Readers willing to wade through the textbook-style prose will be convinced of this subject's importance.

FUTURE BRIGHT

A TRANSFORMING VISION OF HUMAN INTELLIGENCE

To the question, “Can intelligence be raised?” a resounding “Yes!”

Martinez (1956–2012) spent some 30 years researching intelligence, most recently in the education department at the University of California, Irvine. Before offering his ideas about how intelligence can be modified, he presents some necessary background material: the development of IQ tests, researchers’ understanding of the structure of intelligence and the current state of knowledge about external factors that can affect it, including nutrition, breast-feeding, toxins, home environment and family size. After touching on neuroscientists' and cognitive scientists' work on the brain and mind, Martinez looks further into the question of where intelligence comes from. He finds the answer in the work of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, who asserted that social environment matters supremely. The major components of intelligence, in Martinez’s view, are fluid intelligence (the ability to deal with novel situations) and crystallized intelligence (the ability to master large bodies of information). These two, combined with effective character, are the keys to success in life. The author explores the ways in which these three factors interact synergistically to enhance intelligence and human effectiveness, then he turns to the question of how they can be improved. Martinez directs his strategies for modifying intelligence at individuals, parents, teachers, institutional leaders and world leaders. He offers some general techniques, but it would be a mistake to think of this exploration of intelligence as a handbook; its lessons are more fundamental. Concerned about the future of life on this planet, Martinez sends the message that solving the severe challenges that face us requires “a tremendous reserve of human intelligence, allied with wisdom and goodwill.”

Readers willing to wade through the textbook-style prose will be convinced of this subject's importance.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-19-978184-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

MASTERY

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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