- 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: #56,013 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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
There's something to learn from each of these professionals from all walks of life, and where else do we get a practically layman's discourse on HOW to think...think BETTER than we already do? Some of the concepts are common sense (not so common, is it?), others are minor eurekas, and some are counter-intuitive but valuable gems of research and discipline.
I am so very grateful to John Brockman for putting together this volume of awesome--in the true sense of the word--essays. --An ordinary woman who thinks & a lifelong reader of science, philosophy, & good literature.
"This Will Make You Smarter" is a thought-provoking book of scientific essays brought to you by The Edge that provides readers with better tools to think about the world. The Edge is an organization that presents original ideas by today's leading thinkers from a wide spectrum of scientific fields. The 2011 Edge question is, "What Scientific Concept Would Improve Everybody's Cognitive Toolkit?" This worthwhile 448-page book contains 151 short essays that address the question. The quality of these essays range from the obvious to the truly profound.
For my sake, I created a spreadsheet of all the essays and graded them from zero to five stars based on quality. Five star essays are those that provide a great description of the author's favorite scientific concept. On the other hand, those receiving a one or even a zero represent essays that were not worthy of this book. Of course, this is just one reviewer's personal opinion. I basically reprised the same formula I used to review, "This Explains Everything".
1. This series by "The Edge" always deliver a high-quality product.
2. A great premise, "What Scientific Concept Would Improve Everybody's Cognitive Toolkit?"
3. A great range of scientific topics: biology, genetics, computer science, neurophysiology, psychology, and physics.
4. There were a number of outstanding essays deserving of five stars for me. I will list my favorites as positives in this review. In order of appearance, the first by P.Z. Myers' "The Mediocrity Principle". It discusses the importance of having basic math skills and accepting the notion that we aren't special. Sounds harsh on the surface but P.Z. won me over with his persuasive argument.
5. Sean Carroll's "Pointless Universe". His contention is that the universe is not advancing toward a goal but is caught up in an unbreakable pattern.
6. Max Tegmarr's "Promoting a Scientific Lifestyle". The need to educate the public on science. Hit on all the pertinent points with mastery.
7. Kathryn Schulz's "The Pessimistic Meta-Induction from the History of Science". Makes the compelling case that there are no absolutes in science. Understanding that science is about constructing models rather than revealing reality.
8. Jonah Lehrer's "Control Your Spotlight." Learning how to control short list of thoughts in working memory.
9. Kevin Kelly's "Failure Liberates Success." Failures in science can lead to success.
10. Steven Pinker's "Positive-Sum Games." A great explanation on the value of understanding positive-sum games.
11. Rebecca Newberger Goldstein's "Inference to the Best Explanation." One of the best essays of the book. Explains what is behind the power of science.
12. Donald Hoffman's "Our Sensory Desktop." The importance of refining our attitude toward our own perceptions.
13. Michael Shermer's "Think Bottom Up, Not Top Down." Great explanation on emerging properties.
14. Terrence Sejnowski's "Powers of 10." How to think about things in the world over a wide range of magnitudes and time scales.
15. Guilio Boccaletti's "Scale Analysis." Understanding this concept can help us on many complex problems.
16. Sam Harris's "We are Lost in Thought." The distorted views of the self.
17. Sue Blackmore's "Correlation is not a Cause." The need to spread this concept to the public.
18. Lee Smolin's "Thinking in Time Versus Thinking Outside of Time." Important and very little discussed topic, it's about time.
19. Geoffrey Miller's "The Personality/Insanity Continuum." Very interesting topic.
20. Mathew Ritchie's "Systematic Equilibrium." The second of thermodynamics applied.
21. Mark Henderson's "Science Methods Aren't Just for Science." Solid defense of science.
22. Scott D. Sampson's "Interbeing." Another one of my favorites.
23. Satyajit Das's "Parallelism in Art and Commerce." A unique contribution.
24. Vinod Khosla's "Black Swan Technologies." Low probability events with extreme impact.
25. Fiery Cushman's "Understanding Confabulation." Understanding our own behavior.
1. Some essays were not worthy of this book. It's not my intent to denigrate any of these great minds so I'm not going to mention them by name. Thankfully just a few received zero or one stars.
2. Some of my favorite authors let me down while others flourished.
3. It requires an investment of time.
In summary, I enjoy these kinds of books. The Edge does a wonderful job of selecting a thought-provoking question and an even better job of bringing in intellectuals from a wide range of fields to answer it. The search for knowledge is a fun and satisfying pursuit. Pick up this book and enjoy the ride.
Further suggestions: "This Explains Everything: Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works" by John Brockman, "A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing" by Lawrence Krauss, "The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution" by Richard Dawkins, "The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements" by Sam Kean, "The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human" by V.S. Ramachandran, "The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies" by Michael Shermer, "How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed" by Ray Kurzwell, "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature" by Steven Pinker, "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" by Jared Diamond, "Why Evolution Is True" by Jerry A. Coyne, and "Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior" by Leonard Mlodinow.
In spite of that, texts are interesting and may help you on your life (or make you "smarter", as the title suggests). The book would be more useful if it contained suggestions on how to apply those concepts on daily life, or if texts were grouped in categories. They indeed follow a logic order, but grouping chapters could help organize content into blocks.
I'm just not sure if they are truly "New" scientific concepts as the subtitle suggests. But it's sure a good general guide on what some of the world's most important thinkers are focusing on their researches right now.