Kirkus Reviews QR Code


How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better

by Clive Thompson

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-59420-445-6
Publisher: Penguin Press

A sprightly tip of the hat to the rewards and pleasures—and betterments—of our digital experiences.

Who, asks Wired and New York Times Magazine contributor Thompson, hasn’t felt a twinge of concern? How many times have we let Google feed us the answer to all manner of random inquiries? Indeed, does Google allow our memory muscles to grow flabby? How much is important to retain without a crib card? How much byzantine, brain-busting junk do we need at our fingertips or leave dangling at the tips of our tongues? Thompson is a firm believer in the school of digital information. Why not offload all the minutiae and free up the brain for bigger questions? Then let the computer serve as the external memory, find connections, and accelerate communication and publishing. The author also argues that, despite all the excesses, writing on the Internet encourages discipline and economy of expression—if not harking back to the golden age of letter writing, at least making people put thought to screen. In addition, think of all the stuff that computers do in a wink—data crunching, calling you to task in the word cloud for repetitiveness, and more. Computers also bring analysis, logic and acuity to the table, while humans bring intuition, insight, psychology and strategy, as well as sentience. Near the beginning of the book, Thompson discusses the mind vs. computer dilemma in the context of chess: “The computer would bring the lightning fast—if uncreative—ability to analyze zillions of moves, while the human would bring intuition and insight, the ability to read opponents and psych them out.”

A well-framed celebration of how the digital world will make us bigger, rather than diminish us.