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Home » The Biology of Our Best & Worst Selves: Robert Sapolsky (Transcript)

The Biology of Our Best & Worst Selves: Robert Sapolsky (Transcript)

Robert Sapolsky at TED Talks

Here is the full text of neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky’s talk titled “The Biology of Our Best & Worst Selves” at TED Talk conference. In this talk, he shares his cutting edge research into the biology that drives our worst and best behaviors.

CHRIS ANDERSON: So Robert spent the last few years thinking about how weird human behavior is, and how inadequate most of our language trying to explain it is. And it’s very exciting to hear him explain some of the thinking behind it in public for the first time.

Over to you now, Robert Sapolsky.

Robert Sapolsky

Thank you. The fantasy always runs something like this.

I’ve overpowered his elite guard, burst into his secret bunker with my machine gun ready. He lunges for his Luger. I knock it out of his hand. He lunges for his cyanide pill. I knock that out of his hand. He snarls, comes at me with otherworldly strength.

We grapple, we fight, I manage to pin him down and put on handcuffs.

“Adolf Hitler,” I say, “I arrest you for crimes against humanity.”

Here’s where the Medal of Honor version of the fantasy ends and the imagery darkens.

What would I do if I had Hitler? It’s not hard to imagine once I allow myself. Sever his spine at the neck. Take out his eyes with a blunt instrument. Puncture his eardrums. Cut out his tongue.

Leave him alive on a respirator, tube-fed, not able to speak or move or see or hear, just to feel, and then inject him with something cancerous that’s going to fester and postulate until every cell in his body is screaming in agony, until every second feels like an eternity in hell.

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