As I mentioned in cubism, camouflage and cultural change, art and "high culture" are important drivers of societal change. In the case of the neurotechnology wave, I believe this trend will hold true once again.
Today, the primary focus of those interested in understanding our emerging neurosociety is on how tools that enhance human cognitive and sensory performance will impact society. While I obviously agree that these are critical components to understand, I sense that the area of emotional enhancement or (enablement of more refined conditions of emotional stability, control and exploration) will prove to be the most powerful and historically unique driver of change in the decades to come.
Virginia Postrel, always trying to understand the pulse of planetary change, has already insightfully chronicled the power of aesthetics as a major economic driver in her most recent book, The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness. (Obviously, highly recommended)
The current obsession with cognition can be partially explained by the fact we still exist within the paradigm of the information technology wave, where information is the most valuable resource. Only by realizing how our own perception of future possibilities is clouded by the focus of today's tools, can one begin to get a sense of the emotional revolution that awaits humanity.
To explore this concept further I'll be attending (and blogging) The Institute for Neuroesthetics third annual conference at U.C. Berkeley on Emotions in Art and the Brain this coming weekend
Here is a list of some of the talks that I'll be blogging on next week:
The Brain, Emotion and Aesthetic Judgments -- Ray Dolan
Steps Toward an Evolutionary Psychology of Emotion -- Dan Fessler
Embodied Aesthetics: A Neuropsychological Perspective -- Arthur P. Shimamura
Emotion, Transformation Through Art and Neurological Coincidents -- Dennis M. Dake, A. M. Barry
Art, Emotion and the Brain: The Historical Dimension -- David Freedberg
On the Neurobiology of Creativity and Emotion -- Rosa-Aurora Chávez
The Techniques of Emotion -- Anna Winestein
The Self-Organizing Landscape and the Brain -- Robert Steinberg
The Neurophysiology of aesthetic experience -- William Seeley
The Neural Correlates of Love and Beauty -- Semir Zeki