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Rebecca Woodruff's picture

Social Organization as Applied Neurobiology

While, on the whole, I thought this paper was very thought-provoking, the concept that I spent the most time thinking about was merely part of the entire message. I wonder if Resnick, Johnson, Keller, Dalke, and Grobstein's "major general insight of the twenty-first century (3)" didn't just do away with the definition of a leader, but revised the story of what a leader is. The observations relating to bird flocking behavior, task allocation in ants, the wave, etc. are fascinating ones. I wonder though what the role of the initiator is in all this and how that role relates to what was formerly thought of as a leader. Take the example of the wave. It's a sad sight to see someone gleefully stand up, arms thrown back, at a football game hoping to start an impressive chain reaction, and have their hopes completely dashed as no one else joins in. I'm curious about the role of choice making and the ability to predict possible future outcomes of an action with regards to this issue. It seems appropriate that the place to begin exploring such roles in initiating a chain of unified events is the brain. What structures are involved? How does culture affect these brain processes? How could they be pharmacologically influenced?

I think it's also very interesting that advertising campaigns have capitalized on this phenomenon. Wasn't there some cellphone commercial a few years ago that dealt with the idea of one action prompting a chain of happiness? Something where a man picks up something another person dropped, which prompted that person to do something nice to another stranger in turn, etc...? It's interesting that this idea is well represented physically, emotionally, culturally... especially so that it's used within the traditionally scientific community as well as the nontraditional scientific community.

It seems that this idea of a sort of chain reaction ties tightly in with the "The Scientific Mind, the Brain, and Human Culture" paper as a possible way of proactively going about creating a more responsible society, better equipped to deal with and facilitate the evolution of stories?


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