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Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better Hardcover – September 12, 2013
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“[A] judicious and insightful book on human and machine intelligence.”
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings:
“Clive Thompson—one of the finest technology writers I know…makes a powerful and rigorously thought out counterpoint… Thompson is nothing if not a dimensional thinker with extraordinary sensitivity to the complexities of cultural phenomena. Rather than revisiting painfully familiar and trite-by-overuse notions like distraction and information overload, he examines the deeper dynamics of how these new tools are affecting the way we make sense of the world and of ourselves. Smarter Than You Think is excellent and necessary in its entirety.”
New York Magazine:
"It’s straw men everywhere in this debate. Mercifully, Thompson always works from data, not straw."
Los Angeles Times:
“Thompson… a lively thinker… is well-versed in media and technological history, revisiting some of the field's most valuable case studies… His intellectual posture is one of informed optimism.”
“A well-framed celebration of how the digital world will make us bigger, rather than diminish us.”
“[An] optimistic, fast-paced tale about the advent of technology and its influence on humans.”
Joshua Foer, New York Times bestselling author of Moonwalking with Einstein:
"We should be grateful to have such a clear-eyed and lucid interpreter of our changing technological culture as Clive Thompson. Smarter Than You Think is an important, insightful book about who we are, and who we are becoming."
Chris Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of Makers, Free, and The Long Tail:
"Almost without noticing it, the Internet has become our intellectual exoskeleton. Rather than just observing this evolution, Clive Thompson takes us to the people, places and technologies driving it, bringing deep reporting, storytelling and analysis to one of the most profound shifts in human history."
Jane McGonigal, Ph.D., Author of Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World:
"There's good news in this dazzling book: Technology is not the enemy. Smarter Than You Think reports on how the digital world has helped individuals harness a powerful, collaborative intelligence—becoming better problem-solvers and more creative human beings."
Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus:
"Thompson declares a winner in the cognitive fight between human and computers: both together. Smarter Than You Think is an eye-opening exploration of the ways computers think better with humans attached, and vice-versa."
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More About the Author
As a child growing up in Toronto of the 1970s and 80s, Clive Thompson became fascinated with the first "home computers"--the ones you plugged into your TV, like the Commodore 64, and programmed using BASIC. He was hooked, spending hours writing video games, music programs, and simple forms of artificial intelligence. The obsession stuck with him, even as he went to the University of Toronto to study poetry and political science. When he became a magazine writer in the 1990s, the Internet erupted into the mainstream, and he began reporting on how digital tools--everything from email to digital photography to instant messaging--was changing society.
Clive started out pessimistic about the impact of the Internet on life. He worried, like many social critics before him, that society and civility would fall off a cliff. But over the next twenty years he realized that when everyday people were given remarkable powers of self-expression on a global scale, amazing things happened more often than not: Wikipedia, YouTube "response" conversations, collaborative art, crazy news forms of writing like TV recaps, collaborative problem-solving, and the ESP-like awareness that comes from the status-update universe.
Today, Thompson is one of the most prominent technology writers--respected for keeping his distance from Silicon Valley hype and doing deeply-reported, long-form magazine stories that get beyond headlines and harness the insights of science, literature, history and philosophy. He specializes in writing not merely on the inventors of technologies, but how everyday people use these them--often quite unpredictably. In addition to the New York Times Magazine and Wired, he writes for Mother Jones and Smithsonian. He is of the longest-running bloggers, having launched his science-and-tech blog Collision Detection since 2002. In his spare time he's also a musician, performing in The Delorean Sisters and writing original music as part of the duo Cove. He is married and lives in Brooklyn with his two children.
Top Customer Reviews
While many of the findings indicate that technology does have positive and useful roles to play in people's lives, in some cases, it's not clear to me whether we can categorically assert that technology has made someone smarter.
Take, for example, the observation that with the rise of software that can play chess with humans, and the increased opportunities for humans to gain chess playing knowledge and experience by playing against such software opponents, the age at which chess players are able to attain grandmastership status has also come down as well. Can we categorically conclude from such a finding that competing against chess-playing software has a causal relationship to making someone a smarter chess player sooner, as evidenced by the younger ages of recently minted grandmasters (compared to the ages of grandmasters from decades ago)? It seems to me there could be alternative explanations for such a finding.
Or take the findings that technology can help improve our memory (i.e., remember things more readily or for a longer time). While the ability to remember things is important to our ability to reason about things, memory improvements do not equate to, nor necessarily lead to, improvements in reasoning ability.
Some of the findings discussed in this book do show, however, that well-designed computer games, for example, can be used effectively to hone children's reasoning abilities, at least with respect to some domains, as evidenced by test score differences.Read more ›
This book by Clive Thompson investigates technology from the standpoint of the positive aspects as it applies to your life and mind.
And I have to say, both books present their case well. I thoroughly enjoyed Clive's engaging writing style (Nicholas is more "academic"). He even mixes a little humor into the book.
If you're interested in the "effects of technology on the mind" I highly recommend this book.
Why not 5 stars?
I think the author could have backed up his case a little bit better by approaching the book in a more academic way, while sticking to his engaging writing style. Not that this book lacks research by any means, it just could have been less "RAH RAH, technology" and more "this is exactly why what I'm saying is proven."
In Smarter Than You Think, Clive Thompson acknowledges that argument. "Some people panic that our brains are being deformed on a physiological level by today's technology," he writes. At the same time, he believes that the concern that technology is rewiring our brains is premature and that "it is rash to draw conclusions, either apocalyptic or utopian."
The author does not concern himself with the way our brains are possibly being "rewired" ("Almost everything rewires it, including this book"), but instead focuses on how our intellects are being improved when our brains work in tandem with technology.
Our memories, faultier than we like to believe, are strengthened by technology's ability to record events through video, email, texts, and with cell phone cameras and recording devices. It's easier than ever to preserve the past. As Thompson writes, "in 1981, a gigabyte of memory cost roughly three hundred thousand dollars, but now it can be had for pennies."
Some of the people interviewed are so obsessive about recording as much as possible that they are called "lifeloggers." One wonders, certainly I do, if all this recording for future reference hinders the ability to fully experience life in the present?
In Thompson's view, the present is preferable to the past whose glories are more imagined than real.Read more ›
But Clive Thompson, author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds For the Better has entered the fray to settle our fears and to explain how technology and the internet will not sodden our brains with overloaded superficiality but propel us into a new era in which we become stronger than before.
Thompson uses the analogy of us using internet tools to famous chess players aiding their game with a computer, playing "advanced chess," which pushes them past their limits.
Thompson reminds us that every new technology has been greeted by doomsday prophets. He writes: "With every innovation, cultural prophets bickered over whether we were facing a technological apocalypse or a utopia."
Thompson embraces the latter position, arguing that our new arsenal of digital tools allows us to forget and thus free our brains for higher thinking; that these tools encourage us to make our thoughts public and makes us better writers, sharper thinkers, hungrier for a bigger audience; our tools allow us to engage in analysis unlike ever before and he uses the example of The Daily Show which, among other things, catches politicians in hypocrisy by using technology to erect a "nine-foot-tall rack of hard-disk recorders and monitors that pick up broadcasts on oodles of stations all day long, for later scrutiny.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The Book tries to make you think that technology is changing our brains. But I believe that is not true.The author has taken an example of chess games, but its just one example. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Weyman Quenton
This book was a gift from my little brother Christmas 2014 because I was considering an IT degree. His reasoning was along the lines that it was about computers and sounded cool. Read morePublished 18 days ago by Karl
This book is engaging to read, and I was especially pleased by the new ideas it caused me to contemplate. I also found the resources provide in its notes section to be useful. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Green
Smarter Than You Think is entertaining and informative, refreshing in the face of all the doom-and-gloom tech hatred. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Caroline Niziol
It came as I expected! New and crisp! I had to get it for my summer reading assignment!Published 6 months ago by Autumn foust
This book is a fantastic read. Be you technophile or luddite, this book is worth your time. I read both this book and Nick Carr’s ‘The Shallows’ simultaneously and really... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Joe
Good thoughtful book helps you use technology better in your everyday lifePublished 7 months ago by roberto
Compelling reading....thought provoking, funny and inciteful. Enjoy and be challenged.Published 9 months ago by Annie Movie Girl
Before reading Smarter Than You Think by Clive Thompson, I was skeptical about this book. I had read The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr, and he... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Javier Pérez-Santalla