Chapter 7. Toward an Emotionally Intelligent Future

IT BEGAN INNOCENTLY ENOUGH. After enough Googling for “happiness and technology”—a practice that led me to uncover everything you would ever want to know about unhappiness and technology too—I began to see ads for the Thync: a plastic potato chip that sticks to your forehead, stimulating calm or energy, that seemed a sure way to automate happiness. I had to try it. Almost everything seems like it’s on demand, so why not emotional well-being?

Scientists have been working on how to stimulate the brain with electrodes for decades. Like so many of the cutting-edge technologies today, it began as assistive technology. Transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) is sometimes used to treat major depressive disorder (MDD). The military has been testing it to increase focus. An implantable chip, a real-life pleasure button for humans nicknamed the Orgasmatron, made headlines a couple years back.

Although the evidence that devices like Thync actually work is unclear, that doesn’t stop products from coming to market. And it certainly didn’t stop me from trying it.

In the relative calm of my office, I stuck the Thync to my forehead and dialed a medium setting (Figure 7-1). After a surprised yip from me and a curious head tilt from my Boston terrier, I had to dial it down to the lowest setting. After just a few minutes—much less than suggested—I had to remove it. I might have been looking for peaceful bliss, but instead I discovered a ...

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