This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking

This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking

Language: English

Pages: 272


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

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, 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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Essays and Reviews: 1959-2002

The New Gods




















should impress us today that his analysis (SHA) begins with a description (SHA) of four mistakes we run into when we do science. Unfortunately, we usually forget these warnings. Francis Bacon argued that we are, first, victims of evolution (SHA)—that is, that our genes (SHA) define constraints that necessarily limit insight (SHA). Second, we suffer from the constraints of imprinting (SHA); the culture (SHA) we live in provides a frame for epigenetic programs (SHA) that ultimately define the

but not for a cognitive toolkit. It is a categorical error (SHA) to confuse speed in action with speed in thinking. The selection pressure for speed invites us to neglect the richness of facts. This pressure allows the invention (SHA) of a simple, clear, easy-to-understand, easy-to-refer-to, easy-to-communicate shorthand abstraction. Thus, because we are a victim of our biological past, and as a consequence a victim of ourselves, we end up with shabby SHAs, having left behind reality. If there is

data. Yet precisely for that reason, it will be wise also to launch a more considerate program of skeptical empiricism on the same topic, if only to be better prepared for the consequences, intended or not, that followed from the quick decision. Open Systems Thomas A. Bass Professor of English, State University of New York–Albany; author, The Spy Who Loved Us This year, Edge is asking us to identify a scientific concept that “would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit.” Not clever

prove tautologies. Richard Saul Wurman Objects of Understanding and Communication I want help flying through my waking dreams connecting the threads of these epiphanies. Carl Zimmer Life as a Side Effect Everyone would do well to overcome that urge to see agents where there are none. Gregory Cochran The Veeck Effect It occurs whenever someone adjusts the standards of evidence in order to favor a preferred outcome. Joshua

humans, and anomalies force periodic reality checks even if the anomaly turns out to be flawed. More important, though, are genuine anomalies that emerge every now and then, legitimately challenging the status quo, forcing paradigm shifts, and leading to scientific revolutions. Conversely, premature skepticism toward anomalies can lead to stagnation of science. One needs to be skeptical of anomalies but equally skeptical of the status quo if science is to progress. I see an analogy

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