Wired to Connect

As every author knows, books never really end – you just stop writing them at some point.  This is especially true for books like mine, which take a science journalist’s approach to major new fields of discovery. The research and its applications that I wrote about in <em>Emotional Intelligence</em>, <em>Social Intelligence</em> and my other books has continued. My own thinking evolves along with the new findings.

That has been a frustration for me: I’ve wanted a way to share with my readers some of my own continuing interests in these areas of science, with their rich implications for our lives. This website lets me do that, to some extent.

Another frustration has been the limits a book places on my ability to probe a field indepth.  So often I have had to boil a stack of articles and books into a few paragraphs or pages in my books, when I would have loved to keep going.

So I’m trying an experiment: the audio series <em>Wired to Connect: Dialogues on Social Intelligence</em>, which lets me explore in more detail the work and thinking of people whose specialty or area of expertise expands on my books. It’s a kind of book extender.

The <em>Wired To Connect</em> CD series lets me share with my readers where my thinking has continued after my books end. The conversations let me spotlight significant work that intersects with my own, with people I admire. These conversations go into greater depth and add to what’s in my books – and let me take my readers along as my interests evolve.

The first conversation is with Daniel Siegel, MD, the UCLA psychiatrist whose work on how parenting styles impact a child’s developing brain I detailed in <em>Social Intelligence</em>. Dan coined the term “mindsight,” which captures how the social brain empathizes and understands. He also founded the field of “interpersonal neurobiology,” a major contribution to social neuroscience. In our conversation we explore his insights into how the emotional and social centers of the brain are shaped by our interactions in childhood, and how these patterns in turn determine how we behave as parents, lovers, and people.

The second conversation is with Paul Ekman, the world expert on the facial expression of emotions, whose work was crucial to my thinking in both Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence.  Paul and I discuss the kinds of empathy – purely cognitive, emotional, and compassionate – and their implications (a manipulator, for example, needs good cognitive empathy, but little or no emotional attunement; empathic concern requires both kinds). And we reflect on the many ways to enhance a person’s empathy, as well as the urgent need for doing this in society today.

Why do people flame when they send emails, but not face to face? What makes it so hard to come to consensus on a decision when a group meets online? When should people working together via email get together in person? And what can we do to compensate for the mismatch between the brain’s social channels and the online world? These and other fascinating questions came up when I talked with Clay Shirky, who teaches courses on social computing at New York University, and is one of the most influential voices in the world of those who design software that lets people work and play together.

There are a half dozen more conversations in the Wired To Connect pipeline, including George Lucas’ thoughts on the importance of kids learning social skills through working on projects together, and other ways to reinvent education.

Stay tuned.

4 thoughts on “Wired to Connect

  1. People avoid direct contac with other, now email is a very good tool to everybody conect with everybody, without embarrassment, but in other hand is more impersonal.
    Face to face you can sense people spirit and receive feelings and also listen to.

  2. I like the work you have done showing how the brain can change through our experiences. Yet, to say that these changes in our brain in turn “determine” how we respond to situations in life is false. No matter what is going on in our brain, all of us have the decision to respond however we wish. Brain activity may INFLUENCE us, but it does not determine us!

  3. Sorry Jared, he’s correct.
    The automaticity of our thinking becomes less and less open to change the more we use the same response. Think about learning to drive. We had to think about every detail at first but now drive without thinking about it at all. Our thinking is the same.
    Unless we consciously take control of the thought, it follows its usual course.
    Statistically the likelihood of significant change in our lives after age 35 is ZERO.
    A phenomenon called Long Term Potentiation changes learning to rote response after a certain number of repititions. Saves processor time but locks us into repeating our past.
    If reasoning were actual and not theoretical, we would not be afraid of flying.
    Sincerely,
    Doug McKee

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