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THIS WILL MAKE YOU SMARTER by John Brockman Kirkus Star


New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking

By John Brockman

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-210939-2
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins founder and publisher Brockman (Culture: Leading Scientists Explore Civilizations, Art, Networks, Reputation, and the Online Revolution, 2011, etc.) asks a group of eminent scientists and writers their views on the question, “What Scientific Concept Would Improve Everybody's Cognitive Toolkit?”

The thematic question was actually proposed to the editor by Harvard professor Steven Pinker, who urges the need for people to recognize the value of win-win bargaining based on cooperation rather than competition—positive rather than zero sum games. New Scientist editor Roger Highfield writes humorously that “one way to win the struggle for existence is to pursue the snuggle for existence: to cooperate.” In a similar vein, astronomer Marcelo Gleiser suggests that since humans may be unique in the universe, “[we] might as well start enjoying one another's company.” Psychologist Daniel Goleman examines the seeming indifference of most people about the risk of “planetary meltdown.” In the same vein, science writer Alun Anderson suggests changing the name of our species to Homo dilatus because of our inability to face up to the consequences of global warming. Physicist Lawrence Krauss looks at the importance of scale in determining how precise an answer must be, and Lisa Randall argues the need for understanding both the “robustness and the limitations” of scientific results. Neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky warns against too much reliance on anecdotal evidence, and several contributors touch on the theme of how to evaluate risk and the tendency of people to over-focus on the immediate in estimating dangers. Other notable contributors—there are more than 150—include Stewart Brand, Richard Dawkins, Jonah Lehrer, Nicholas Carr, David Eagleman, Alison Gopnik, Jaron Lanier, V.S. Ramachandran, Brian Eno, Amanda Gefter and Clay Shirky.

A winning combination of good writers, good science and serious broader concerns.