echecs16.info presents brilliant, accessible, cutting-edge ideas to improve our decision-making skills and improve our cognitive toolkits, with contributions by Nassim. This Will Make You Smarter: Big Thinkers Each Pick a Concept to year for more than a decade, intellectual impresario and Edge editor John Brockman. "This Will Make You Smarter gives us better tools to think about the world and is The literary agent and all-purpose intellectual impresario John Brockman.
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Read This Will Make You Smarter by John Brockman for free with a 30 day free trial. Read unlimited* books and audiobooks on the web, iPad, iPhone and. echecs16.info: This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking (Edge Question Series) (): John Brockman: Books . Read This Will Make You Smarter PDF - New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking by Mr. John Brockman Harper Perennial | echecs16.info
Maria Popova Feb 21, Every year for more than a decade, intellectual impresario and Edge editor John Brockman has been asking the era's greatest thinkers a single annual question, designed to illuminate some important aspect of how we understand the world. In , he asked how the Internet is changing the way we think. In , with the help of psycholinguist Steven Pinker and legendary psychologist Daniel Kahneman , he posed an even grander question: What scientific concept will improve everybody's cognitive toolkit? Together, they construct a powerful toolkit of meta-cognition -- a new way to think about thinking itself. Brockman prefaces the essays with an important definition that captures the dimensionality of science: Here, the term 'scientific' is to be understood in a broad sense -- as the most reliable way of gaining knowledge about anything, whether it be human behavior, corporate behavior, the fate of the planet, or the future of the universe. A 'scientific concept' may come from philosophy, logic, economics, jurisprudence, or any other analytic enterprises, as long as it is a rigorous tool that can be summed up succinctly but has broad application to understanding the world. The diverse answers come from a number of Brain Pickings favorites.
The pleasure of intelligence is a renewable source of intellectual energy". We think of the Bloomsbury Group in London during the early twentieth century. We think of the New York intellectuals who wrote for little magazines like Partisan Review in the s. The most influential thinkers in our own era live at the nexus of the cognitive sciences, evolutionary psychology, and information technology.
They ask the fundamental questions and shape debates outside of their own disciplines and across the public sphere. Many of the leaders of this network are in this book. They are lucky enough to be at the head of fast-advancing fields. But they are also lucky enough to have one another. The literary agent and all-purpose intellectual impresario John Brockman gathers members of this network for summits. He arranges symposia and encourages online conversations.
Through Edge. Crucially, he has taken scholars out of their intellectual disciplines, encouraging them to interact with people in different fields, to talk with business executives, to talk with the general public. The disciplinary structure in the universities is an important foundation. It enforces methodological rigor. But it doesn't really correlate with reality why do we have one field, psychology, concerning the inner life and another field, sociology, concerning the outer life, when the distinction between the two is porous and maybe insignificant?
If there's going to be a vibrant intellectual life, somebody has to drag researchers out of their ghettos, and Brockman has done that, through Edge.
The book you hold in your hand accomplishes two things, one implicit, one explicit. Implicitly it gives you an excellent glimpse of what some of the world's leading thinkers are obsessed with at the moment.
You can see their optimism or anxiety about how technology is changing culture and interaction. You'll observe a frequent desire to move beyond deductive reasoning and come up with more rigorous modes of holistic or emergent thinking. You'll also get a sense of the emotional temper of the group. People in this culture love neat puzzles and cool questions. Benoit Mandlebrot asked his famous question "How long is the coast of Britain?
In ancient Greece, Plato and Aristotle saw the world teleologically—rain falls because water wants to be lower than air; animals and slaves are naturally subservient to human citizens.
From the start, there were skeptics. Democritus and Lucretius were early naturalists who urged us to think in terms of matter obeying rules rather than chasing final causes and serving underlying purposes.
Theologians sometimes invoke sustaining the world as a function of God. Pierre-Simon Laplace articulated the very specific kind of rule that the world obeys: If we specify the complete state of the universe or any isolated part of it at some particular instant, the laws of physics tell us what its state will be at the very next moment.
Applying those laws again, we can figure out what it will be a moment later. And so on, until in principle, obviously we can build up a complete history of the universe. This is not a universe that is advancing toward a goal; it is one that is caught in the iron grip of an unbreakable pattern. This view of the processes at the heart of the physical world has important consequences for how we come to terms with the social world. Human beings like to insist that there are reasons why things happen.
The death of a child, the crash of an airplane, or a random shooting must be explained in terms of the workings of a hidden plan. Nature teaches us otherwise.
Things happen because the laws of nature say they will—because they are the consequences of the state of the universe and the path of its evolution. None of which is to say that life is devoid of purpose and meaning.
Only that these are things we create, not things we discover out there in the fundamental architecture of the world. This elegant fact can be extended to encompass a powerful idea, known as the Copernican Principle, which holds that we are not in a special or favorable place of any sort. By looking at the world in light of this principle, we can overcome certain preconceptions about ourselves and reexamine our relationship with the universe.
And the Copernican Principle helps guide our understanding of the expanding universe, allowing us to see that anywhere in the cosmos one would perceive other galaxies moving away at rapid speeds, just as we see here on Earth. We are not anywhere special. The Copernican Principle has also been extended to our temporal position by astrophysicist J. Richard Gott to help provide estimates for lifetimes of events, independent of additional information.
As Gott elaborated, other than the fact that we are intelligent observers, there is no reason to believe we are in any way specially located in time.
The Copernican Principle allows us to quantify our uncertainty and recognize that we are often neither at the beginning of things nor at the end. It allowed Gott to estimate correctly when the Berlin Wall would fall and has even provided meaningful numbers on the survival of humanity. This principle can even anchor our location within the many orders of magnitude of our world: We are far smaller than most of the cosmos, far larger than most chemistry, far slower than much that occurs at subatomic scales, and far faster than geological and evolutionary processes.
This principle leads us to study the successively larger and smaller orders of magnitude of our world, because we cannot assume that everything interesting is at the same scale as ourselves.
The paradox of the Copernican Principle is that by properly understanding our place, even if it be humbling, we can only then truly understand our particular circumstances. Craig Venter Genome scientist; founder and president, J. Craig Venter Institute; author, A Life Decoded I cannot imagine any single discovery that would have more impact on humanity than the discovery of life outside our solar system.
There is a humancentric, Earthcentric view of life that permeates most cultural and societal thinking. Finding that there are multiple, perhaps millions, of origins of life and that life is ubiquitous throughout the universe will profoundly affect every human. We live on a microbial planet. We have more than trillion microbes on and in each of us.
We have microbes that can withstand millions of rads of ionizing radiation or acids and bases so strong they would dissolve our skin. We have life that lives on carbon dioxide, on methane, on sulfur, on sugar.
We have sent trillions of bacteria into space over the last few billion years, and we have long exchanged material with Mars, so it would be very surprising if we do not find evidence of microbial life in our solar system, particularly on Mars. The recent discoveries by Dimitar Sasselov and colleagues of numerous Earth and super-Earth-like planets outside our solar system, including water worlds, greatly increases the probability of finding life.
Sasselov estimates that there are approximately a hundred thousand Earths and super-Earths within our own galaxy. Sasselov estimates that there are approximately a hundred thousand Earths and super-Earths within our own galaxy. The universe is young, so wherever we find microbial life, there will be intelligent life in the future.
The breakthrough was the shotgun sequencing of DNA, the same technology that gave us the human genome years ahead of schedule. Starting in , Craig Venter and others began sequencing large populations of bacteria. The thousands of new genes they found double the total previously discovered showed what proteins the genes would generate and therefore what function they had, and that began to reveal what the teeming bacteria were really up to.
This meta -genomics revolutionized microbiology, and that revolution will reverberate through the rest of biology for decades.
Microbes make up 80 percent of all biomass, says microbiologist Carl Woese. This is the planet of the bacteria. Microbes run our atmosphere. They also run much of our body. The human microbiome in our gut, mouth, skin, and elsewhere, harbors three thousand kinds of bacteria with 3 million distinct genes. Our own cells struggle by on only eighteen thousand genes or so. New research is showing that our microbes-on-board drive our immune systems and important parts of our digestion.
Microbial evolution, which has been going on for more than 3. Bacteria swap genes promiscuously within generations. They have three different mechanisms for this horizontal gene transfer among wildly different kinds of bacteria, and thus they evolve constantly and rapidly. Since they pass the opportunistically acquired genes on to their offspring, what they do on an hourly basis looks suspiciously Lamarckian—the inheritance of acquired characteristics.
Field biologists are realizing that the biosphere is looking like what some are calling a pangenome, an interconnected network of continuously circulated genes that is a superset of all the genes in all the strains of a species that form. Bioengineers in the new field of synthetic biology are working directly with the conveniently fungible genes of microbes. This biotech century will be microbe-enhanced and maybe microbe-inspired. Social Darwinism turned out to be a bankrupt idea. The term cultural evolution never meant much, because the fluidity of memes and influences in society bears no relation to the turgid conservatism of standard Darwinian evolution.
But social microbialism might mean something as we continue to explore the fluidity of traits and the vast ingenuity of mechanisms among microbes—quorum sensing, biofilms, metabolic bucket brigades, lifestyle genes, and the like.
Confronting a difficult problem, we might fruitfully ask, What would a microbe do? The Evidence for Evolution. We are here not looking for tools with which research scientists might benefit their science. We are looking for tools to help nonscientists understand science better and equip them to make better judgments throughout their lives. Why do half of all Americans believe in ghosts, three-quarters believe in angels, a third believe in astrology, three-quarters believe in hell?
Why do a quarter of all Americans believe that the president of the United States was born outside the country and is therefore ineligible to be president?
Why do more than 40 percent of Americans think the universe began after the domestication of the dog? I believe that the double-blind control experiment does double duty. It is more than just an excellent research tool. It also has educational, didactic value in teaching people how to think critically. You need only understand the principle, grasp why it is necessary, and revel in its elegance.
If all schools taught their pupils how to do a double-blind control experiment, our cognitive toolkits would be improved in the following ways:.
We would learn how to assess the likelihood that an apparently important effect might have happened by chance alone. We would learn how extremely difficult it is to eliminate subjective bias, and that subjective bias does not imply dishonesty or venality of any kind.
This lesson goes deeper. It has the salutary effect of undermining respect for authority and respect for personal opinion.
We would learn not to be seduced by homeopaths and other quacks and charlatans, who would consequently be put out of business. We would learn critical and skeptical habits of thought more generally, which not only would improve our cognitive toolkit but might save the world. Despite spectacular success in research, our global scientific community has been nothing short of a spectacular failure when it comes to educating the public.
Haitians burned twelve witches in In the United States, recent polls show that 39 percent consider astrology scientific and 40 percent believe that our human species is less than ten thousand years old. If everyone understood the concept of scientific concept, these percentages would be zero. Moreover, the world would be a better place, since people with a scientific lifestyle, basing their decisions on correct information, maximize their chances of success. By making rational downloading and voting decisions, they also strengthen the scientific approach to decision making in companies, organizations, and governments.
Why have we scientists failed so miserably?
I think the answers lie mainly in psychology, sociology, and economics. A scientific lifestyle requires a scientific approach to both gathering information and using information, and both have their pitfalls.
Many are too swamped with obligations and distractions to seek it. Many seek information only from sources that confirm their preconceptions. Even for those who are online and uncensored, the most valuable information can be hard to find, buried in an unscientific media avalanche. The core of a scientific lifestyle is to change your mind when faced with information that disagrees with your views, avoiding intellectual inertia, yet many of us praise leaders who stubbornly stick to their views as strong.
The great physicist Richard Feynman hailed distrust of experts as a cornerstone of science, yet herd mentality and blind faith in authority figures is widespread. Logic forms the basis of scientific reasoning, yet wishful thinking, irrational fears, and other cognitive biases often dominate decisions. The obvious answer is to improve education.
In some countries, even the most rudimentary education would be a major improvement less than half of all Pakistanis can read. By undercutting fundamentalism and intolerance, education would curtail violence and war. By empowering women, it would curb poverty and the population explosion. However, even countries that offer everybody education can make major improvements. All too often, schools resemble museums, reflecting the past rather than shaping the future. The curriculum should shift from one watered down by consensus and lobbying to skills our century needs, for promoting relationships, health, contraception, time management, and critical thinking, and recognizing propaganda.
For youngsters, learning a foreign language and typing should trump long division and writing cursive. In the Internet age, my own role as a classroom teacher has changed. How can we really make a scientific lifestyle take root and flourish? Reasonable people have been making similar arguments for better education since long before I was in diapers, yet instead of improving, education and adherence to a scientific lifestyle are arguably deteriorating in many countries, including the United States.
Clearly because there are powerful forces pushing in the opposite direction, and they are pushing more effectively. Corporations concerned that a better understanding of certain scientific issues would harm their profits have an incentive to muddy the waters, as do fringe religious groups concerned that questioning their pseudoscientific claims would erode their power.
So what can we do? The first thing we scientists need to do is get off our high horses, admit that our persuasive strategies have failed, and develop a better strategy. We have the advantage of having the better arguments, but the antiscientific coalition has the advantage of better funding. However, and this is ironic, the antiscientific coalition is also more scientifically organized!