Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Just Jennifer

This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking ed. John Brockman (Harper Perennial, April 2012)

Publisher of the online science blog Edge,org, John Brockman, posed the following question to some of modern times’ most influential thinkers: What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit? He then compiled each of the short answers from all disciplines from psychology to sociology to economics to physics to philosophy and even music to help us think about how we think, store information and retrieve it and how we can use simple theorems that we use in other facets of our lives to improve cognitive function. Gary Marcus, a professor at NYU posits that the reason humans are poor information retrievers is that we never learned what computer programs learned long ago: how to map the information we are storing to make it easy to locate upon demand. Psychologist Adam Alter concludes that humans do not pay enough attention to certain cues, color, weather conditions and symbols that lodge just in our sub-consciousness and effect the way we think and behave; a more conscious approach to these three factors, Alter believes, will help shape our mental lives. This collection of short essays, two to five pages most, can be picked up, skimmed or read at random. A thorough index is also interesting to peruse until a subject that peeks interest is found. The most frustrating thing: recalling an essay or an idea you want to refer back to and not being able to locate where it is in the collection (see Marcus’s essay for help with this).

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