- Series: Edge Question Series
- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (February 14, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780062109392
- ISBN-13: 978-0062109392
- ASIN: 0062109391
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (191 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking (Edge Question Series) Original Edition
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“This Will Make You Smarter gives us better tools to think about the world and is eminently practical for life day to day. The people in this book lead some of the hottest fields.” (DAVID BROOKS, from the Foreword)
“The world’s smartest website ... Edge is a salon for the world’s finest minds” (The Guardian)
“Edge.org has become an epicenter of bleeding-edge insight across science, technology and beyond, hosting conversations with some of our era’s greatest thinkers” (Atlantic Monthly)
“A winning combination of good writers, good science and serious broader concerns.” (KIRKUS REVIEWS (starred review))
From the Back Cover
Featuring a foreword by David Brooks, This Will Make You Smarter presents brilliant—but accessible—ideas to expand every mind.
What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit? This is the question John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org, posed to the world’s most influential thinkers. Their visionary answers flow from the frontiers of psychology, philosophy, economics, physics, sociology, and more. Surprising and enlightening, these insights will revolutionize the way you think about yourself and the world.
Daniel Kahneman on the “focusing illusion” • Jonah Lehrer on controlling attention • Richard Dawkins on experimentation • Aubrey De Grey on conquering our fear of the unknown • Martin Seligman on the ingredients of well-being • Nicholas Carr on managing “cognitive load” • Steven Pinker on win-win negotiating • Daniel C. Dennett on benefiting from cycles • Jaron Lanier on resisting delusion • Frank Wilczek on the brain’s hidden layers • Clay Shirky on the “80/20 rule” • Daniel Goleman on understanding our connection to the natural world • V. S. Ramachandran on paradigm shifts • Matt Ridley on tapping collective intelligence • John McWhorter on path dependence • Lisa Randall on effective theorizing • Brian Eno on “ecological vision” • Richard Thaler on rooting out false concepts • J. Craig Venter on the multiple possible origins of life • Helen Fisher on temperament • Sam Harris on the flow of thought • Lawrence Krauss on living with uncertainty
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He goes on to suggest, "Edge is a Conversation: Edge is different from the Algonquin Roundtable or Bloomsbury Group, but it offers the same quality of intellectual adventure. Closer resemblances are the early seventeenth-century Invisible College, a precursor to the Royal Society. Its members consisted of scientists such as Robert Boyle, John Wallis, and Robert Hooke. The Society's common theme was to acquire knowledge through experimental investigation. Another inspiration is The Lunar Society of Birmingham, an informal club of the leading cultural figures of the new industrial age -- James Watt, Erasmus Darwin, Josiah Wedgewood, Joseph Priestly, and Benjamin Franklin."
In 2011, those involved with Edge were asked to respond to a question proposed by Steven Pinker and seconded by Daniel Kahneman: "What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?" Pinker ("Positive Sum Games") and Kahneman ("The Focusing Illusion") were also among the 160 contributors. David Brooks provided a Foreword, followed by Brockman's Preface in which he offers this clarification: "Here, the tern 'scientific' is to be understood in a broad sense -- as the most reliable way of gaining knowledge about anything, whether it be human behavior, corporate behavior, the fate of the planet, or the future of the universe."
Here in Dallas near the downtown area, there is a Farmer's Market at which a few merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples. In that spirit, I now offer a few brief excerpts from the lively and eloquent narrative:
o Richard Dawkins explains the need for "tools to help nonscientists understand science better and equip them to make better judgments throughout their lives." (Page 17)
o Although the unconscious mind may be most of the mind, Jonah Lehrer observes, "we can still focus on those ideas that will help us succeed. In the end, this may be the only thing we can control." (48)
o Kevin Kelly: "We can learn nearly as much from an experiment that doesn't work as from one that does. Failure is nit something to be avoided but something to be cultivated." (79)
o Steven Pinker: "An explicit recognition among literate people of the shorthand abstraction 'positive sum game' and its relatives may be extending a process in the world of human choices that has been operating in the natural world for billions of years." (97)
o Douglas T. Kenrick: "Thinking of the mind as composed of several functionally independent adaptive subselves helps us understand many apparent inconsistencies and irrationalities in human behavior." (131)
o Alison Gopnik: "The greatest advantage of understanding the rational unconscious would be to demonstrate that rational discovery isn't a specialized abstruse privilege of the few we call scientists but is instead the evolutionary birthright of us all." (149)
o Irene Pepperberg: "Given an understanding of our fixed-action pattern, and those of the individuals with whom we interact, we -- as humans with cognitive processing powers -- could begin to rethink our behavior patterns." (161)
o Giulio Boccaletti: "By itself, [scale analysis] does not provide answers and is no substitute for deeper analysis. But it offers a powerful lens through which to view reality and to understand 'the order of things.'" (187)
o Linda Stone: "Articulate, intelligent individuals can skillfully construct a convincing case to arguer almost any point if view" by narrowing our vision. "In contrast, projective thinking is expansive, 'open-ended,' and speculative, requiring the thinker to create the context, concepts, and the objectives." (240)
o Victoria Stodden: "One interesting aspect of the phase transition is that it describes a shift to a state seemingly unrelated to the previous one and hence provides a model for phenomena that challenge our intuition." (371)
These are but a few of hundreds of observations that caught my eye. I realize that no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the scope of material that is provided in this volume but I hope that I have at least suggested why I think so highly of it. I also highly recommend the aforementioned This Explains Everything and, especially, checking out the ever-increasing wealth of resources at Edge.org. Thank you, John Brockman, for the thought leadership you and your Edge colleagues continue to provide. Bravo!
Almost everyone gets a say here: astrophysicists, sociologists, environmentalists, historians, microbiologists, newspaper columnists, particle physicists, philosophers, and a host of notables in other disciplines. The result is a truly provocative treasure heap of notions that just might do what the title of the book claims. The book is a bucket of pearls: succinct (for the most part!) notions with real punch are the order of the day. John Brockman's website, Edge.org, aims to represent cutting edge ideas, and the included authors often are forced to create neologisms or resurrect arcane vocabulary (e.g. Interbeing and apophenia) to express their thoughts fully.
This book is not a quick read. I left it at my bedside and knocked off a few every evening, often with a new concept, or an improved version of an old one, caroming around the confines of my cranium as I drifted off to sleep. Some ideas seemed both verbose and obtuse. Most seemed refreshing and useful. My favorite was also the shortest of all the selections, almost haiku like in intensity. In its entirety, here is Susan Fiske's (Princeton Professor of Psychology) essay: "The most important scientific concept is that an assertion is often an empirical question settled by collecting evidence. The plural of anecdote is not data, and the plural of opinion is not facts. Quality peer-reviewed scientific evidence accumulates into knowledge. People's stories are stories, and fiction keeps us going. But science should settle policy."
As several previous reviewers have noted, this book is available free online at Edge.org. Why spend ten bucks? There is one reason that you might want to consider: it's a book that you'll savage with your pen, assaulting the pages with highlighter ink, filling the margins with thoughts, and littering the essays with circles and exclamation marks. You'll pull it down off your bookshelf regularly, every time you want tangible evidence in your hands that human beings do, on occasion, have some REALLY good ideas.