TED Conversations

Adon Hsu

engineer in networks and telecoms , State Government

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How can we get the facts on what really makes humans tick?

The Venus project, Zeitgeist Movement, living in a cave all have one thing in common; they made the assumption that humans can change their minds through re-education, pain and suffering (from a crashing existing system). But can they? Seriously, is it biologically possible for the majority of the human race (average Joes) to embrace logic and reason over their baser instincts and emotions?

Genetic research (especially behavioural genetics and epigenetic) is in its infancy, we dont have enough facts to confirm or reject the hypothesis that humans act-react the way they do because of how genes structured their psyche. Human psyche development and research, due to nature and-or nurture, is the key to solving ALL of our problems.

I propose we go further than the human genome project, further than general anthropology, I propose we really look deep into the biological variables of our mind and body and confirm or reject once and for all this nature and/or nurture circus show and find out what we really want, need, desire as homo sapiens.

Once we do, we can proceed with the second phase of human development, change the way we think (through science and/or re-education) OR shape our future society around how we naturally are. There is no right or wrong, only facts and science to help us move along and cease the pseudo-science guessing game of what we want and what we should do for the future.

How can we plan for the future if we dont even know what we are-arent?


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    May 28 2013: Are you assuming that scholars are not studying these questions or do not realize the importance of that study? If so, I believe you are mistaken in this assumption.

    What is true is that those who work in neural science or the science of mind work on pieces of important problems with a strategy or in a sequence that reflects the best reach of their tools and push at the boundaries of important subjects as the reach of their tools is enhanced.

    In short, I believe what you propose in the way of study agenda is well underway.
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      May 29 2013: I believe you have not read the entirety of my proposition, otherwise you wouldnt assume that I'm not acknowledging existing research and study conducted on said subject.

      Summary of my proposition: I dont think enough study or funding are put on it, otherwise we wouldnt have so much confusion and conflicting information on the subject. Behavioural genetics and epigenetic has been pushed aside by society for far too long, despite its importance.

      The reason why we dont study it enough is due to profit, its not profitable to know the facts about human behaviour, there are no marketable product or services to be made out of the knowledge.
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        May 29 2013: I believe you are incorrect that this area is largely neglected in the field's research agenda and also that there is no profit in understanding human behavior.This area poses greater challenge as an area of study than some areas that have been more fully investigated, like circadian rhythms, because behaviors of this kind are multigenetic. If you are interested in this area, I think you may find further research interesting as to what is studied and the rationale for the path of inquiry..
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          May 30 2013: Well, consider this simple question:

          Why are the scientific community in general still debating the nature vs nurture subject without any convincing facts to support or reject the hypothesis put on by both sides?

          There are no convincing facts to support or reject to support alternative hypothesis either, such as the nature AND nurture premise.
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        May 30 2013: Much of the data regarding nature and nurture comes from studies of identical twins. There is a body of research on this question. There are also genetics-based studies that involve modifying genes to determine the connection between genes and simple behaviors that lead to findings about "nature."

        There is experimental evidence as well in which the effects of experience on various attributes are studied.

        There is an extensive research-based literature on this point, but until every mechanism is understood, the balance of importance between the two for different human features and behaviors is best presumed different. For example, you sometimes hear that a particular disease is 50% hereditary while another shows no genetic link.

        You might want to explore this literature yourself if you are taking someone else's word for it. There are good popular books on neuroscience and if you have a scientific background and determination to educate yourself on the matter, you can even tackle a modern science textbook through self study.

        The area that involves the study of complex human behaviors is called systems neuroscience.

        John Brockman edits an Edge compendium called The Mind, which is an entirely non-technical take on the subject.

        Eric Kandel's Principles of Neural Science is the leading medical school textbook in this field. The 2013 edition captures where the field is in the moment in terms of the big issues: cognition, perception, unconscious and conscious processing of neural information, development and emergence of behavior, and language/thought/affect/learning.

        I always try to go to the sources on matters such as this, because there is so much misunderstanding several stages removed from those who actually do this work.

        Good luck and great fun to you if you decide to pursue deeper understanding!
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          Jun 19 2013: What Fritzie said! He's one of the TED guys I always listen to. So should everyone else.
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        May 31 2013: Madison Avenue will disagree that there is no potential for profit in "knowing the facts about human behavior". The very essence of the multi-billion dollar advertising industry is precisely the ability that you say has no potential for profit. Which of us is wrong on this point?

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