[book review] Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better

I was intrigued with the premise, heard it on a podcast, regretted the time I spent on it. Another technology journalist creating a premise, looking for evidence and correlating everything so that it’s a cause, Smarter Than You Think is just another mish mash of how technology is changing us and how a current popular line of thinking is wrong.

I never learn. If you’ve read my other reviews, I already made my mission to avoid these type of books. Somebody creates a premise over a popular thought or topic. The author creates an interesting title to stir discussion or discord, then does selective research to prove their point. Of course, writing the review was also a painful experience and I don’t know how I was able to last this long with this book.

A key point with book is how technology evolves not to replace us but more of how it complements us. A long drawn out example of chess has evolved over the years and how we evolved in playing chess as technology caught up. For some reason, this part reminded me of Nate Silver’s The Signal and Noise. The example was strikingly similar.

After a long and winding explanation of how computers complement us in the chess game, he then proceeds on how the internet enables us to collaborate effectively. Examples such as the Haiti earthquake, numerous Arab springs, and the use of Ushahidi were presented.

After this, he proceeds on explaning how we are silently connected via facebook, twitter, and other social networks and how this gives us some sort of ambient awareness that changes how we keep updated with our family, friends and the people around us.

He also dwells on MOOCs (of course he would) and how this changes the whole education industry.

This has got to be the most regurgitated book I have ever read and for some reason I felt cheated of my time. I’m not even disagreeing with his premise but the whole presentation feels so skin deep. I think he could’ve delved deeper and presented more convincing arguments than just the typical exposition of current events and good examples. The whole technology and internet industry is so vast that you can nitpick any topic that you want and write about about it.

Who is this book for? If you haven’t been keeping up with internet trends, been living under a rock, or just limit you interactions to facebook, buzzfeed, and iphone games, then this is a good primer to understand how beautiful technology has evolved not only itself but us too. But please oh please, get deeper as his points are shallow at best.

 

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