Tom Wolfe on a decade of neuroscience

I’ve just got round to watching the Seed Salon discussion between novelist Tom Wolfe and neuropsychologist Michael Gazzaniga where they debate free will, criminal responsibility and the similarities in the creative processes of writers and scientists.

Wolfe is best known as the author of ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’ and ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities’, but wrote a highly influential 1996 article for Forbes magazine titled ‘Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died’.

The piece is worth re-reading now because its a look ahead to the forthcoming neuroscience revolution written 12 years ago, when the ‘Decade of the Brain’ initiative was only just past the half way point.

It’s revealing because it describes a society still quite resistant to what we consider relatively banal in 2008 – the fact that there may be neurobiological or genetic factors to behavioural differences.

It also fortells our concerns over widespread use of methylphenidate (Ritalin) in children and the interest in a psychology of happiness, but does have a curious paragraph about the ‘IQ Cap’ which could apparently predict IQ to within half a standard deviation based on an EEG reading.

As far as I know, it’s never been heard of since and seems to have been lost in history, presumably as it sounds a bit far fetched and probably never worked as advertised.

Link to Wolfe and Gazzaniga discussion.
Link to ‘Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died’.

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