[Paleopsych] Wired 13.02: Revenge of the Right Brain

Buck, Ross ross.buck at uconn.edu
Mon Apr 25 15:22:28 UTC 2005

Who has discounted right brain/left brain differences, and on what
evidence?  Anyone with experience with aphasia knows that right
brain/left brain differences are powerful: language is organized in the
left hemisphere in over 90% of humans (right or left handedness makes
little difference: people are right or left footed and eyed as well).
And there is considerable evidence that the right hemisphere is
associated with emotional expressiveness (facial expression and vocal
prosody) as well as spatial abilities.  




From: paleopsych-bounces at paleopsych.org
[mailto:paleopsych-bounces at paleopsych.org] On Behalf Of Lynn D. Johnson,
Sent: Sunday, April 24, 2005 10:07 PM
To: The new improved paleopsych list
Subject: Re: [Paleopsych] Wired 13.02: Revenge of the Right Brain


I thoroughly disagree with the premise. First, the idea of right-brain /
left-brain has been thoroughly discounted. Second, the author is
creating a false dichotomy. Most technical people are creative and
artistic. Both my brother (Ph.D., chemical engineering) and my son
(mechanical engineering) play jazz guitar. 

Premise Checker wrote:

Revenge of the Right Brain 

   Logical and precise, left-brain thinking gave us the Information Age.

   Now comes the Conceptual Age - ruled by artistry, empathy, and 
   By Daniel H. Pink 

   When I was a kid - growing up in a middle-class family, in the middle

   of America, in the middle of the 1970s - parents dished out a
   plate of advice to their children: Get good grades, go to college,
   pursue a profession that offers a decent standard of living and 
   perhaps a dollop of prestige. If you were good at math and science, 
   become a doctor. If you were better at English and history, become a 
   lawyer. If blood grossed you out and your verbal skills needed work, 
   become an accountant. Later, as computers appeared on desktops and 
   CEOs on magazine covers, the youngsters who were really good at math 
   and science chose high tech, while others flocked to business school,

   thinking that success was spelled MBA. 

   Tax attorneys. Radiologists. Financial analysts. Software engineers. 
   Management guru Peter Drucker gave this cadre of professionals an 
   enduring, if somewhat wonky, name: knowledge workers. These are, he 
   wrote, "people who get paid for putting to work what one learns in 
   school rather than for their physical strength or manual skill." What

   distinguished members of this group and enabled them to reap
   greatest rewards, was their "ability to acquire and to apply 
   theoretical and analytic knowledge." And any of us could join their 
   ranks. All we had to do was study hard and play by the rules of the 
   meritocratic regime. That was the path to professional success and 
   personal fulfillment. 

   But a funny thing happened while we were pressing our noses to the 
   grindstone: The world changed. The future no longer belongs to people

   who can reason with computer-like logic, speed, and precision. It 
   belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind. 
   Today - amid the uncertainties of an economy that has gone from boom 
   to bust to blah - there's a metaphor that explains what's going on. 
   And it's right inside our heads. 

   Scientists have long known that a neurological Mason-Dixon line 
   cleaves our brains into two regions - the left and right hemispheres.

   But in the last 10 years, thanks in part to advances in functional 
   magnetic resonance imaging, researchers have begun to identify more 
   precisely how the two sides divide responsibilities. The left 
   hemisphere handles sequence, literalness, and analysis. The right 
   hemisphere, meanwhile, takes care of context, emotional expression, 
   and synthesis. Of course, the human brain, with its 100 billion cells

   forging 1 quadrillion connections, is breathtakingly complex. The two

   hemispheres work in concert, and we enlist both sides for nearly 
   everything we do. But the structure of our brains can help explain
   contours of our times. 

   Until recently, the abilities that led to success in school, work,
   business were characteristic of the left hemisphere. They were the 
   sorts of linear, logical, analytical talents measured by SATs and 
   deployed by CPAs. Today, those capabilities are still necessary. But 
   they're no longer sufficient. In a world upended by outsourcing, 
   deluged with data, and choked with choices, the abilities that matter

   most are now closer in spirit to the specialties of the right 
   hemisphere - artistry, empathy, seeing the big picture, and pursuing 
   the transcendent. 

   Beneath the nervous clatter of our half-completed decade stirs a slow

   but seismic shift. The Information Age we all prepared for is ending.

   Rising in its place is what I call the Conceptual Age, an era in
   mastery of abilities that we've often overlooked and undervalued
   the fault line between who gets ahead and who falls behind. 

   To some of you, this shift - from an economy built on the logical, 
   sequential abilities of the Information Age to an economy built on
   inventive, empathic abilities of the Conceptual Age - sounds 
   delightful. "You had me at hello!" I can hear the painters and nurses

   exulting. But to others, this sounds like a crock. "Prove it!" I hear

   the programmers and lawyers demanding. 

   OK. To convince you, I'll explain the reasons for this shift, using 
   the mechanistic language of cause and effect. 

   The effect: the scales tilting in favor of right brain-style
   The causes: Asia, automation, and abundance. 


   Few issues today spark more controversy than outsourcing. Those 
   squadrons of white-collar workers in India, the Philippines, and
   are scaring the bejesus out of software jockeys across North America 
   and Europe. According to Forrester Research, 1 in 9 jobs in the US 
   information technology industry will move overseas by 2010. And it's 
   not just tech work. Visit India's office parks and you'll see 
   chartered accountants preparing American tax returns, lawyers 
   researching American lawsuits, and radiologists reading CAT scans for

   US hospitals. 

   The reality behind the alarm is this: Outsourcing to Asia is
   in the short term, but underhyped in the long term. We're not all 
   going to lose our jobs tomorrow. (The total number of jobs lost to 
   offshoring so far represents less than 1 percent of the US labor 
   force.) But as the cost of communicating with the other side of the 
   globe falls essentially to zero, as India becomes (by 2010) the 
   country with the most English speakers in the world, and as
   nations continue to mint millions of extremely capable knowledge 
   workers, the professional lives of people in the West will change 
   dramatically. If number crunching, chart reading, and code writing
   be done for a lot less overseas and delivered to clients instantly
   fiber-optic cable, that's where the work will go. 

   But these gusts of comparative advantage are blowing away only
   kinds of white-collar jobs - those that can be reduced to a set of 
   rules, routines, and instructions. That's why narrow left-brain work 
   such as basic computer coding, accounting, legal research, and 
   financial analysis is migrating across the oceans. But that's also
   plenty of opportunities remain for people and companies doing less 
   routine work - programmers who can design entire systems, accountants

   who serve as life planners, and bankers expert less in the
   of Excel than in the art of the deal. Now that foreigners can do 
   left-brain work cheaper, we in the US must do right-brain work


   Last century, machines proved they could replace human muscle. This 
   century, technologies are proving they can outperform human left 
   brains - they can execute sequential, reductive, computational work 
   better, faster, and more accurately than even those with the highest 
   IQs. (Just ask chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov.) 

   Consider jobs in financial services. Stockbrokers who merely execute 
   transactions are history. Online trading services and market makers
   such work far more efficiently. The brokers who survived have morphed

   from routine order-takers to less easily replicated advisers, who can

   understand a client's broader financial objectives and even the 
   client's emotions and dreams. 

   Or take lawyers. Dozens of inexpensive information and advice
   are reshaping law practice. At CompleteCase.com, you can get an 
   uncontested divorce for $249, less than a 10th of the cost of a 
   divorce lawyer. Meanwhile, the Web is cracking the information 
   monopoly that has long been the source of many lawyers' high incomes 
   and professional mystique. Go to USlegalforms.com and you can
   - for the price of two movie tickets - fill-in-the-blank wills, 
   contracts, and articles of incorporation that used to reside 
   exclusively on lawyers' hard drives. Instead of hiring a lawyer for
   hours to craft a contract, consumers can fill out the form themselves

   and hire a lawyer for one hour to look it over. Consequently, legal 
   abilities that can't be digitized - convincing a jury or
   the subtleties of a negotiation - become more valuable. 

   Even computer programmers may feel the pinch. "In the old days," 
   legendary computer scientist Vernor Vinge has said, "anybody with
   routine skills could get a job as a programmer. That isn't true 
   anymore. The routine functions are increasingly being turned over to 
   machines." The result: As the scut work gets offloaded, engineers
   have to master different aptitudes, relying more on creativity than 

   Any job that can be reduced to a set of rules is at risk. If a 
   $500-a-month accountant in India doesn't swipe your accounting job, 
   TurboTax will. Now that computers can emulate left-hemisphere skills,

   we'll have to rely ever more on our right hemispheres. 


   Our left brains have made us rich. Powered by armies of Drucker's 
   knowledge workers, the information economy has produced a standard of

   living that would have been unfathomable in our grandparents' youth. 
   Their lives were defined by scarcity. Ours are shaped by abundance. 
   Want evidence? Spend five minutes at Best Buy. Or look in your
   Owning a car used to be a grand American aspiration. Today, there are

   more automobiles in the US than there are licensed drivers - which 
   means that, on average, everybody who can drive has a car of their 
   own. And if your garage is also piled with excess consumer goods, 
   you're not alone. Self-storage - a business devoted to housing our 
   extra crap - is now a $17 billion annual industry in the US, nearly 
   double Hollywood's yearly box office take. 

   But abundance has produced an ironic result. The Information Age has 
   unleashed a prosperity that in turn places a premium on less rational

   sensibilities - beauty, spirituality, emotion. For companies and 
   entrepreneurs, it's no longer enough to create a product, a service, 
   or an experience that's reasonably priced and adequately functional. 
   In an age of abundance, consumers demand something more. Check out 
   your bathroom. If you're like a few million Americans, you've got a 
   Michael Graves toilet brush or a Karim Rashid trash can that you 
   bought at Target. Try explaining a designer garbage pail to the left 
   side of your brain! Or consider illumination. Electric lighting was 
   rare a century ago, but now it's commonplace. Yet in the US, candles 
   are a $2 billion a year business - for reasons that stretch beyond
   logical need for luminosity to a prosperous country's more inchoate 
   desire for pleasure and transcendence. 

   Liberated by this prosperity but not fulfilled by it, more people are

   searching for meaning. From the mainstream embrace of such
   practices as yoga and meditation to the rise of spirituality in the 
   workplace to the influence of evangelism in pop culture and politics,

   the quest for meaning and purpose has become an integral part of 
   everyday life. And that will only intensify as the first children of 
   abundance, the baby boomers, realize that they have more of their 
   lives behind them than ahead. In both business and personal life, now

   that our left-brain needs have largely been sated, our right-brain 
   yearnings will demand to be fed. 

   As the forces of Asia, automation, and abundance strengthen and 
   accelerate, the curtain is rising on a new era, the Conceptual Age.
   the Industrial Age was built on people's backs, and the Information 
   Age on people's left hemispheres, the Conceptual Age is being built
   people's right hemispheres. We've progressed from a society of
   to a society of factory workers to a society of knowledge workers.
   now we're progressing yet again - to a society of creators and 
   empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. 

   But let me be clear: The future is not some Manichaean landscape in 
   which individuals are either left-brained and extinct or
   and ecstatic - a land in which millionaire yoga instructors drive
   and programmers scrub counters at Chick-fil-A. Logical, linear, 
   analytic thinking remains indispensable. But it's no longer enough. 

   To flourish in this age, we'll need to supplement our well-developed 
   high tech abilities with aptitudes that are "high concept" and "high 
   touch." High concept involves the ability to create artistic and 
   emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities, to craft a 
   satisfying narrative, and to come up with inventions the world didn't

   know it was missing. High touch involves the capacity to empathize,
   understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one's 
   self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch beyond the quotidian 
   in pursuit of purpose and meaning. 

   Developing these high concept, high touch abilities won't be easy for

   everyone. For some, the prospect seems unattainable. Fear not (or at 
   least fear less). The sorts of abilities that now matter most are 
   fundamentally human attributes. After all, back on the savannah, our 
   caveperson ancestors weren't plugging numbers into spreadsheets or 
   debugging code. But they were telling stories, demonstrating empathy,

   and designing innovations. These abilities have always been part of 
   what it means to be human. It's just that after a few generations in 
   the Information Age, many of our high concept, high touch muscles
   atrophied. The challenge is to work them back into shape. 

   Want to get ahead today? Forget what your parents told you. Instead, 
   do something foreigners can't do cheaper. Something computers can't
   faster. And something that fills one of the nonmaterial, transcendent

   desires of an abundant age. In other words, go right, young man and 
   woman, go right. 

   Adapted from A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the

   Conceptual Age, copyright (c) by Daniel H. Pink, to be published in 
   March by Riverhead Books. Printed with permission of the publisher. 
   Contributing editor Daniel H. Pink (dp at danpink.com) wrote about Gross

   National Happiness in issue 12.1



paleopsych mailing list
paleopsych at paleopsych.org
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.extropy.org/pipermail/paleopsych/attachments/20050425/878f6727/attachment.html>

More information about the paleopsych mailing list