Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind Hardcover – Apr 1 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Why are we subject to irrational beliefs, inaccurate memories, even war? We can thank evolution, Marcus says, which can only tinker with structures that already exist, rather than create new ones: Natural selection... tends to favor genes that have immediate advantages rather than long-term value. Marcus (The Birth of the Mind), director of NYU's Infant Language Learning Center, refers to this as kluge, a term engineers use to refer to a clumsily designed solution to a problem. Thus, memory developed in our prehominid ancestry to respond with immediacy, rather than accuracy; one result is erroneous eyewitness testimony in courtrooms. In describing the results of studies of human perception, cognition and beliefs, Marcus encapsulates how the mind is contaminated by emotions, moods, desires, goals, and simple self-interest.... The mind's fragility, he says, is demonstrated by mental illness, which seems to have no adaptive purpose. In a concluding chapter, Marcus offers a baker's dozen of suggestions for getting around the brain's flaws and achieving true wisdom. While some are self-evident, others could be helpful, such as Whenever possible, consider alternate hypotheses and Don't just set goals. Make contingency plans. Using evolutionary psychology, Marcus educates the reader about mental flaws in a succinct, often enjoyable way. (Apr. 16)
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"Marcus's emphasis on the peculiar quirks of our minds -- or odd decisions and weird interpretations -- makes for a fascinating, self-referential read...Marcus's book makes "kluge" an indispensable term for explaining the human mind." (Seed )
"Invigorating fun...inspired, one of those unexpected analogies that help us look at everything afresh." (New York Times Book Review )
"A shot across the bow of intelligent design." (Kirkus Reviews ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
You will know yourself and others better once you have read this book, and will have some hints on how you can work around our weak spots. If you find the subject interesting, however, you will need to read some others, but no surprise as this follows from Gary's first piece of advice on what to do about the kluges: "Whenever possible, consider alternative hypotheses".
Most recent customer reviews
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. Read morePublished on March 24 2013 by Brian M. Guthreau
This book is its own best argument for the haphazard, meandering quality of the human brain and the human thinking process. Read morePublished on Sept. 26 2009 by Barton Breen
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