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Humans have built hugely complex societies and technologies, but most of us don't even know how a pen or a toilet works. How have we achieved so much despite understanding so little? Cognitive scientists Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach argue that we survive and thrive despite our mental shortcomings because we live in a rich community of knowledge. The key to our intelligence lies in the people and things around us. We're constantly drawing on information and expertise stored outside our heads: in our bodies, our environment, our possessions, and the community with which we interact - and usually we don't even realize we're doing it.
The human mind is both brilliant and pathetic. We have mastered fire, created democratic institutions, stood on the moon, and sequenced our genome. And yet each of us is error prone, sometimes irrational, and often ignorant. The fundamentally communal nature of intelligence and knowledge explains why we often assume we know more than we really do, why political opinions and false beliefs are so hard to change, and why individually oriented approaches to education and management frequently fail. But our collaborative minds also enable us to do amazing things. This book contends that true genius can be found in the ways we create intelligence using the world around us.
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By S. Yates on 11-01-17
Welcome insight into what we do and don't know
Informative look at humans and how we process information and perceive knowledge. The authors look at how modern times (and the attendant mass quantities of information and the increasingly specialized nature of expertise) and technology (which makes such information nominally available to anyone with Internet access) combine to make present-day humans simultaneously ignorant while believing themselves to be well-informed. The most interesting parts of the book for me where the sections discussing how individuals mistake the ability to find information for current knowledge, but in fact we often do not know how things work or the nuances of complex processes. Other parts of the book discuss topics that have been handled in book length by other authors, so are less new but nicely integrated into the whole. This includes heuristics, how people react to evidence that cuts against their beliefs, the impact of such processes on politics and opinion, and suggestions for how to become more truly knowledgeable. The authors make persuasive and necessary cases for the fact that no one has the time or mental capacity to truly understand nuance in all the areas necessary for daily life, that we have to rely on experts for certain things, and that a key to being informed is to learn how to evaluate experts. Which is a lesson everyone should learn.
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