This Will Make You Smarter Hardcover – March 1, 2012
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He told me this book has a lot of golden nuggets, while he was right about golden nugget, the issue with this book is that 90% of the book is really useless.
Useless in a sense that you cannot possibly understand what the author is trying to convey.
Some of the ideas shared cannot be distilled in one or three pages.
Another challenge with this book is that there are really no takeaways from 95% of the content.
If you are sharing some profound idea in such few short pages then you might as well add a conclusion at the end of each chapter so the reader can takeaway something.
And as a site online where you might click on ten or so, it is wonderful. But in a book collecting all 150? No so much.
First off a lot of the post don't really talk about concepts as such - more along the "wow it would be kinda cool..." Lines of late night discussions. Of those that do, some just tease it in less than a page, whilst others seem on a mini crusade and go on into minutiae of their pet project.
So, a book bringing the 10/25/50 best or most popular or most controversial might be a lot better. Leaving the rest of the "thanks for taking the time" online. Then I'd have understood the "edited by" on the cover.
But still four stars?
Yes, because here are a lot of nuggets here, and a lot of books to look into and people to explore further. I have a. Feeling I might have crept close to the max numbers if highlights in a single kindle book. And, as a time capsule it will be fun to have a look at in 20+ years time.
The message very concise, that can be extracted from this book, is that a big part of modern scientific though is about metacognition. About the way we think. Naturally also this may be one of the many biases, because the question that was posed was thought up by Pinker and Kahneman, who themselves are the ideologist of cognitive biases.
Personal suggestion: this book is what was once the Reader's Digest: an instrument to know things, or what was going on, without having to really dig through all the books one was supposed to have read. Very useful in our fast paced world. However, insufficient to really explore modern scientific thought. So read it, let it sparkle your curiosity, but then go out and get the texts, explore the profiles of the authors, look up the words and concepts you like most. This is the best way to get the best out of this opus magnum and probably what Brockman wants you to do.
If the interest in these topics is sincere I believe Daniel Kahnemans "Thinking fast, thinking slow" must be the first read.
Top international reviews
If this book is an exercise in meta-cognition, here's a thought: as the 2012 collection of Edge.org question essays, this book was published before the replication crisis really unfolded, so it will be interesting to see if some of the more psychology-oriented essays still hold up after review in 2016.
Lately I've found myself shifting towards shorter works to maximize my breadth of reading and avoid diminishing returns on any one piece. In this respect I recommend this essay collection, and will probably read some of Brockman's other collections (I have the 2013 collection, What Should We Be Worried About?, but haven't had enough excess optimism to stomach it yet). I'll also take this chance to recommend some other great collections of essays and blog posts at gwern.net, the DataGenetics blog, and of course, Eliezer Yudkowski's The Sequences.
On balance, there are a handful of really good essays that made reading TWMYS worth it despite a lot of the content being familiar to a scientific thinker. Four stars.