Friday, February 5, 2010

More Work on Social Networks

As can be seen to the right, I follow wunderkind Jonah Lehrer's blog, The Frontal Cortex. Yesterday's post was The Isolated Mind. He cites an article on grief, in a recent New Yorker, by Megan O'Rouke (which I have yet to read). Both she and he discuss the increased atomization of human society - more and more focused on the individual instead of the group. We are both brains - neurological systems which process inner and outer stimuli - and parts of larger systems of other brains (our own species, mainly, but arguably the brains of other species as well). Any study or belief system that examines either the individual or the group, while disregarding the other, misses a vital aspect of the human experience. I like what Lehrer says about how current research and social trends ignore the connections that define us, choosing to see us isolated minds instead.
But we are not meant to be alone: The private events inside the brain depend, in larger part, on where we are and who we are with. It reminds me of something Nicholas Christakis, who studies human social networks along with James Fowler, recently told me: "The story of modern science is the story of studying ever smaller bits of nature, like atoms and neurons," he said. "But people aren't just the sum of their parts. I see this research as an attempt to put human beings back together again."

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