Smarter Than You Think

Smarter Than You Think

How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better

Book - 2013
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"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's good of the old. Thompson introduces us to a cast of extraordinary characters who augment their minds in inventive ways. There's the seventy-six-year old millionaire who digitally records his every waking moment--giving him instant recall of the events and ideas of his life, even going back decades. There's a group of courageous Chinese students who mounted an online movement that shut down a $1.6 billion toxic copper plant. There are experts and there are amateurs, including a global set of gamers who took a puzzle that had baffled HIV scientists for a decade--and solved it collaboratively in only one month. [This book] isn't just about pioneers. It's about everyday users of technology and how our digital tools--from Google to Twitter to Facebook and smartphones--are giving us new ways to learn, talk, and share our ideas. Thompson harnesses the latest discoveries in social science to explore how digital technology taps into our long-standing habits of mind--pushing them in powerful new directions. Our thinking will continue to evolve as newer tools enter our lives."--
Publisher: New York : The Penguin Press, [2013]
Copyright Date: ©2013
ISBN: 9781594204456
Branch Call Number: 303.4833 T3723S 2013
Characteristics: 341 pages ; 25 cm


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Aug 01, 2019

(I accidently posted the same review for the e-version and the print version, which follows.) In some ways I am not a good reviewer for this topic, since I do not play computer games, barely know how to text and am in the pre-internet generation. However, Thompson does a thorough job of explaining what people who are in the younger generation do and how the connected world can be of great benefit to posing and solving problems. For us older folk, there is some good to being connected to many others for company and knowledge (email does not count, however, since it is as some say, “So twentieth century”). The world is evolving to group knowledge, interaction, and even activity to support worthy social causes. The author does not promise that social networks are a panacea, and gives some (not enough, in my opinion) warning that too much time can be spent killing space monsters instead of doing serious learning, which can be done, I think, in the social networks or old-fashioned books. I have been inspired by this work, however, to join a social network to try to catch up with current trends.
Although the author states early on that social groups are not physically changing the human brain, I think a better title could be How to Benefit from Online Social Groups. In some places he assumes that we know more of the acronyms for social groups than some of us do, and probably could make a point of spelling out the meanings on first usage.

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.

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.

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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