawk. Thomas Edison declared in 1880 that the phonograph he had invented had "no commercial value." I recently watched Herbie Hancock receive his Grammy for album of the year with River: The Joni Letters, so I’d have to join the millions who respectfully disagree with the Wizard of Menlo Park (the nickname Edison won for his frequent displays of genius). In 1955, a prominent home appliance manufacturer’s CEO predicted that nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners would become a reality by 1965. Clearly, we are all happy that the atomic house cleaning revolution never took hold. In 1962, a Decca Recording Company executive turned down a young hopeful band by saying, "We don’t like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out." So four rather scruffy guys from Liverpool, collectively known as the Beatles, had to keep knocking on doors. Then they blew the roof off of pop culture and the music business worldwide. Early in the 1970s, experts told us that Japan’s electronics industry would soon reach a dead end because the market for stereos and transistor radios was nearly saturated. Examples like this are littered throughout the history of the future-predicting business. Given the now-obvious bonehead errors of these previous projections, where should we look for a fairly clear understanding of where society is headed in the future?
My training is to look at history. Of course, most of us know Napoleon’s famous comment that history is just "the lies agreed upon by the winners," and we also realize that there are ways a person can divide up history to support almost any argument. Time’s Telescope is just one of many ways of viewing history, but the perspective it provides is compelling.
Looking back over the 250 years that have passed since the first spark of the Industrial Revolution, we can see that newly developed technologies have provided the cutting edge of societal transformation in a relatively consistent pattern of sixty-year waves of economic and political change. Each time, with each new wave, a new set of technologies has emerged to solve problems we previously believed were insurmountable.
Each of these five waves became driven by the development and widespread use of a few new low-cost products that allowed entirely new industries to be born and at the same time transformed old industries, creating new forms of social organization along the way.
When we trace the role of these critical technologies across the span of each wave, we can see a predictable pattern of change. These hist...
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