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Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind Hardcover – Mar 18 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; None edition (March 18 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618879641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618879649
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 15.2 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #330,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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By Brian M. Guthreau on March 24 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A great way to understand how the brain works, even if you don't know the first thing about the parts of the brain or how it works. This is a theory of his but it's based on actual science. I thought it was a great read with real life examples and common language when needed for explanation.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 12 2008
Format: Hardcover
"If it works, don't fix it!", runs the old adage. Any engineer will tell you, however, that this is false confidence. What works today may not work tomorrow when conditions change. Animal brains worked for many millions of years. Then Homo sapiens arose somewhere in Africa with an enlarged, busy brain. Combined with walking and handiness, that brain accomplished - and still accomplishes - wondrous things. Until you wonder where you left your car keys. Gary Marcus, in this fluidly written review, backed by a wealth of references, explains how the workings of our brain have been built up over time, with bits added or enhanced through the ages. It makes us a unique species, but it's anything but a fine design. Instead it's what engineers call a "kluge" - an inelegant, marginally efficient product of evolutionary bits cobbled together well enough to get the job done.

Using the fact of our brains having an evolutionary foundation, Marcus shows how Shakespeare's and the Bible's depictions of the brain are flawed. We have poor, erratic memories, we make irrational decisions, and we'll believe things that are patently untrue - sometimes with real tenacity. Our brains are built up from very ancient structures, probably using the same processes, with added complexity developing over time ["This worked last time, but it's not working now. Cobble something up to fix it."]. Knowing that readers might be overwhelmed with data overload [our memories can't handle it!], the author focusses on a half-dozen aspects of brain "design" demonstrating the positive features and the shortfalls. Memory, Belief, Choice, Language, Pleasure and "Things Fall Apart" - distractions. In each case, he explains how the system is usually depicted, what might be the ideal process, and how it actually works.
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17 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Too Soon Old on April 29 2008
Format: Hardcover
In this book, Gary Marcus, a professor of psychology at NYU, likens the human brain to what engineers call a KLUGE, "a clumsy or inelegant - but surprisingly effective - solution to a problem". However a KLUGE "is rarely reliable" and "they are designed for the moment not a lifetime." The use of the word KLUGE is of course really just a hook to grab the attention of potential readers and give a catchy name to a hypothesis which he rationalizes as being a case for what he perceives to be imperfections in the human brain. As an owner of one of these brains I must protest this unfair characterization of it being clumsy and inelegant.

The book begins as an interesting and thought provoking exploration of what the author sees as the shortcomings in the brain's ability to reason and use logic. He makes his case with examples of the many ways humans fail to make what he deems should be rational decisions. Unfortunately the standard by which he makes his judgments, that the brain should be a purely reasoning and logical thing with the "addressable memory" of computers, and precise language, is really only a creation of his imagination and definitely not something that would work in a world filled with other irrational humans, living in a heuristic and chance determined universe in which nothing can be ever be one hundred percent certain except death. (Even the rich can avoid taxes.
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