Adam Voorhees/Psychology Today
Source: Adam Voorhees/Psychology Today

A half-century ago, Psychology Today was launched in Del Mar, California, the charter cover a childlike drawing meant to evoke unfettered creativity. PT’s founder, Nicholas Charney, was fresh from a doctoral program in biopsychology at the University of Chicago, where he learned that the public’s interest in the mind was at an inflection point. He sensed a growing appetite for translational takes on behavioral science. Fast forward more than 400 issues and all manner of best-selling books and 
“psychoedutainment,” and Charney looks to have been highly prescient. Also in the late 1960s, in a move that would make waves in mathematics, a genius by the name of Alexander Grothendieck withdrew from the milieu that he himself had radically transformed. I became intrigued by the French mathematician shortly after his death in 2014 and have written, “The Mad Genius Mystery” in hopes of understanding his unusual mind and trajectory. It turns out that breakthroughs in neuroscience documented in PT, including neuroimaging and an understanding of the brain’s default mode network(“25 Big Ideas That Began Here”), are instrumental in constructing a coherent theory about geniuses like Grothendieck.

The year 2017 marks another inflection point in the study of the human mind: The next 50 to 100 years will bring the ability not just to quantify but also to alter fundamental aspects of identity. Today we are at base camp in a rapidly accelerating climb to the augmented brain: Intelligence will be more malleable, and so might the subjective experience of gender or even personality traits. To reach this summit, scientists may use some combination of genetic editing and brain-computer interfaces. These tools thrill and scare us in equal measure. They are perhaps best construed as an egalitarian force in a world changing at warp speed. 

  Before any such changes occur, we must reckon with cognitive diversity of the sort that Grothendieck embodies. Scientists cannot yet map the genetic architecture of conditions such as schizophrenia, autism, and genius, and each is so rare that there’s little data to test their interplay. But entwined they somehow are. Because evolution is an inadvertent trade-off machine, we’d do well to understand these associations before we start messing with the human genome. 
I’ve no doubt we’ll get there: The advances in my lifetime alone are heartening. As a junior high school student in the 1980s obsessed with “extreme” brains, I set out to learn all that I could about autism and kept bumping up against  Bruno Bettelheim and the “refrigerator mother.” That century is gone, and so, thankfully, is such garbage science. Psychology made amazing inroads in the last 50 years, in no small part thanks to Charney and other pioneers who launched Psychology Today.  But the golden age of behavioral science is only now beginning. 
I hope you'll enjoy the recently published stories referenced above, and consider obtaining the July/August 2017 print edition, now on stands, from which this note is adapted.  ~KP

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