My candidate would be the idea of the unconscious, the notion that what we say and do and feel can spring from sources of which we are not aware, that our choices and the qualities of our relationships are deeply motivated by our histories. In recent years, the Freudian contribution has tended be seen as historical...something we have passed beyond...but I think that in large part this is because the most fundamental ideas of psychodynamics have passed into popular culture as a given. These ideas animate out understandings of who we are with our families, with our friends and work. They add a dimension to our understandings of what it is to be human that will become increasingly important as we confront world in which artificial intelligences are increasingly presented to us and our children as candidates for dialogue and relationship (this year's Furbies are only a beginning) — and we are compelled to a new level of reflection about what is special about being a person.
professor of the sociology of sciences at MIT