eduardo_punset's picture
Scientist; Spanish Television Presenter; Author, The Happiness Trip
The soul is in the brain

All right, we knew it. But now we have the whole picture of the molecular process through which past and future link; how the germinal soul, rooted in brain matter and memory, allows for new perceptions, for the future, to emerge. It is both simple and terrifying at the same time.

When the mind is challenged from the outside universe, it searches in its accumulated archives in order to make sense of this new stimulus. This screening of our memory –of our past- produces an immediate answer: the new stimulus either leaves everyone indifferent, or else it blooms into an emotion of love, of pleasure or of sheer curiosity. These are the three touchstones of creativity. So basically, science has discovered that at the very beginning at least, only the past matters. And that holds true also of our future creativity.

Then a process more akin to alchemy than science sparks off and develops into social intelligence. The imitation process, based on mirror neurons, interacts with the corpus of accumulated knowledge -of one´s own species, and of others- which, combined with a good stock of well preserved individual memory, explode into new thinking.

Until very recently, we were missing a fundamental step in the process of knowledge- namely, how to transform short term memory into long term knowledge. At last we are taking into account the detailed contents of durability, specific proteins without which there is no learning and affection in childhood, no schooling at a later stage, no socialization in adult life. The roots are in the past; but there is no knowledge if we hide in a cave alone, with no windows to peer from and no shadows dancing outside.

The past has to be worked upon from the outside in order to transform into the future, and this has brought about the second main discovery in the molecular process of creativity. The so called “technology transfer” from old to new generations is a two-way process: matter, mind, soul, past, memory, future, and also startling new ways of looking at old things, are all marvellously intertwined in the evolutionary process.