Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better

Overview

A revelatory and timely look at how technology boosts our cognitive abilities—making us smarter, more productive, and more creative than ever

It’s undeniable—technology is changing the way we think. But is it for the better? Amid a chorus of doomsayers, Clive Thompson delivers a resounding “yes.” In Smarter Than You Think, Thompson shows that every technological innovation—from the written word to the printing press to the telegraph—has provoked the very same anxieties that ...

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Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better

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Overview

A revelatory and timely look at how technology boosts our cognitive abilities—making us smarter, more productive, and more creative than ever

It’s undeniable—technology is changing the way we think. But is it for the better? Amid a chorus of doomsayers, Clive Thompson delivers a resounding “yes.” In Smarter Than You Think, Thompson shows that every technological innovation—from the written word to the printing press to the telegraph—has provoked the very same anxieties that plague us today. We panic that life will never be the same, that our attentions are eroding, that culture is being trivialized. But, as in the past, we adapt—learning to use the new and retaining what is good of the old. Smarter Than You Think embraces and extols this transformation, presenting an exciting vision of the present and the future.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Does technology make us lazy, incapable of thinking smartly about solutions to cultural problems? Does it make us shallower thinkers, ever reliant on computers to help us mold our responses to any issues? In this optimistic, fast-paced tale about the advent of technology and its influence on humans, journalist Thompson addresses these and other questions. He admits that we often allow ourselves to be used by facets of new technologies and that we must exercise caution to avoid this; yet, he demonstrates, digital tools can have a huge positive impact on us, for they provide us with infinite memory, the ability to discover connections between people, places, or ideas previously unknown to us, and new and abundant avenues for communication and publishing. For example, Thompson shares the tale of Gordon Bell, who walks around equipped with a small fish-eye camera and a tiny audio recorder. Bell uses these devices to record every moment of his life, which he records on a “lifelog” on his laptop. Because of these devices, Bell—and we, if we embrace the technology—lives in a world of infinite memory. Using technology also helps us make connections, not only with old friends on Facebook or other social media but with the world around us as we search for knowledge and facts about it. Thompson points out that “transactive memory”—which arises out of our need to understand details and to connect to larger sets of facts outside our own limited social or familial setting—allows “us to perform at higher levels, accomplishing acts of reasoning that are impossible for us alone.” In the end, Thompson believes, these features of digital tools will allow us to think more deeply and become more deeply connected both as individuals and as a society. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
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 tip 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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143125822
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 8/26/2014
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 499,202
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Clive Thompson is a contributor for the New York Times Magazineand Wired. He also writes for Fast Company and appears regularly on many NPR programs, CNN, Fox News, and NY1, among other news outlets. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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