Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our

Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better ❮Ebook❯ ➥ Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better ➦ Author Clive Thompson – Thomashillier.co.uk 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 A revelatory You Think: PDF ↠ and timely look at how technology boosts our cognitive abilities—making us smarter, productive, and 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 Smarter Than MOBI :↠ 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 Than You Think: eBook ☆ present and the future.


About the Author: Clive Thompson

Clive Thompson You Think: PDF ↠ is a Canadian freelance journalist, blogger and science and technology writerThompson graduated from the University of Toronto with majors in political science and English He previously worked for Canada's Report on Business magazine and Shift magazine, then became a freelance contributor for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Lingua Franca, Wired, Shift, Entertainm.



10 thoughts on “Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better

  1. Walt Walt says:

    Old man review. Read at your own risk.

    As you get older, the illusion is that time goes by faster. The theory, I think, is that the segment that is passing --- the hour, day, or week --- is a smaller and smaller fraction of the hours, days, etc. that you have lived. Your time is being used up and you only have a smaller fraction of what you had. At the ripe old age of sixty-five, this dynamic has certainly kicked in for me.

    Time seems to be passing by way too fast; I have too little of it left to assimilate everything that I need to or want to. I am like a computer you buy, utilize, fill up, and that eventually begins to be too full, inadequate in capacity and speed, freezing up, and crashing. Furthermore, keeping up with the pace of technology seems to have a similar dynamic: I can't keep up and at times I don't want to even try keeping up. Therefore, going into reading this book, SMARTER THAN YOU THINK: HOW TECHNOLOGY IS CHANGING OUR MINDS FOR THE BETTER, I thought that technology wasn't necessarily changing my mind for the better. I didn't have adequate time and, perhaps, the ability for it to do so. For example, I haven't adopted to cell phones and such e-devices as readily or as rapidly as many of my friends, neighbors and relatives, often to my detriment, but more often to my delight and my contemporaries' chagrin.

    But I think Clive Thompson makes some astute observations and plausible explanations for why he believes technology changes our minds for the better. I, of course, enjoyed reading the various histories in the evolution of innovation that he tells about and about humankind's continuing reluctances through the years and now to accept change. I also enjoyed reading about new innovations, innovators, and conceptions of human intelligence, etc. What a delight! How overwhelming! I did enjoy the read, and as I perused and contemplated what I had read I did realize that I do incorporate innovation, even in old age, into my life to make things easier. For example, I'm utilizing voice dictation software in order to write this because it has become more and more painful and irritating to type things out because of arthritis.

    I am not, however, convinced that we retain our learning longer than we used to. However, learning is much more accessible in our era than ever before and that is the dynamic that has been changing and seems to be continuing to change. I like it that I can have access to information now that I could never have access to so readily in earlier periods of my lifetime.

    Some change, however, is quite scary. I think of the contemporary crises involving data collection by the NSA, for example. Doesn't it have a tendency to put into jeopardy all notions of privacy that we might have? Furthermore, without a clean and clear commitment of mind to the whole enterprise of technology, it is all for naught. People become addicted to mindlessness: playing perhaps entertaining games and watching and being stimulated by videos and whatnot in an addictive manner that doesn't necessarily improve the mind or the quality of living but wastes it away. So, the caveat is always it only works to better your mind if you apply yourself in a responsible way.


  2. Aseem Kaul Aseem Kaul says:

    Whoever came up with the title for Clive Thompson's new book Smarter Than You Think got it wrong. Thompson's book is not so much about how technology is making us smarter, as it is about how technology is enabling those you who use it in new and creative ways to think more efficiently and (sometimes) more effectively. The book would be better titled Smarter IF You Think.

    As a result of the misnaming Thompson's book is, as it turns out, more interesting than I expected going in. While it's very much a book written in response to all the usual hand-wringing and doomsaying around technology, the case it makes for the benefits of technology is more cautiously optimistic than celebratory. Which makes it, to my pleasant surprise, an almost reasonable book.

    Thompson's case for the cognitive benefits of technology outweighing its costs is, as I see it, two-fold. On the one hand, the negative aspects of technology generally involve the transfer of old habits to new media. So, for instance, people have always been easily distracted petty narcissists having trivial discussions and seeking confirmation for their own biases through homophily; Facebook and Twitter do not create these tendencies, at most they simply make them much more visible than they were before. On the other hand, the positive aspect of technology is that when used in creative ways that leverage the comparative advantages of both humans and machines it can enable new ways of learning, organizing and discovery that make us collectively more effective.

    This is not an unreasonable argument, and the examples that Thompson provides of the ways in which technology helps improve the human experience are by and large convincing, and entirely fascinating, if seemingly cherry-picked. So, for instance, Thompson points to an example of a school program that uses video games to help pique student's curiosity about history and politics. This is a delightful idea, and makes a great deal of sense, but it does not really speak to the general impact of video games on the education of teenagers.

    My own take, for what it's worth, is that a) while technology can make us 'smarter' if used creatively and intelligently, that is not generally how it is currently being used, nor is it obvious that these creative and intelligent uses will catch on (though one can, and should, hope); b) there is no inherent contradiction between technology making us smarter as a collective but dumber as individuals, and that by lowering the challenges of communication and coordination that is precisely what technology is doing and c) as a consequence of b technology may in fact make us better at some tasks and worse at others, so that the net effect may not be so much to make us better or worse but just different.

    That said, I enjoyed reading Thompson's book, both because of the examples of creative use of new technologies it provides, and for its accurate criticism of the knee jerk negativity you see in too many media discussions on the effect of technology on society. But mostly, I enjoyed reading it because it made me think about how I use technology in my own life and what I could do to use it better. Whether or not technology is changing our minds for the better, I think Thompson's book certainly did, and that is reason enough to read it.


  3. Paul Paul says:

    Technology splits people into two camps; there are some who feel that the advent of the smartphone and internet means that the we are losing that extra element that makes us human similar to this:

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    And there are others that love it, and feel that the extra benefits that you gain are worth it.

    In this book Thompson writes about the innovative and creative ways that people and organisations are using technologies for all manner of things. In it he uses lots of positive examples; there are detail of how video games are being used in education to teach pupils how societies need as many farmers as warriors to function. He covers the battles between the grand masters and the chess computers. There is a chapter on a university professor who recorded every single moment of his child’s formative years by having a series of cameras all around the home. He captured the moment his son took his first steps, and the first words he uttered, and how they have used this data in developing a deeper understanding of speech development. Politics creep in to it too, politicians are great are skewing the electoral boundaries so they are guaranteed a safe seat, but people are fighting back using electoral data and a mapping tool. With this mere amateurs could bring the districts back to a fair balance of voters and give the public back democracy.

    Search is a big thing too, rather than remember things people just use Google (other search engines are available...), which is great until you have no internet connection. He considers those early adopters who have used wearable tech to record their memories and their daily events, and the methods that they use to find moments of significance. As search technology improves, locating a specific memory or event is becoming easier, but no matter how much you want it to, Google will never find your keys. Games are now much more complex than the early point and shoot ones; some modern games have layers and layers of detail and many online ones are collaborative too; to reach the end of a quest means that you have to share information and skills. Collabaration too can playa part in trawling massive amounts of data; when the parliamentary expenses scandal happened, the Guardian didn’t have enough journalists and researchers to read all 170,000 receipts, so they release them and 20,000 people went through the entire lot in four day, finding gems like the moat and the duck house.

    There are many other examples too, and it is written in a similar manner to Gladwell’s books, packed full of interesting and inspirational stories of people who are using modern digital tools, and makes for a very enjoyable and readable book.


  4. Rossdavidh Rossdavidh says:

    There has been, since the advent of ubiquitous computing and the Internet, a pretty steady drumbeat of predictions of gloom and doom. Either it will make us stupid, or it will encourage us to abandon all control over our own lives, or it will cause us to split into like-minded groupthink bubbles, or it will erode our attention span. On the other hand, there is a (smaller, but not small) counter-current pointing out similarly dire predictions at the advent of television, radio, the newspaper, widespread literacy, or the printing press.

    Clive Thompson, a columnist for Wired magazine, is obviously unlikely to think that technology is a bad thing. What makes this book more interesting than the we've heard this before, and it was always wrong kind of refutation, is that he goes in depth. This is the best kind of popular science book; one which grapples with ideas on a level that is not easily condensed into a single article (or a book review). When he talks about the effect of social media on our social lives, or the effect of search engines on human memory, he does not just give us his opinion. He not only backs his assertions up with studies on our actual behavior, he cites multiple studies, by different groups, coming at the issue from multiple directions.

    Not that the news is all good, of course. Every technology involves tradeoffs; one might even say that every human activity whatsoever involves tradeoffs. To know more people, or to know a few people better? To have more knowledge available, or to have less available but know it more in depth? To empower anyone to speak up, or to require that you have some idea what you're talking about before you get on the soapbox? Technology gives you more options, but it doesn't make those tradeoffs go away, and Thompson does a good job of helping the reader to think more clearly about just what they consist of, and why it matters.

    Of course, I read this in a paper-based, long-form medium. I doubt I would have been as interested in reading over 100,000 words in a website column. There are still topics for which a book is the best vehicle, just as there are times when walking is the best way to get there, and there are discussions which should happen in person to get the most out of them. Thompson is not averse to pointing out the problems with technoeuphoria, as well as predictions of techno-doom. But there is a more interesting middle ground between the two, where instead of the straw man positions of it's bad or it's good, you can explore, it's bad at what? and it's good at what?. The key to using new technologies well, is to figure out what they're naturally good at, and what they're not well suited to.

    There is a saying that every new technology's impact on society tends to be overestimated in the short run, and underestimated in the long run. The mass connectivity and nearly-infinite computing power of modern technology is unlikely to be an exception. Thompson's book is a welcome voice of calm and thoughtful insight, into a topic too often met with shrieks and shouting.


  5. Jen Jen says:

    I wasn't sure what this book would be like, or how I would feel about it, but I heard several recommendations for it on my book podcasts, so I thought I'd try it. And it turned out to be really intresting and serendipitously totally related to courses I am taking in my first semester of my MLIS grad program.

    My only qualm/concern about this book is how relatable it will be in a few years, some of the references are very very of the moment, and the technology obviously it. It did teach me about Snapchat, though :)

    The basic concern that Thompson throws out is that everyone says that technology is making us dumber, that we can't focus on anything because all we read is 140 character tweets, and googling everything is making us lose knowledge and we don't use our brains for anything.

    Turns out the opposite is true. Quick summaries of things I found interesting that were discussed in this book:

    -people think kids/people in general don't write anymore(prose, not physical writing with pens). Except that copious postings in online forums, fanfiction, etc totally count as writing, and people produce tons of it every year. Writing a blog and knowing you have an audience can make you a better writer.

    -there was a chapter on finding information, which is the subject of an entire class I am taking right now, and hit on the highlights of some ways of organizing info in libraries and elsewhere that I just learned about, so that was neat, and reinforcing.

    -people complain about kids playing video games, like World of Warcraft, but all that chatting and strategy actually benefits their math skills. There are kids who make insane spreadsheets about which weapons or spells defeat which enemies.

    -my favorite chapter was on ambient awareness, which is what you get from following everyone's tweets and Facebook updates. you eventually gain a broad picture of someone's life once you begin following them. People meet up in person and pick up on conversations about something one posted earlier. Couples who continually text/chat all day have a closer relationship, even if they are long-distance, from the constant awareness of what the other person is doing. You realize something is up with your friend if they normally post 10 times a day on Facebook, and then suddenly stop posting. You have an extended network of information where you might find a job or apartment from a friend of a friend of a friend because something got retweeted a few times.

    -there was also a chapter on the usefulness of crowd-sourcing help or disseminating info during a disaster. examples from the Haiti earthquake, the Arab Spring uprising, and a few others showed how powerful these tools are and things happened that just weren't possible years ago.

    Definitely worth a read if you're interesting in social networking, current tech trends, and how it can improve your life, or just what it's doing to society in general.


  6. Laura Laura says:

    I really liked this book. I had previously read The Shallows by Nicholas Carr and found it very odd. Carr went through his book describing how every time a new technology appears everyone freaks out about how it is ruining humanity, but in the end it doesn't, and it ends up being an important tool we use, and then Carr concludes but this time it is real. The internet will make us lose our ability to think deeply and this is horrible.

    Thompson on the other hand draws the more logical conclusion that the internet does cause us to think differently, but it allows us to do some powerful things that are good. He tempers this optimism with acknowledgement that the internet isn't good for everything and sometimes you need to disconnect in order to get something done, but that is how new tools work--you pick and choose how and why you use them. He then goes on to provide interesting anecdotes on what areas the internet and the power of group-think excel and where they struggle.

    Overall I found that I related very well to what he said about using computers as an extra place to store memories. I often find myself storing information in my head as search terms, versus the specific facts themselves. Another example is that I am good at math, but have a very difficult time doing math in my head. I just can't seem to hold more than a couple numbers in my head at a time. If I hadn't been allowed to use a calculator throughout school I probably would not have ended up as a computer programmer.


  7. Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin says:

    This book looks at digital technology and its effect on psychology, education, politics, and society and though nuanced in its view concludes that they are a net positive on us. I found some things in this book about how gamers, social media, online education, net activism have had remarkable success in improving our intelligence, helping our politics (although not always), and helping us socially. It has remarkable findings that new media like Khan Academy can improve student learning greatly (up to two standard deviations in academic percentile) when supplemented to ordinary teacher student interaction in the classroom and allows for what is called the flipped classroom. This is where the student is assigned lectures on Youtube to watch at their own pace and spends time working on problems in the classroom where the teacher can help students when they have trouble solving a particular problem. This is the opposite of classroom lecture and homework problem solving and may be a more efficient way to learn skills and content.
    Other areas may be in the social sphere. All those vapid posts and tweets about people's breakfast or check ins at Dunkin Donuts may be providing friend and relatives ambient knowledge about their close contacts and may be a way of understanding people in ones social circle and may ultimately improve relationships.
    One only has to bring up events in Egypt and Tunisia to see the transformative role of social networks in politics. They are not a panacea for political openness however. Government have the ability to track dissidents' contacts that the Stasi could only have dreamt about. There are complaints about slactivism or the idea that like a cause on facebook is a substitute for real commitment to change. This is not new in the eighties activist would claim that people sympathetic to their causes would merely buy a T-shirt as a political statement and that is as far as supporting a cause went. Getting people to move on a cause has always been a challenge and the net may even be slightly more effective at getting people to move on an issue than older media.
    Gaming has potential as well in education (and I have seen this myself in the classroom) students learn more about history and social studies by playing a game like civilization III and try to expand a civilation across a virtual globe and in the process gain a deep appreciation for history. Much more than a text book can provide. So this book is a good intro to the way digital media improve our lives and even points the reader to some good apps to check out.


  8. Nikhil Nikhil says:

    As the pages of this book wore on, I began to feel a vague sense of dissatisfaction for one extremely basic reason - The title misled me into reading it.

    As far as nonfiction books go, this was a first time. This book is not about how technology changes our minds for the better, but rather about how one might use technology in effective ways as well as the psychology of our behaviours online. Not that that's any less valuable to know, but I'd have had a much more comfortable time exploring it had I known the true premise.

    That being said, this book does a fairly good job of examining how we operate online and that our reliance on technology does not diminish our memory as much as we fear, but is another application of transactive memory. It brought up a few concepts I was unfamiliar with like ambient awareness and homophily, and brushed up on what I had learned about pluralistic ignorance. The examples of how Facebook users played a role in the Arab Spring and other autocratic governments were interesting.

    It's a shame that I can't rate it higher because I feel cheated about what I would learn. The newer editions of this book need a more accurate title ASAP.


  9. Pete Welter Pete Welter says:

    Historically, as Thompson points out in Smarter Than You Think, new media or thinking tools are met by some people as weakening the power of human thought by being used as intellectual crutches. The written word, the printing press, the coffee houses of Europe, the novel, the telegraph, the telephone, the Internet. Each of them were labeled at the time of their invention as making less human or less capabile in one sense or another.

    In all those cases, the world changed, but it didn't entirely change. They became integrated into our intellectual toolboxes, enabling us to offload some of the details from our brain, to make room for all the ideas that became available through new communication media.

    In this book, looks at the effect digital tools and the Internet have on way we think today, the way we solve problems, and the way we frame the world.

    * What happens we can offload significant portions of our semantic memory to external sources? (and that means not only the Internet, but also other people - finding/knowing somebody who has the information you want)

    * What affect does writing and creating for audiences that care have on the quality, the quality and the type of what we personally produce? And what does that audience look like, in size and in composition? (I really liked his term public thinking for this process).

    * What happens when you have ambient awareness - micro-updates of what people are doing - of people in your social circle and outside of it? How does that change how and what we communicate?

    * How does being highly connected change how we collaborate to solve large problems? Are there problems or ways of framing problems that enable them to be addressed by the crowd?

    * What does knowing and learning mean in an era where factual knowledge is readily available, collaborators are at our fingertips, and experimenting and playing with ideas is simple and fast?

    Smarter Than You Think looks at all of these from multiple angles, from the positive and the negative, from historical context to the state of the art.

    This book hit a sweet spot for me. While it was very readable and held my interest through out, it had enough academic references for me to follow up on and explore. In numerous cases I found myself connecting his ideas my personal experiences and observations living through the changes of our digital age. In general, his relative optimism tempered by certain cautions meshed with my own worldview pretty closely. If you are decidedly pessimistic about the role of technology in our thinking process, you might find the book doesn't match your tastes quite as well (but is still very worth reading).

    The book caused me to re-examine how much and what I should be writing and communicating online, and with whom. I need to go try more stuff, but I certainly have a few more directions to try.

    In the end, the idea that stuck with me most powerfully was:

    How should you respond when you get powerful new tools for finding answers? Think of harder questions.


  10. Jamie Jamie says:

    I think we've all come across someone clutching their figurative pearls and proclaiming that Twitter is ruining communication, or texting is wrecking youngsters' spelling, or YouTube is stunting people's attention spans. In this book, Clive Thompson provides a nice counterpoint to all this: technology is making us better. Through several chapters Thompson explores topics like how awesome it is to have external memory banks and search tools, or how online collaboration leads us not only to provide better answers, but to tackle tougher questions than we could on our own. Or how while tweeting about what you ate for lunch seems mundane, all those status updates blend together to a kind of ambient awareness that allows us to know people better and communicate with them more frequently and effectively. Or how a camera in every cell phone and easy to use blogging software allows citizens and protesters to keep their governments in check (or vice versa, unfortunately).

    What I like about the book, besides how timely it is, is how positive Thompason is without downplaying the criticisms and downsides of new technology. Yes, a lot of this seems mundane, but Thompson is skilled at peeling that away and showing you, for example, that while creating LOLCats and mashups is silly, it leads to the same kind of computer literacy and checked assumptions that allowed readers to detect digitally manipulated photos of Irania missle tests. Thompson can pick out the forest for the trees in ways that really makes you appreciate the age we live in. And the one we're heading for.


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