Smarter Than You Think

Smarter Than You Think

How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better

Book - 2014
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Presents the argument that an increase in technology on the scale of what has been seen since the Internet revolution in the 1990s is not, in fact, hurting the way human beings think and remember things, but actually improving it in different ways. Examines a number of cases that show new technology--like the Internet, cell phones, and social media--helping people to become smarter.
Publisher: New York, New York : Penguin Books, [2014]
ISBN: 9780143125822
Characteristics: 343 pages ; 22 cm

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sggramps
Feb 01, 2018

The author argues that computers can be of significant help in performing mental tasks. Access to vast amounts of information relieves our memory of the need to store a great deal in our heads. Social connectivity offers an opportunity to tap the memory and problem-solving skills of broad online communities. At a societal level this offers opportunities to improve our political systems schools and interpersonal connections. The author recognizes that all is not a bed of roses in this electronic world. He identifies many caveats that must be observed if we are to succeed in using these tools properly, for example discussion forums must be well curated and students still need skilled teachers if they are to benefit from computerized teaching aids. The author introduces most topics by providing relevant anecdotes and then presenting his arguments, mostly with reference to research. The advantage of computers in performing certain tasks is often placed in a historical context of how other technologies have helped us. Each chapter concludes with an insight into potential future developments on the topic.

The author displays a laudable optimism towards technology but does not seem to fully take into account the threats posed. For example, we are treated to the creativity and problem solving unleashed by gaming with scant mention of the evidence for gaming addiction. The argument that computerization offers great advantages for the disciplined user who is aware of the limits and biases of the technology is well made. How many users embark on this wonderful journey and how many get left behind mired in the morass of mindless gaming or the mirrored halls of social media that only encourage prejudice and paranoia? We are never told. While most of the arguments presented in favour of the value of computerization appear plausible, some are very debatable, for example the suggestion that everyone should constantly update their status to reduce emails only begs the question of what happens when we are overwhelmed by all these updates? Finally, the sub title of the text appears to be a misnomer. The author argues for the thoughtful use of computers, to help us remember, solve problems and build communities. The question of how that may be influencing our native intellectual skills is not addressed except perhaps in the most figurative sense.

With regard to style and presentation, the language flows smoothly and the vocabulary is adapted to a lay audience. The use of anecdotes to introduce topics captures our attention however it does leave us wondering where the author is going. This lack of direction is compounded by the occasional presentation of several topics in succession without a clear explanation of their connection. The use of notes at the end of the chapter rather than traditional footnotes is disappointing.

All in all a good informative read,

meeksfenny1986 Jan 22, 2016

In a sea of doomsayers and paranoia, this book offers a refreshing and positive look at the way the technology is changing the way we think and operate for the better. Thompson provides a fascinating account on how every technological innovation—whether that is the invention of the written word or telephones—has produced waves of mass-anxiety. He then goes on to use a series of case-studies to examine the social science behind modern technology, the ways it circumnavigates human failure and habits, and eventually fuels humankind’s ability to collaborate and harness everyday user’s potential.

k
KABuck
Aug 06, 2015

The direction in which modern technological advancements are taking us is heavily debated. This book assumes the optimistic perspective, serving as a powerful thesis that technology is and will continue to augment our intellectual, social and creative capacities. Thompson's arguments are well structured and contain fresh research about the uses and effects of new technology around the world. Whether you agree with the content or not, you will surely learn something.

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eastvanbookfan
Oct 28, 2013

I often wonder if technology is 'dumbing' us down so this book was a good example of how that is probably not so. Still doesn't PROVE anything, just gives me pause for reflection that technology can be good too......

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