*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.
The main argument: As much as we rely on our brains to navigate the complex world before us, anyone who has ever forgotten someone's name, or misread a situation, or made a poor decision in the heat of the moment knows that the brain does not always work as we would want. In his new book `Brain Bugs', neurobiologist Dean Buonomano explores the brain's many pitfalls and mistakes (and how and why it makes them), and also offers up some advice on how we can best manage these so called `brain bugs' in our everyday lives.
Buonomano identifies 3 major sources whence brain bugs originate. The first has to do with the fact that our brains are the product of evolution, and have evolved as they have to answer the specific challenges that we faced in our evolutionary history; therefore, while our brains may be well adapted to perform functions that were particularly important in our survival and reproduction in the environment in which our species evolved, they may not do as well at functions which, though handy, did not figure as prominently in our evolutionary past (remembering names seems to fall under this category). The second source of our brain bugs may be attributed to the fact that while evolution has brought us a host of useful mental abilities that have allowed us to survive and thrive, it is still a rather clumsy process, and as such does not always offer up perfect, or even optimal solutions; thus the mental systems that we have are sometimes prone to error and quirky behaviour (hence optical illusions, the ever raging and somewhat awkward battle between our reason and our impulses, and a number of other interesting effects). Finally, the third source of our brain bugs stems from the fact that while many of the brain systems that we have inherited were well adapted to the environment in which our species evolved, this environment has changed considerably in the recent past, to the point where some of the adaptations themselves may be ineffective and even counter-productive today (our craving of sugary, fatty foods, for instance, would have been very useful in the environment in which we evolved--where starvation was much more of a threat than heart disease, but can be positively disastrous in the modern world, where the opposite is more often the case). A full executive summary of the book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.