Las Vegas is awesome. There are literally huge women everywhere.
It’s also awesome because this year I got to attend The Amazing Meeting. It’s too much to describe (the Philosophe is doing daily round ups of all the cool stuff). But in summary, between 24-hr access to slot machines, $1 Bloody Marys, and some 65 very clever people talking about very clever stuff, let’s just say my dopamine levels are deliciously high.
About which, some of the talks I’ve so far enjoyed the most have been by Sally Satel and Scott LilienfeldÂ on the problems with popular misunderstandings of neuroimaging and the abuses of addiction-lingo.
‘The fact that food-talk slips so easily these days into sex-talk might be interpreted as part of the more generalised pornification of everything; but I think it represents a different trend: the foodification of everything. Food is the vehicle through which we are now invited to take not only our erotic thrills but also our spiritual nourishment (count the number of cookbook “bibles” and purple paeans to the personal-growth aspects of stuffing yourself in memoirs such asÂ Eat, Pray, Love), and even our education in history (the fad for food “archaeology”, cooking peculiar dishes from centuries-old recipes) or science (which Jamie Oliver says pupils can learn about through enforced cooking lessons). Food is now the grease-smeared lens through which we want to view the world. It’s an infantile ambition. A baby learns about the environment by putting things in its mouth. Are we all babies now?’
He concludes by asking ‘What if we began to care a little more about what we put into our minds than what we put into our mouths?’
‘An intellectual pestilence is upon us. Shop shelves groan with books purporting to explain, through snazzy brain-imaging studies, not only how thoughts and emotions function, but how politics and religion work, and what the correct answers are to age-old philosophical controversies. The dazzling real achievements of brain research are routinely pressed into service for questions they were never designed to answer. This is the plague of neuroscientism â€“ aka neurobabble, neurobollocks, or neurotrash â€“ and itâ€™s everywhere.
… Happily, a new branch of the neuroscienceexplains everything genre may be created at any time by the simple expedient of adding the prefix â€œneuroâ€ to whatever you are talking about. Thus, â€œneuroeconomicsâ€ is the latest in a long line of rhetorical attempts to sell the dismal science as a hard one; â€œmolecular gastronomyâ€ has now been trumped in the scientised gluttony stakes by â€œneurogastronomyâ€; students of Republican and Democratic brains are doing â€œneuropoliticsâ€; literature academics practise â€œneurocriticismâ€. There is â€œneurotheologyâ€, â€œneuromagicâ€ (according toÂ Sleights of Mind, an amusing book about how conjurors exploit perceptual bias) and even â€œneuromarketingâ€. Hoping itâ€™s not too late to jump on the bandwagon, I have decided to announce that I, too, am skilled in the newly minted fields of neuroprocrastination and neuroflÃ¢neurship.’