[ View menu ]

Archive

new book – ‘The Well-Tuned Brain: Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived’ by Peter C. Whybrow

May 8, 2015

The Well-Tuned Brain

The Well-Tuned Brain: Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived by Peter C. Whybrow (W.W. Norton & Co., 2015)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

In this optimistic and inspiring book, Peter Whybrow, the prize-winning author of American Mania, returns to offer a prescription for genuine human progress.

The Well-Tuned Brain is a call to action. Swept along by the cascading advances of today’s technology, most of us take for granted that progress brings improvement. Despite spectacular material advance, however, the evidence grows that we are failing to create a sustainable future for humanity. We are out of tune with the planet that nurtures us.

Technology itself is not the problem, as Whybrow explains, but rather our behavior. Throughout its evolution the ancient brain that guides us each day has been focused on short-term survival. But fortunately we are intensely social creatures. Without the caring behaviors that flow from intimate attachments to others, we would be relying on a brain that is only marginally adapted to the complexity of the problems we must now face together. Today we must grapple with survival, not in its immediacy but over the long term.

The first step in finding our way forward is to reexamine who we are as creatures of this planet. To this end, Whybrow takes us on a fascinating tour of self-discovery, drawing extensively upon his decades of experience as a psychiatrist and his broad knowledge of neuroscience and human behavior.

Illustrated throughout with engaging personal stories, the book’s trove of cutting-edge science is enriched by philosophical, historical, and cultural perspectives. What emerges is a summons to rediscover the essential virtues of earlier nurturing, of mentored education, and an engagement with the natural world through curiosity and imagination.

Neuroscience can open the search for a better future. But technology alone will not save us. To achieve success we will need the strength and wisdom of our better nature as humane social beings.

See also: Author’s webpage

Comments (0) - new books,psychology

new book – ‘The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Cosmos’ by Leonard Mlodinow

May 7, 2015

The Upright Thinkers

The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Cosmos by Leonard Mlodinow (Pantheon, 2015)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

A few million years ago, our ancestors came down from the trees and began to stand upright, freeing our hands to create tools and our minds to grapple with the world around us.

Leonard Mlodinow takes us on a passionate and inspiring tour through the exciting history of human progress and the key events in the development of science. In the process, he presents a fascinating new look at the unique characteristics of our species and our society that helped propel us from stone tools to written language and through the birth of chemistry, biology, and modern physics to today’s technological world.

Along the way he explores the cultural conditions that influenced scientific thought through the ages and the colorful personalities of some of the great philosophers, scientists, and thinkers: Galileo, who preferred painting and poetry to medicine and dropped out of university; Isaac Newton, who stuck needlelike bodkins into his eyes to better understand changes in light and color; and Antoine Lavoisier, who drank nothing but milk for two weeks to examine its effects on his body. Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, and many lesser-known but equally brilliant minds also populate these pages, each of their stories showing how much of human achievement can be attributed to the stubborn pursuit of simple questions (why? how?), bravely asked.

The Upright Thinkers is a book for science lovers and for anyone interested in creative thinking and in our ongoing quest to understand our world. At once deeply informed, accessible, and infused with the author’s trademark wit, this insightful work is a stunning tribute to humanity’s intellectual curiosity.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s website

Comments (0) - human evolution,new books

new book – ‘Practices of Selfhood’ by Zygmunt Bauman and Rein Raud

May 5, 2015

Practices of Selfhood

Practices of Selfhood by Zygmunt Bauman and Rein Raud (Polity, 2015)

(amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

Contemporary understanding of human subjectivity has come a long way since the Cartesian ‘thinking thing’ or Freud’s view of the self struggling with its unconscious. We no longer think of ourselves as stable and indivisible units or combinations thereof – instead, we see the self as constantly reinvented and reorganised in interaction with others and with its social and cultural environments. But the world in which we live today is one of uncertainty where nothing can be taken for granted. Coping with change is a challenge but it also presents new opportunities.

Uncertainty can be both liberating and oppressive. How does an individual understand her or his position in the world? Are we as human beings determined by our genetic heritage, social circumstances and cultural preferences, or are we free in our choices? How does selfhood emerge? Does it follow the same pattern of development in all people, all cultures, all ages? Or is it a socio-cultural construction that cannot be understood outside its historical context? Are the patterns of selfhood fundamentally changing in the present world? Does new technology allow us more autonomy or does it tempt us to give up the freedoms we have?

These are the questions that Zygmunt Bauman and Rein Raud explore in their engaging and wide-ranging dialogue, combining their competences in sociology, philosophy and cultural theory to look at how selfhood is produced in social practice, through language, efforts of self-presentation and self-realisation as well as interaction with others. An indispensable text for understanding the complexities of selfhood in our contemporary liquid-modern world.

Conversation between Zygmunt Bauman and Rein Raud (on modernity):

Comments (0) - new books,self

new book – ‘Cool: How the Brain’s Hidden Quest for Cool Drives Our Economy and Shapes Our World’ by Steven Quartz and Anette Asp

April 27, 2015

Cool

Cool: How the Brain’s Hidden Quest for Cool Drives Our Economy and Shapes Our World by Steven Quartz and Anette Asp (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk),

Book description from the publisher:

If you have ever wondered why SUVs replaced minivans, how one rap song turned the cognac industry upside down, or what gives Levi’s jeans their iconic allure, look no further-in Cool, Steven Quartz and Anette Asp finally explain the fascinating science behind unexpected trends and enduring successes.
We live in a world of conspicuous consumption, where the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, and the food we eat lead double lives: they don’t merely satisfy our needs; they also communicate our values, identities, and aspirations. In Beverly Hills, tourists flock to the famous Rodeo Drive-not to shop, but simply to take photographs of themselves in front of luxury stores. And for one week in August, hundreds of thousands of HarleyDavidson fans from all over the world descend on the remote town of Sturgis, South Dakota, and engulf the otherwise sleepy hamlet in the deafening roar of motorcycle engines. Why do brands inspire such devotion?
Quartz and Asp bring together groundbreaking findings in neuroscience, economics, and evolutionary biology to present a new understanding of why we consume and how our concepts of what is “cool”-be it designer jeans, smartphones, or craft beer-help drive the global economy. The authors highlight the underlying neurological and cultural processes that contribute to our often unconscious decision making, explaining how we’re able to navigate the supermarket on autopilot for certain items and yet arrive at the checkout counter with a basket full of products picked up on the spur of the moment. And they explore the opposite side of the consumer equation-the “choice architects” who design store interiors and the “coolhunters” who scour Berlin and Tokyo on the lookout for the latest trends. Through a novel combination of cultural and economic history and in-depth studies of the brain, Cool puts forth a provocative theory of consumerism that reveals the crucial missing links in an understanding of our spending habits: our brain’s status-seeking “social calculator” and an instinct to rebel that fuels our dislike of being subordinated by others. Quartz and Asp show how these ancient motivations make us natural-born consumers and how they sparked the emergence of “cool consumption” in the middle of the twentieth century, creating new lifestyle choices and routes to happiness. Examining how cool was reshaped in the 1990s by a changing society and the Internet, they unpack the social motivations behind today’s hip, ethical consumption, arguing that we should embrace, rather than deny, the power of consumerism.
Taking us from Norman Mailer to normcore, Cool is surprising at every turn, and will forever change the way you think about money, status, desire, happiness, and choice.

Google Books preview:

Comments (0) - cognitive science,culture,new books,psychology

new book – ‘Consciousness, Attention, and Conscious Attention’ by Carlos Montemayor and Harry Haladjian

April 26, 2015

Consciousness, Attention, and Conscious Attention

Consciousness, Attention, and Conscious Attention by Carlos Montemayor and Harry Haladjian (MIT Press, 2015)

(amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

In this book, Carlos Montemayor and Harry Haladjian consider the relationship between consciousness and attention. The cognitive mechanism of attention has often been compared to consciousness, because attention and consciousness appear to share similar qualities. But, Montemayor and Haladjian point out, attention is defined functionally, whereas consciousness is generally defined in terms of its phenomenal character without a clear functional purpose. They offer new insights and proposals about how best to understand and study the relationship between consciousness and attention by examining their functional aspects. The book’s ultimate conclusion is that consciousness and attention are largely dissociated.

Undertaking a rigorous analysis of current empirical and theoretical work on attention and consciousness, Montemayor and Haladjian propose a spectrum of dissociation — a framework that identifies the levels of dissociation between consciousness and attention — ranging from identity to full dissociation. They argue that conscious attention, the focusing of attention on the contents of awareness, is constituted by overlapping but distinct processes of consciousness and attention. Conscious attention, they claim, evolved after the basic forms of attention, increasing access to the richest kinds of cognitive contents.

Montemayor and Haladjian’s goal is to help unify the study of consciousness and attention across the disciplines. A focused examination of conscious attention will, they believe, enable theoretical progress that will further our understanding of the human mind.

Google Books preview:

Comments (0) - consciousness,new books