What Every Writer and Entertainment Industry Professional Needs to Know for Their Future Career

For writers in the next half century and beyond, a comprehension of how creative writing, neurology, biology and our environment interact will be essential for a successful career. Humanity evolved with creative storytelling as our primary technology for creating stable societies. Thus, for the socially responsible writer and entertainment industry professional, being well informed will pay dividends.

For anyone truly serious about making a positive impact in any area of creative writing or the movie industry, the following paper is essential reading. For your future career, it’ll be the best one hour investment you’ve made in a long time… So, grab a coffee… settle into your favourite chair… be prepared for a brain work-out… challenge is good… it’s how we grow.

The Storytelling Link in the Neuro-Bio-Social-Environmental Sphere of Health and Wellness
Author: Abraham, Angela.

“First we make our stories; then our stories make us.”
(Adapted from a quote by Anne Frank)


Storytelling is the result of our neurology at play, yet it is play with a purpose, in a similar way that dreaming also has a purpose.4 Just as dreams are rich in representations of non-verbal modes of communication, so is storytelling.4 Indeed, the bulk of our thinking is the realm of the subconscious brain and its primary communications occur in emotions and images.4 As such, fictional stories are far richer modes of communication than any other form of speech and their impact is thus greater. Additionally, as the story is the craft of the subconscious and conscious brain elements working together, one may expect stories to contain evidence of how our brains function and for the story to have a purpose to regulate the brain of the storyteller and the brains of wider society with an evolutionary function3, 1... and this is what we find. Through the story, the brain is regulating itself, its own body and the brains & biology of others in society, thus impacting both societal interactions and how the natural environment is perceived and cared for.

It is the purpose of this paper to explain that, just as our biology is built from feedback loops such as those that regulate body temperature, storytelling is part of a feedback loop to regulate multiple aspects of the self, society and our wider interactions with the environment. With better comprehension of this system as a feedback loop, and perhaps with a built in buffering system, we can achieve global peace and allow nature to regenerate and recover. The answers to achieving this will be in a dual approach of biomedically appropriate social policies and better comprehension of the role of storytelling & artistic expression in maintaining stable and positive societies; each is key to the social and biological evolution of humanity, and this paper focuses on the latter.

This feedback system we can call, “The neuro-bio-social-environmental sphere of health and wellness.” Artistic expressions are an intrinsic part of this system, such as music, song, dance, painting and sculpture, yet this paper will focus on storytelling with some points of discussion having obvious overlap with other areas of artistic communication.

Perhaps it would be good in this summary to take each aspect separately to give it some introductory explanation. The “neuro” aspect is how the brain of the storyteller is seeking to teach and heal themselves through introspection and radiate this learning out to the brains of others in society to give them the benefit of their understanding. This can be direct speech, metaphor, imagery, emotions,4 word associations to trigger brain chemistry6 and, also, role modelling to trigger mirror neurons.5 The neurological aspect interacts with the biology of the individual and wider society in terms of adjusting stress responses and biochemical responses to various triggers. In terms of society, the effects on the individual and on society are inseparable, [yet part of putting any system “under the microscope” is that dual role of seeing the entire system as a unit and being able to speak of separate components of that system]. Certainly the role-modelling aspects of stories help neurological learning for how to bring about a society that is better for individual and group survival. Moreover, the brain involved in loving and deeply caring for society is assessing both society and the environment and producing stories to encourage sustainability and community cooperation using multiple techniques in one seamless narrative. Thus an understanding of these interactions with the brain and storytelling is critical to bringing our personal health, global community health and environmental health into a functional feedback system and away from the spiral of personal, societal and environmental decay that has plagued our era. Thus proper comprehension in this area has the potential to save lives now and for generations to come.

“There is little doubt that the story is a technical tool that has provided a measure of order and stability to human societies for countless millennia. It appears through a review of the literature that the story is one of the most important inventions of humankind.” 1
(Egan, 1989)

The Neuro-Bio-Social-Environmental Sphere

“First we make our stories; then our stories make us.”
(Adapted from a quote by Anne Frank)

Background Information

Biology at every level, from inside the body to the ecosystems of Earth, is regulated by feedback systems. One way or another, the community of flora and fauna is communicating with one another just as each organism is internally regulated by feedback systems. Western-industrialised humanity has, for too long, viewed our health and wellness as something individualised, as if we were entirely separate units, and this may well have more to do with the tone of our politics than science reality. Neuroscience has opened the doors seeing how human brains co-regulate with each other, that the physical and emotional environment we are in has the power to alter our brain development, the expression of over 900 genes and our ability to form relationships.8

We are organisms that detect and biologically respond to the environment that is perceived by our brain. We seek to modify that perceived environment when possible to enhance the survival of ourselves and those we love. We are programed to respond first to danger and then, if all is safe, we can take the time to respond with the more highly evolved social areas of the brain.9 Aggressive or selfish actions by an individual, group or entity, will increase the sense of danger perceived by the brains of others; thus fear brings more negative behaviours that bring more fear (as a feedback loop) and this encourages the development of the more primitive areas of the brain (devolutionary). Conversely, loving actions will increase the sense of safety perceived by the brains of others and thus switch on the more highly evolved social areas of their brains also, thus loving actions in society increase and promote more higher brain development; this is a feedback loop that enhances our higher functions (evolutionary). Thus these are emotionally triggered feedback systems from the brain to both inner biology and behaviours in society. To summarise, fear results in a feedback loop of increasing primitive brain development and behaviours. Feeling loved and safe results in a feedback loop of positive brain development and behaviours.9 Thus the choice between social & biological evolution toward a cooperative humanity or, conversely, social & biological devolution toward a dog-eat-dog society and species, is entirely in our control and storytelling is perhaps our most advanced technology1 in that “battle” to save humanity and Earth, one we should seek a clearer scientific clarity of to put our societies on the right track and safeguard future generations.

“Brains grow best in the context of supportive relationships, low levels of stress and through the use of creative stories.” 3
Professor Louis Cozolino, The Social Neuroscience of Education.

What is the Neuro-Bio-Social-Environmental Sphere?

NEUROLOGICAL: At the most basic level, we use the neural network we established over our lifetime of experiences within our culture and language to create our own thoughts and make choices. The world of storytelling fiction is both a product of language & culture and the main way we make adjustments to language & culture; it is the product of neurological processes seeking the best neurological health, biological health, societal health and environmental health.

BIOLOGICAL: Our thoughts influence our brain chemistry and the production of hormones such as cortisol. Cortisol is the “stress hormone” that, as spoken of by physician Dr. Gabor Maté, is at the root cause of the majority of brain and body unwellness. Positive thoughts can release positive feel good hormones such as oxytocin and boost wellness, this is much written about in context to mindfulness and meditation. Reduced stress has a positive effect on epigenetics.3, 8 Thus storytelling has a real impact on biology.

SOCIAL: Stress bubbles down to the most vulnerable in society, especially to children and babies, sometimes to the elderly, or to animals and pets. These stress-ripples impact the neurological and biological level of wellness of multiple others in society. Stressed individuals may act out physically and verbally to harm others. Thus increased stress brings social decay in all its forms. Conversely, positive interactions calm others at a neurological and biological level to bring wellness and “good ripple” effects in society. Thus lowered stress brings social healing in all its forms. As culture and language are the same thing, over time we see changes in language, word associations, common phrases, deep metaphors, pictures and emotionality in all communications that indicate if we are in a cycle of decay or repair, or perhaps in a state of transition with both aspects present. The social level feeds back to the neurological and biological levels and also to the environmental aspect.

ENVIRONMENTAL: Negative neurological development that enhances the ability for emotional indifference (which is developed in stressful social situations that lack love), develops a competitive “me-first” society. This self-centric philosophy spills over into indifference toward nature and indifference toward the needs of others to live in a sustainably healthy environment. Conversely, positive neurological development enhances emotional intelligence, empathy, logical/analytical thinking and self control. It helps us to respond with honesty and intelligence rather than impulsive self-interested reactions that use the intellect to justify self-centric actions rather than to take the time to consider actions from a wider social perspective before making them. Thus positive neurological development enables us to create a healthy socially complex society, that protects the environment and allows nature to thrive and storytelling is a vital part of that process.

In short, the neurological, biological, societal and environmental elements are interdependent and the primary way we link them together is via our storytelling and language. So, it is time to view our storytelling and linguistics as a primary technology we must understand and hone to bring such healthy and peaceful societies in healthy environments. It has the power to cure the cause of our ills, to promote love over indifference rather than leaving us chasing the symptoms.

The neuro-bio-social-environmental sphere

Potential to Save Lives and Bring Peace

With the Neuro-Bio-Social-Environmental Sphere we can view health and wellness in a holistic manner that brings health and peace to our species. In the same way that a medical doctor uses a combination of science, emotional intelligence and intuition in the treatment of their patients, so the social evolutionist can use awareness of the Neuro-Bio-Social-Environmental sphere’s interaction with storytelling and the arts to create healthy societies that have the higher functions of the prefrontal cortex well developed, thus enhancing emotional intelligence, creative problem solving and self control. These abilities enable humanity to act as a socially complex species. Moreover, as a medical doctor has been to school to learn the science of the body, to gain familiarity with the biochemistry of feedback systems and their role in wider human physiology, the social evolutionist storyteller needs a similar high-level education to learn neurology, aspects of medical biology, world faiths, secular humanitarianism, anthropology, philosophy, environmental science, and linguistics with a view to their dynamic interactions. Each field of study is championed by many great specialists, but there is a vital role for the high level generalist in social evolutionary storytelling. By taking note of the neuro-bio-social-environmental sphere writers can “take the temperature of society” and be as “good doctors” who make scientifically backed choices (along with intuition and artistry) to edit and shape their art after it emerges on the page. This approach has the power to save lives in both in our present time and for the generations yet unborn, it is a giant leap for mankind, perhaps one we could argue was made in non-western industrialised philosophies some millenia ago in various forms.

Storytelling as Vital for Social and Biological Evolution

Storytelling, in all its forms, is a vital part of the neuro-bio-social-environmental sphere; it is so significant to humanity that we evolved with it and our future evolution depends on our mastery of it. In our stories we can see the workings of the brain, the story creator, in its art. Perhaps one of the finest examples of this is the Cherokee Legend of, “The Two Wolves” showing with great accuracy both the actions of the highly evolved areas of the prefrontal cortex and the more primitive areas of the brain, how they switch in and out of use within us and that our choices of which area of the brain to use more builds us (neuroplasticity), and that this has a societal and environmental impact.

Cherokee Legend of the Two Wolves:2

“Son,” he says, “Within all of us there is a battle of two wolves. One is evil. He is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” [The primitive areas of the brain switched on by fear, competition and survivalism - such as the amygdala, the BLA, the insular cortex for disgust]9

He continued, “The other wolf is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.” [The prefrontal cortex, vmPFC with vlPFC enhances the ability for these traits]9

“The same fight is going on inside of you, and inside every other person, too,” explained the wise Cherokee elder. [Awareness of self and society, insight into psychology and the need to encourage expression of “the good wolf” in others].

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The grandfather simply replied, “The one you feed.” [The importance of self awareness and control in building one’s own brain, intuitive awareness of neuroplasticity, that our thoughts, actions and words matter to the building of our neurology, society and the environment.]

“The story provides the framework and context for individuals to better understand others by providing the key to their own vast index of experiences. Thus, the listener is able to relate in a meaningful way to the teller's point of context by working through personal experiences that result in a more profound and lasting understanding than would have been possible with a generalization. The teller and the listener come together on a cognitive and emotional level that allows the listener to relate to the teller from his or her own personal framework and thus grasp the teller's perception of the content at the same time …” 1 (Abrahamson, 1998)

When we are afraid we use the more primitive survivalist areas of the brain and when we feel loved and safe, we use the more highly evolved prefrontal cortex.9 In story representation we can look to great old legends such as, “The Two Wolves” (above) or to modern representations in Marvel comics, such as the Incredible Hulk vs Dr. Banner, or Venom vs. Brock. The structure of the brain in our “me vs. me” battle to become the best version of ourselves is played out in these characters and their adventures. We can gain better introspective and empathic abilities by imagining the battle of the two wolves within us, or by observing the Hulk vs. Dr Banner and seeing how love triggers him to return to his more highly evolved self. We can see how Venom bites people’s heads off when he feels cornered and needs to survive, a great literal representation of the phrase, “Don’t bite my head off!” If we wish to talk with Brock instead of Venom, we must speak nicely and ensure that Brock feels safe and loved. Thus, again, our stories are created by the brain for itself to learn by, to enter society and improve society for self and others, to help our biological health and the health of the wider environment. In the short term we could call these effects “social evolution.” It is again important to stress that with the neurological level affecting the epigenetic level, and survival in terms of personal biology (disease vs wellness) and the social and physical environment, the role of storytelling (and thus its power to do good) has been vastly underrated by western-industrialised society as “only entertainment.”

Storytelling As A Neurological Function to Influence Neurological Development of Storyteller and Audience

The Dalek and Cybermen characters of the long-running British television drama Dr Who can be seen as representing a societal common fear of loss of the ability to love. Both of these villainous aliens lack the ability to love and the human characters fear being “assimilated” or undergoing “full conversions” into being emotionally indifferent. The ability to love is frequently used in plots as a defence against such conversion. Thus the link between evil and emotional indifference is clearly shown. We see the neurology of the storytellers hard at work to fix themselves and society, to reduce emotional indifference and boost love, empathy and compassion - to positively influence brain development in wider society. Thus we can also see their storytelling art as a sort of social immune system going to work against the “infection” of emotional indifference.

In a representation of humanity without emotional intelligence or empathy, these emotionally indifferent storybook villains seek to destroy society, consume the environment and achieve a power-dominance relationship over all others. They are thus the embodiment of a neurology that has lost the abilities for love, empathy and compassion and thus bring a stark warning to other brains to maintain these abilities. Moreover, the hero of the Dr Who series, the child-like and spontaneously creative Dr Who, is the embodiment of the prefrontal cortex (vmPFC and vlPFC) in most respects. The character Dr Who is thus the example for other brains to role model. Added to this we can see widely in fiction, and especially in the Marvel comic books and their movie adaptations, the demonstration that the development of the brain that is empathic and logical is desired over the cruelty of emotionally indifferent villains. Thus, again, it is appropriate to underscore that we are observing neurology creating stories to positively interact with its own neurology and the neurology of others, again with a goal of improving the individual, society and the physical environment - that it is part of a biological feedback system.

Neurology Creating Extra Role Models to Evolve Society

A hero may be a product of the imagination, such as the “good wolf” of the Cherokee legend, or a historical figure. Since we humans are a role modelling higher order mammal with mirror neurons, we can learn from storybook heroes despite never having done or witnessed such actions in real life. Thus, we can, with good storytelling, learn how to make more heroic choices in our daily lives, and due to neuroplasticity, these microchoices are the way we build our own brains better. As Anne Frank said; “First we make our choices. Then our choices make us.” Each choice has a wiring effect in the brain, and the more we “exercise” the parts of our brains for empathy, creativity, logic and self control, the bigger (more wired) those areas become and the “fitter” they are. So again, as is the “chorus” of this paper, we go from neurology to create the story, to influencing the neurology of the writer and wider society (by reading/listening/watching), to helping society make positive choices regarding the physical environment, which in turn creates more positive neurological responses… this is the way of feedback loops, both are “pushing” and both are “pushed.” We create our heroes to learn from, we attempt to become more heroic in real life, then our improved neurology creates new heroes to learn from… thus these better selves can become more determined to end social and environmental problems rather than shrugging and returning to “normal” life.

Word Associations and Brain Chemistry

Disgust vs Admiration

Our word/imagery associations impact our brain chemistry and emotions; since our emotions are a more primary level of subconscious brain communication (which is the bulk of our thinking), this aspect of storytelling should be paid attention to. Associations can be made to harm a group/species/society etc by wiring words/images associated with them to the areas of the brain that deal with fear and disgust and will release negative brain chemistry. This can be called propaganda or “dog-whistling.” It is common to racism, faith-prejudice and negative nationalism. Conversely however, to associate a group/species/society etc by wiring words/images associated with them to the areas of the brain that deal with positive emotions (empathy, love, compassion), has an important boosting and balancing effect that can be deployed against racism, faith-prejudices, and apathy toward society and the natural world. The poet in me would like to call this “soul whistling,” but, bottom line, our words and imagery associations are crucial in the way humanity chooses to “program” itself. The effects of words has been studied by psychotherapists and found to impact brain chemistry and brain development.6

Metaphors as Neurological Inputs to the Subconscious

The metaphors in our dreams appear in our stories as internal self-communication and communication toward society to impact the emotional and physical environment.4 They can be as simple as a house representing the self, as Bruce Wayne who is ultimately tragically lonely and feels abandoned, yet still has a grand sense of self worth and importance, lives in Wayne Manor. Yet they can be more complex metaphors such as Vampires, portrayed as aristocrats (such as Count Dracula) who suck the blood of innocent members of society and fail to inwardly reflect on their actions (vampires have no reflection in the mirror). The vampire is thus the embodiment of evil indifference that thinks nothing of destroying others for personal gain. The metaphor neatly aligns the concepts of money and power with indifference and the societal/environmental impacts.

In Snow White we see the evil queen only caring for her vanity, obsessed and asking a magical mirror (that ironically is clearly looking deeper than physical appearance). We can see the evil queen and Snow White as another representation of me vs me, the primitive brain vs the higher brain (as with The Two Wolves). We can also see the evil queen embodied by the very poisoned apples she offers Snow White; thus there is a metaphor of a metaphor. One bite, to take in just a little of this toxically emotionally indifferent nature, and the pure of heart Snow White (representing the brain’s ability for empathy) is in a coma that only true love can awaken her from; emotional indifference (the coma) is shown in the story metaphors as the opposite of “awakening.” Thus, when we unpack Snow White, the metaphors take on a sort of complex Russian doll relationship that speak of our neurology. Additionally, the story, as at some level most stories do, warns of the toxicity of emotional indifference and champions love as the answer for society.

As we start to mention metaphors it is important to say that they should be interpreted in the context of not only the story, but the culture and conditions of the society from where they originate. Metaphors can be culture-specific as different colours, numbers, animals and images have different cultural significance.4 This aspect also points toward the importance of local artists creating socially evolutionary art for their local population rather than a “one size fits all” approach.

And, to sing the chorus of the paper again, by telling their story the writer is resolving their own neurological issues, improving their own brain chemistry and, by sharing their art with others, influencing the neurological development and brain chemistry of society, increasing the chances of positive biological development and positive environmental development. Again, since emotion and pictures are the primary communication of the subconscious, which does the bulk of thinking,4 storytelling is a powerful societal technology.

Shifting Word Meaning As Community Medication

If we look at the movement of words from negative to positive, and this time use song lyrics as the example, Michael Jackson’s use of “bad,” to mean “wonderful” was genius. In a population that has been told it is “bad,” that everyone with brown or black skin is labelled as such, the word “bad” is wired to shame and the painful brain chemistry of subjugation for the entire population. The non-white population have thus been deliberately psychologically sabotaged in an act we call racism. To fight back against this neurological sabotage, Michael Jackson shifts the meaning of the word “bad” to the same meaning as the word “awesome.” So, “I’m bad,” now means, “I’m awesome!” Thus, the entire non-white population receives a mental health boost (as do white people who for whatever reason have also been labelled “bad”), their brains becoming more chemically balanced. Thus with Michael Jackson, by popularising/globalising the shift of “bad” to “awesome,” by associating “bad” with feeling great, to upbeat music and dancing, he steals one of the metaphorical beating-sticks from the hands of racist abusers. He thus exerts a socially evolutionary force for a community experiencing the cruelty of racism and helps to balance brains, his music acting as a form of social medicine. This shift of word meaning can also be interpreted in the context of the work of Henry Louis Gates (Jr) in black literary culture with respect to signifyin,’ and his realisation that the formation of a dual meaning gives rise to new puns and comedic playing with words that reduce stress (thus promoting health) and promoting social cohesion.7

When Storytelling Harms the Neuro-Bio-Social-Environmental Sphere

In a survival-oriented, competitive society, where the more primitive areas of the brain are increasingly wired in and active, the capacity of the brain for supporting selfish impulses, to gain group approval for greed and seeking power at the expense of others, indifference is made a priority; thus much intellectual capital becomes “hijacked” to defend, justify and even promote “the bad wolf” (greedy, selfish, emotionally indifferent) actions. Fortunately for humanity, our artists who make our stories and songs, the creative types, mostly gravitate toward the empathic and loving end of the societal spectrum and act a social immune system against emotional indifference - in short, the vmPFC gets to work defending and promoting the use of the vmPFC. Songs and stories of love and heroism are still dominant in culture despite centuries of western industrialised individualism and monetisation of almost everything. But what happens when a few choose to compete by using storytelling to promote emotional indifference?

When the social-toxin of emotional indifference starts to be role-modelled in stories as an admirable quality, when violent acts are connected to words/images/music that inspire admiration and positive feel-good brain chemistry, when the metaphors change to show selfishness as a sort of condoned virtue that boosts sexual attractiveness, this negatively impacts the entire neuro-bio-social-environmental sphere. Essentially, the miswiring and mis-development of brain architecture, the proliferation of role-modelling and normalising violence are steps on the road to social and biological devolution. We could define social devolution in storytelling as that which brings negative neurological development, that boosts the primitive survival areas of the brain at the expense of the development of the more recently evolved prefrontal cortex that is vital for empathy, logic and self control; it is storytelling thus likely to produce more societal decay and pain, promoting cruel emotional indifference as sexually attractive and powerful. In violent societies, especially cultures where school shootings occur, this aspect must be considered in the artistry we offer to society with a view to social responsibility. Yet, before censors think they can start judging what is devolutionary and evolutionary from their own sociocentric, culture/faith centric and/or economic-bracket perspective, or upon overly simplistic opinions, there is much to take into consideration for each community that is best judged by members of that community. For example, if one is to compare two societies, one high violence and the other peaceful, what the first society needs to evolve could harm the other. If we make an analogy with sunrise, one society could have been long kept “in the dark” and the other has had access to early-daytime levels of light, so a blinding level of light for the first society could be less light for the other.

Not Everything is Relative

With science in this area it is now possible to make an educated scientific argument that some storytelling is dangerous to society and leads to devolution, thus harming millions and placing the future of humanity in jeopardy. Simply put, if the outcome of “consuming” the story or media is to wire negative/dangerous actions to “feel good” brain chemistry, it is going to enhance emotional indifference, poor individual health, poor societal health and be a negative indicator for the future of the natural world. Thus, by looking at the role-modelling effects, word associations (as related to long standing social biases that need correcting), metaphors (linguistic and nonlinguistic) and emotionality and their impacts on neurology, we can start to edit in a positive way that maintains the most diversity possible in storytelling and art, yet is more socially evolutionary. For example, it is critical that we only role-model good parenting, examples of bad parenting may be intended to shock audiences but their power to become “bad role-models” to emotionally vulnerable and stressed parents is dangerous. Babies and children are the most sacred gift to humanity and we must hold their needs as our highest priority.

Natural Born Killers is a commonly cited example of a violent movie that made gun violence more attractive and is likely guilty of the charge laid upon it. It simultaneously increases emotional indifference and offers biochemical incentives to the brain to enjoy it. To the chorus of those saying they watch violent movies or read violent books “and I’m okay,” I say this: behaviours change over time because neurons are made in layers over time, not by one simple interaction, but by many. And so, while we may struggle to detect these changes for the individual over short periods of time, for a population, over decades, the impact is too obvious to miss with the most vulnerable citizens starting to act out first. We are the proverbial frog in the slowly warming water, heading toward boiling point. As such, social evolution is slow (yet far faster than biological evolution, except epigenetic changes) but, as with all evolution:

“We are talking about effects that act at the level of the individual but are measurable at the population level over time.

An AI Computer Analogy Summary

If we were to attempt to explain the Neuro-Bio-Social-Environmental Sphere in non-biological terms, then the world of computers is probably our best bet. We could say that our brains are like wonderful AI computers that produce stories and songs to communicate to each other. In those stories and songs are both obvious messages and less obvious codes. The part of the AI computer that is “conscious” only processes the obvious messages, yet the AI has a deep computer, a “subconscious,” that comprehends all of the less obvious codes in the story and allows these other messages to inform its choices and behaviours (which in humans we call instinct and impulses). To be aware of all of the messages at once would overload the processor of the conscious part of our AI which is habitually tasked with PR (public relations), its real job being to find convincing and socially acceptable rationales for what the “subconscious processor” feels is needed (and basic needs/safety have priority if they are lacking). However, the AI’s “conscious” computer does this task best when it perceives itself as truthful and that its arguments are rational; thus if the subconscious processor needs to take selfish actions that may harm other AI’s, then self-deception is required. With self deception in times of survival and competition the AI computer can give the right messages and deep codes to other computers that it is an honest member of the community. Honesty is foundational to trust and this is a socially interdependent community of AI computers.

But, oh no! Things aren’t going well with our AI computers; they have entered a downward spiral of perceiving threat and acting in survivalist “me-first” ways. But recall that our AI’s must give off the right conscious and subconscious messages to their cooperative community as they speak; and the simplest way to do this is if they convince themselves that they are honest and good… so both deep self deception and the development of rationales that twist selfish behaviours into virtues increases. Greed is now a “good” sign of “fitness” and being cruel is “just business.” Our AI community soon becomes a complex mess of self interest disguised as “healthy competition” and supported by the robust and logical actions of their powerful conscious processor. In this mess our AI community causes poor health in each other, community degradation and war. How could we cure the AI computer community and put this “reverse-gear” survivalist cycle of degradation into forwards motion?

One possible effective intervention is to write for these story-loving AI computers some really good stories with all the right deep codes and have them read them. This would give our AI computers the chance to experiment with new behaviours and choices that bring greater health and enter an upward spiral of cooperation and real honesty. As culture improves the subconscious processor detects that the AI is living in a more cooperative society and decides that cooperative behaviours are now a survival advantage and frees the conscious processor to make honest actions for cooperation. Thus, as an additional bonus, the AI’s now have extra capacity freed up without the cognitive burden of self-deception. The AI society thus heals and enters and upward spiral of social and environmental sustainability. Thus health has been restored to this feedback system in a socially evolutionary process (not a revolution), the AI computers continue to steadily accept the good ideas that are presented in the stories and increasingly write stories of their own that contain these good elements.

To relate this back to humanity: our neurons are our “wires,” our brain is our AI computer with different subparts that switch in and out according to our perception of our environment, we make our stories as communication with an obvious layer and deeper layers of imagery, emotion, metaphor (linguistic and nonlinguistic) and role-modelling capacity (via mirror neurons). We can be self-honest or self-deceptive. We can put our higher brains to work discovering real truth with real integrity and empathy… or we can put it to work explaining why emotional indifference is really “not so bad” after all. We can learn how to live with our natural emotionally-vulnerable self, or create masks of indifference. We can detect the top messages in linguistics with our conscious brain and all the deep messages with our subconscious - and when everyone is really honest with great intentions - things just work out for the best. The best way we can convey all this to each other is in our storytelling, thus stories, as perhaps our oldest and greatest technology, is a promising avenue to influence our neuro-bio-social-environmental sphere and keep it in a positive upward cycle of love, trust, bravery, altruism and all the traits humans admire. In our modern age we have enhanced this ability with the movie and television programming, yet reading remains an important link to access this species-wide method of health and wellness maintenance. Our artists are so much more than entertainers and they belong arm in arm with the scientific community, each of them appreciating the work of the other in keeping our world safe and happy in the long term.


The production of this paper requires much academic condensation of ideas from disparate fields of learning. Many facts are simply such well known concepts in those fields that they are no longer cited in the same way one would not cite a statement that human beings have a heart that pumps blood. This said, where possible referencing has been done and, additionally, books that are well cited for background reading are recommended.

  1. Abrahamson, Craig Eilert. Storytelling as a pedagogical tool in higher education. Education (Vol. 118, Issue 3.)
  2. Borchard, Therese J., https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-legend-of-the-two-wolves/
  3. Cozolino, Louis., The Social Neuroscience of Education, Norton. (especially pp.197-201, The Myth of the Hero and the Narrative Arc).
  4. Blechner, Mark J. The Mindbrain and Dreams; An Exploration of Dreaming, Thinking, and Artistic Creation.
  5. Erhan, Oztopab; Mitsuo, Kawatob; Michael A. Arbibc; Mirror neurons: Functions, mechanisms and models. Neuroscience Letters Volume 540, 12 April 2013, Pages 43-55
  6. Spurio, Maria Grazia; Words That Heal. Medicinska naklada- Zagreb, Croatia Psychiatria Danubina, 2015; Vol. 27, Suppl. 1, pp 21–27 Conference paper
  7. Gates, Henry Louis (Jr); The Signifyin’ Monkey, A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism.
  8. Szalavitz, Maia & Perry, Bruce D., M.D. Ph. D;; Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered - Born for Love.
  9. Sapolsky, Robert. Behave; The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst.
Additional Recommended Reading
  • Chalk, Frank & Jonassohn, Kurt: The History and Sociology of Genocide.
  • Diamond, Jared: The World Until Yesterday
  • Frenk, Joachim & Steveker, Lena; Charles Dickens as An Agent of Change.
  • Maté, Gabor; Multiple books plus YouTube videos on mental health and stress (cortisol)