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  • I'd like to talk today about the two biggest social trends in the coming century,

  • and perhaps in the next 10,000 years.

  • But I want to start with my work on romantic love,

  • because that's my most recent work.

  • What I and my colleagues did was put 32 people, who were madly in love,

  • into a functional MRI brain scanner.

  • 17 who were madly in love and their love was accepted;

  • and 15 who were madly in love and they had just been dumped.

  • And so I want to tell you about that first,

  • and then go on into where I think love is going.

  • "What 'tis to love?" Shakespeare said.

  • I think our ancestors -- I think human beings have been wondering about this question

  • since they sat around their campfires or lay and watched the stars a million years ago.

  • I started out by trying to figure out what romantic love was

  • by looking at the last 45 years of research on -- just the psychological research --

  • and as it turns out, there's a very specific group of things that happen when you fall in love.

  • The first thing that happens is what I call --

  • a person begins to take on what I call, "special meaning."

  • As a truck driver once said to me,

  • he said, "The world had a new center, and that center was Mary Anne."

  • George Bernard Shaw said it a little differently.

  • He said, "Love consists of overestimating the differences between one woman and another."

  • And indeed, that's what we do. (Laughter)

  • And then you just focus on this person.

  • You can list what you don't like about them,

  • but then you sweep that aside and focus on what you do.

  • As Chaucer said, "Love is blind."

  • In trying to understand romantic love,

  • I decided I would read poetry from all over the world,

  • and I just want to give you one very short poem from eighth-century China,

  • because it's an almost perfect example of a man who is focused totally on a particular woman.

  • It's a little bit like when you are madly in love with somebody

  • and you walk into a parking lot --

  • their car is different from every other car in the parking lot.

  • Their wine glass at dinner is different from every other wine glass at the dinner party.

  • And in this case, a man got hooked on a bamboo sleeping mat.

  • And it goes like this. It's by a guy called Yuan Chen:

  • "I cannot bear to put away the bamboo sleeping mat.

  • The night I brought you home, I watched you roll it out."

  • He became hooked on a sleeping mat,

  • probably because of elevated activity of dopamine in his brain,

  • just like with you and me.

  • But anyway, not only does this person take on special meaning,

  • you focus your attention on them.

  • You aggrandize them. But you have intense energy.

  • As one Polynesian said, he said, "I felt like jumping in the sky."

  • You're up all night. You're walking till dawn.

  • You feel intense elation when things are going well;

  • mood swings into horrible despair when things are going poorly.

  • Real dependence on this person.

  • As one businessman in New York said to me, he said, "Anything she liked, I liked."

  • Simple. Romantic love is very simple.

  • You become extremely sexually possessive.

  • You know, if you're just sleeping with somebody casually,

  • you don't really care if they're sleeping with somebody else.

  • But the moment you fall in love,

  • you become extremely sexually possessive of them.

  • I think that that is a Darwinian -- there's a Darwinian purpose to this.

  • The whole point of this is to pull two people together

  • strongly enough to begin to rear babies as a team.

  • But the main characteristics of romantic love are craving:

  • an intense craving to be with a particular person, not just sexually, but emotionally.

  • You'd much rather -- it would be nice to go to bed with them,

  • but you want them to call you on the telephone, to invite you out, etc.,

  • to tell you that they love you.

  • The other main characteristic is motivation.

  • The motor in your brain begins to crank, and you want this person.

  • And last but not least, it is an obsession.

  • When I put these people in the machine, before I put them in the MRI machine,

  • I would ask them all kinds of questions.

  • But my most important question was always the same.

  • It was: "What percentage of the day and night do you think about this person?"

  • And indeed, they would say, "All day. All night. I can never stop thinking about him or her."

  • And then, the very last question I would ask them --

  • I would always have to work myself up to this question,

  • because I am not a psychologist.

  • I don't work with people in any kind of traumatic situation.

  • And my final question was always the same.

  • I would say, "Would you die for him or her?"

  • And, indeed, these people would say "Yes!"

  • as if I had asked them to pass the salt.

  • I was just staggered by it.

  • So we scanned their brains, looking at a photograph of their sweetheart and looking at a neutral photograph,

  • with a distraction task in between.

  • So we could look at the same brain when it was in that heightened state

  • and when it was in a resting state.

  • And we found activity in a lot of brain regions.

  • In fact, one of the most important was a brain region

  • that becomes active when you feel the rush of cocaine.

  • And indeed, that's exactly what happens.

  • I began to realize that romantic love is not an emotion.

  • In fact, I had always thought it was a series of emotions,

  • from very high to very low.

  • But actually, it's a drive. It comes from the motor of the mind,

  • the wanting part of the mind, the craving part of the mind.

  • The kind of mind -- part of the mind --

  • when you're reaching for that piece of chocolate,

  • when you want to win that promotion at work.

  • The motor of the brain. It's a drive.

  • And in fact, I think it's more powerful than the sex drive.

  • You know, if you ask somebody to go to bed with you, and they say, "No, thank you,"

  • you certainly don't kill yourself or slip into a clinical depression.

  • But certainly, around the world, people who are rejected in love will kill for it.

  • People live for love. They kill for love. They die for love.

  • They have songs, poems, novels, sculptures, paintings, myths, legends.

  • In over 175 societies, people have left their evidence of this powerful brain system.

  • I have come to think it's one of the most powerful brain systems on earth

  • for both great joy and great sorrow.

  • And I've also come to think that it's one of three

  • basically different brain systems that evolved from mating and reproduction.

  • One is the sex drive: the craving for sexual gratification.

  • W.H. Auden called it an "intolerable neural itch,"

  • and indeed, that's what it is.

  • It keeps bothering you a little bit, like being hungry.

  • The second of these three brain systems is romantic love:

  • that elation, obsession of early love.

  • And the third brain system is attachment:

  • that sense of calm and security you can feel for a long-term partner.

  • And I think that the sex drive evolved to get you out there,

  • looking for a whole range of partners.

  • You know, you can feel it when you're just driving along in your car.

  • It can be focused on nobody.

  • I think romantic love evolved to enable you to focus your mating energy

  • on just one individual at a time,

  • thereby conserving mating time and energy.

  • And I think that attachment, the third brain system,

  • evolved to enable you to tolerate this human being -- (Laughter) --

  • at least long enough to raise a child together as a team.

  • So with that preamble, I want to go into discussing the two most profound social trends.

  • One of the last 10,000 years and the other, certainly of the last 25 years,

  • that are going to have an impact on these three different brain systems:

  • lust, romantic love and deep attachment to a partner.

  • The first is women working, moving into the workforce.

  • I've looked at 130 societies through the demographic yearbooks of the United Nations.

  • And everywhere in the world, 129 out of 130 of them, women are not only moving into the job market --

  • sometimes very, very slowly, but they are moving into the job market --

  • and they are very slowly closing that gap between men and women

  • in terms of economic power, health and education.

  • It's very slow.

  • For every trend on this planet, there's a counter-trend.

  • We all know of them, but nevertheless --

  • the Arabs say, "The dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on."

  • And, indeed, that caravan is moving on.

  • Women are moving back into the job market.

  • And I say back into the job market, because this is not new.

  • For millions of years, on the grasslands of Africa,

  • women commuted to work to gather their vegetables.

  • They came home with 60 to 80 percent of the evening meal.

  • The double income family was the standard.

  • And women were regarded as just as economically, socially and sexually powerful as men.

  • In short, we're really moving forward to the past.

  • Then, women's worst invention was the plow.

  • With the beginning of plow agriculture, men's roles became extremely powerful.

  • Women lost their ancient jobs as collectors,

  • but then with the industrial revolution and the post-industrial revolution

  • they're moving back into the job market.

  • In short, they are acquiring the status that they had a million years ago,

  • 10,000 years ago, 100,000 years ago.

  • We are seeing now one of the most remarkable traditions in the history of the human animal.

  • And it's going to have an impact.

  • I generally give a whole lecture on the impact of women on the business community.

  • I'll only just say a couple of things, and then go on to sex and love.

  • There's a lot of gender differences;

  • anybody who thinks men and women are alike simply never had a boy and a girl child.

  • I don't know why it is that they want to think that men and women are alike.

  • There's much we have in common, but there's a whole lot that we

  • do not have in common.

  • We are -- in the words of Ted Hughes,

  • "I think that we were built to be -- we're like two feet. We need each other to get ahead."

  • But we did not evolve to have the same brain.

  • And we're finding more and more and more gender differences in the brain.

  • I'll only just use a couple and then move on to sex and love.

  • One of them is women's verbal ability. Women can talk.

  • Women's ability to find the right word rapidly, basic articulation

  • goes up in the middle of the menstrual cycle, when estrogen levels peak.

  • But even at menstruation, they're better than the average man.

  • Women can talk.

  • They've been doing it for a million years; words were women's tools.

  • They held that baby in front of their face,

  • cajoling it, reprimanding it, educating it with words.

  • And, indeed, they're becoming a very powerful force.

  • Even in places like India and Japan,

  • where women are not moving rapidly into the regular job market,

  • they're moving into journalism.

  • And I think that the television is like the global campfire.

  • We sit around it and it shapes our minds.

  • Almost always, when I'm on TV, the producers who call me,

  • who negotiate what we're going to say, is a woman.

  • In fact, Solzhenitsyn once said,

  • "To have a great writer is to have another government."

  • Today 54 percent of people who are writers in America are women.

  • It's one of many, many characteristics that women have

  • that they will bring into the job market.

  • They've got incredible people skills, negotiating skills.

  • They're highly imaginative.

  • We now know the brain circuitry of imagination, of long-term planning.

  • They tend to be web thinkers.

  • Because the female parts of the brain are better connected,

  • they tend to collect more pieces of data when they think,

  • put them into more complex patterns, see more options and outcomes.

  • They tend to be contextual, holistic thinkers, what I call web thinkers.

  • Men tend to -- and these are averages -- tend to get rid of what they regard as extraneous,

  • focus on what they do, and move in a more step-by-step thinking pattern.

  • They're both perfectly good ways of thinking.

  • We need both of them to get ahead.

  • In fact, there's many more male geniuses in the world.

  • When the -- and there's also many more male idiots in the world. (Laughter)

  • When the male brain works well, it works extremely well.

  • And what I really think that we're doing is, we're moving towards a collaborative society,

  • a society in which the talents of both men and women are becoming understood

  • and valued and employed.

  • But in fact, women moving into the job market is having a huge impact

  • on sex and romance and family life.

  • Foremost, women are starting to express their sexuality.

  • I'm always astonished when people come to me and say,

  • "Why is it that men are so adulterous?"

  • And I say, "Why do you think more men are adulterous than women?"

  • "Oh, well -- men are more adulterous!"

  • And I say, "Who do you think these men are sleeping with?"

  • And -- basic math! (Laughter)

  • Anyway.

  • In the Western world,

  • women start sooner at sex, have more partners,

  • express less remorse for the partners that they do,

  • marry later, have fewer children, leave bad marriages in order to get good ones.

  • We are seeing the rise of female sexual expression.

  • And, indeed, once again we're moving forward to the kind of sexual expression

  • that we probably saw on the grasslands of Africa a million years ago,

  • because this is the kind of sexual expression that we see

  • in hunting and gathering societies today.

  • We're also returning to an ancient form of marriage equality.

  • They're now saying that the 21st century

  • is going to be the century of what they call the "symmetrical marriage,"

  • or the "pure marriage