ELASTIC by Leonard Mlodinow


Flexible Thinking in a Time of Change
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With the world changing so rapidly, our thinking must change as well. This ingenious account by bestselling science writer Mlodinow (Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior, 2012, etc.) describes how we think and how we might do it better.

Business writers often argue that humans hate change. What they actually hate, the author insists, are the painful consequences often associated with change—e.g., getting fired. In their absence, we love change and actively seek it. According to one expert in evolutionary anthropology, “we [humans] jump borders. We push into new territory even when we have resources where we are. Other animals don’t do this.” This “neophilia” confronts us with new problems, but humans are superb problem-solvers. Mostly, we solve them through analytical thinking, a top-down, step-by-step approach based on facts or reason. This works fine in most cases, and it is also how higher animals and computers work, but true creativity requires what Mlodinow calls elastic thinking. Nonlinear, operating largely in the unconscious, and more emotion driven, it’s a bottom-up process that considers unusual and even bizarre ideas, resulting in genuine creativity essential in art and business and, increasingly, in our personal lives. Mixing a century of psychology and brain research with descriptions of fascinating cutting-edge technology and anecdotes from his own life, the author delivers the latest findings on how the brain takes in, processes, filters, and—if we apply a few techniques—improves on the perceptions that pour in. As he writes, “the world today is a moving target,” and we must be better prepared as a result.

Readers looking for advice on business success or personal growth will find pearls of wisdom, but this is not Mlodinow’s focus. He sticks firmly to a few ideas already showing their age (that computers will never be truly intelligent), but mostly this is top-quality popular neuroscience.

Pub Date: March 20th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-101-87092-1
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2018


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