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This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking
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This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  4,298 ratings  ·  237 reviews
Featuring a foreword by David Brooks, This Will Make You Smarter presents brilliant—but accessible—ideas to expand every mind.

What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit? This is the question John Brockman, publisher of, posed to the world’s most influential thinkers. Their visionary answers flow from the frontiers of psychology, philosophy
Paperback, 399 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by Harper Perennial (first published 2012)
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This Will Make You Smarter is a challenging book that leaves you with a lot to think about. The essays are short — some shorter than a single page — that cover interesting scientific concepts, new and old ideas to help us think about the world.

The founder and publisher of the online science salon,, John Brockman, does a great job editing this collection, turning more than 100 essays on a wide range of topics into a coherent manuscript that works its way across the spectrum. You start ou
Graham Herrli
The question of 2011 was "What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?" Many of the world's most famous thinkers responded to it, and their responses are compiled in this book in one-to-four-page essays organized thematically.

It's somewhat ironic that although the book is a collection of the ideas of "great minds," many of the essays emphasize the importance of not trusting authority.

Debates over climate change and creationism were mentioned often enough to beco
Edge is an organisation that promotes the spreading of cultural and scientific knowledge to a general public. Every year they pose a general philosophical question and publish some of the best answers by prominent intellectuals. This book contains the answers to the proposition: "Which new scientific concept should belong to everyone's conceptual toolkit?"

In bundling the answers, the editor made one unfortunate mistake. He grouped them thematically. Since many researchers promote the same concep
Ben Lever
It didn't.

No, in all seriousness, I think this book would have been quite good for me about five years ago - many of the cognitive tools they bring up are indeed very useful. But this book suffers from having too many authors - so for one thing there is quite a lot of redundancy, as multiple people advocate very similar principles, which often overlap with the essays of others, and for another thing everyone was limited to an average of two pages, so there isn't enough room to say anything with
Each essay is only 3-5 pages, making this a great book to pick up when you have a few minutes of free time and want a little bit of intellectual stimulation. That said, some essays were great and thought-provoking, but others were painfully dull and a chore to get through.
Apr 06, 2013 Nat added it
I read this because I wanted to think about how to write accessible, sexy-sounding prose to use in grant proposals. It contains plenty of both good and bad examples of how to make complicated ideas sound exciting to non-experts. The social psychologists and pop-minded economists are the masters of this particular skill. Basically they can just present a couple of examples of goofy human behavior and their job is done. (Though there is also a nice entry on "Anecdotalism", which points out the pro ...more
Butch Hamilton
It started with good intentions and bought into the title. After one hundred pages in, I had to put it down. Why? The more I read, the dumber I got. Hoping to get a brain implant - saw one on Craigslist denoted as A.B. Normal - so I can finish it and restore any self-esteem I have left. . .

. . .the new cranium must have helped because I can discuss collective intelligence, defeasibilty, and Black Swan technologies with some modicum of confidence. The cover's secondary title is "New Scientific Co
Oleg Kagan
This collection of short riffs by leading scientists reads like a collection of memes. If you stay on the pulse of TED Talks, popular science books, and tech/science magazines then you have probably heard of many of the authors in this book and have likely already read about their ideas.

It's neat to scan, but the staggering insights you were looking for are not here.
The author asked many famous people, "What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?"

The idea intrigued me; from each successful, "famous" person, what single thing is it important for people to know? It seemed like the book would be full of good advice.

However, I didn't enjoy reading it. I suppose all the concepts were scientific ones, which didn't interest me. None of the writers (I only read a few. I didn't read the whole book.) spoke about why or how their particular co
Rick Barnes
The best compilation of essays on scientific concepts and the importance of critical thinking I have read to date.
Morgan Blackledge
Brockman is the prince of nurd pimps. He's got all the big brained studs in his stable. He's a rock star of science lit agents (who even knew you could be that). I fuckin hate dinner parties and that kind of stuff. But I would love to attend one of Brockman's wing dings. He's bros with the smartest, most interesting people in the world.

Anyway. He's cranking out these little essay books and they're all really good. The way it works is he periodically asks all of his crew to write short (usually o
This Will Make You Smarter: 150 New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking by John Brockman

"This Will Make You Smarter" is a thought-provoking book of scientific essays brought to you by The Edge that provides readers with better tools to think about the world. The Edge is an organization that presents original ideas by today's leading thinkers from a wide spectrum of scientific fields. The 2011 Edge question is, "What Scientific Concept Would Improve Everybody's Cognitive Toolkit?" This w
Dan Thompson
This is one of the annual Edge Question books, where the Edge website asks several prominent thinkers an interesting question. The result is a collection of short essays answering that question. Past questions have included “What do you believe but cannot prove?”, “ What have you changed your mind about?”, and my favorite so far, “What are you optimistic about?” The question that spawned this book was “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?”

Like most of these Edge
Cynthia Ryan
I approached this book with some caution - but fortunately, using Kindle preview, you can try before you buy.

This is a book to be read in short bursts and digested. Since most of the 'chapters' are from one to three pages in length, that's easy. You will definitely want to savor each, since they can really challenge your assumptions, and give you a lot to consider.

The speakers/writers are notable scientists and thinkers and their ideas range from changes in national policy to simple things the
Karl Nordstrom
This book has a pretentious title. I prefer the original question: "What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?" A long list of deep thinkers were asked this question and they each provide a brief answer in this book. If you would like to read it for free, you can find their answers on under the title of the original question.

The book is pretty interesting. If you're already a scientific thinker, then you will be familiar with many of the ideas. I found it to be
The book is just a printed collection of one page blog entries from edge. com in response to their now famous annual question. Well, wrong medium and rather disappointing uniformity of thought - stick to edge online during your lunch break.

A few themes come up over and over again - complexity, unpredictability, evolutionary biology, cognitive biases. While these subjects are certainly intellectually stimulating and while i like other longer works by a handful of the participating authors , readi
To read my review in my Spanish blog; click here:
There more than 150 bits of very valuable knowledge in this book. There are reflections on time; space science; physics; ethics; death; knowledge; learning; perspective; perception; etc. I liked that every articla was maximum two pages; and that the authors of each article made a real effort to be as clear as possible. I would like to have read a book with more quality in the printing or the quality of the
Bastian Greshake
I guess I expected too much from this book, given its not so humble title. The selection of topics is okay. But if you've been into the science blogosphere and/or TED for a while you will probably be familiar with most of the ideas presented in the book already.

The essays are all really short, most are not longer than a typical blogpost. For many topics a bit more background to the ideas would have been a good thing. If you want a crash course in modern scientific ideas (without actually learni
This book did make me smarter, but then again... Don't all books do that in some way? Overall, the essays were well organized and flowed from one topic to the next. The book was DEFINITELY elitist, and some of the essays were so condescending to nonscientists that they made me wonder if the authors were living in a bubble. There were some fantastic essays too, and I think the book could have been shortened to focus on those ideas.

Major focuses: using data in everyday life, how your brain works,
Bruno Santiago
Very nice collection of essays. I recommend for anyone with background in sciences or those who likes sciences overall.

It is a very good read for short periods of waiting, like my daily ~12 minute ride on the subway, when I could read ~2 essays per ride.

Not every essay is good, but most of them were good enough. About 40 of them are top notch and marked for future rereading. My favorite on was Kakonomics by Gloria Origgi.
Rick Mccaffrey
While I appreciate the myriad of topics this book covers, none of the information was earth shattering and "made me smarter" Anyone that has read a few books about general educational topics, and/or who has taken a few college classes outside of their major probably knows most of the "new concepts" presented in this book. I would not recommend this book for anyone that is more than a "level one" reader in psychology, physics, history, etc. Instead read A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bil ...more
This will make you smarter. Weh?

Well, if knowing the words Copernican principle, gedankenexperiment, or nexus causality will make you sound smarter, er, smarter, then grab it. The book offers a wide array of answers to the Edge Question 2011: "What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?"

The essays are grouped topically. Two flaws of putting into a book a number of different field specialists: (1) some authors basically repeat what the other authors have said (2) some aut
The wide variety of perspectives in this book make it extremely valuable and nuanced. If anything, it provides pages upon pages of serious food for thought centered around the concept of something that would improve everyone's "cognitive toolkit". Some answers are clearly aimed at those who are already steeped in the science field (aka jargon-heavy) and some are extremely accessible, but that's too be expected.

There are a few small advisories and suggestions I'd have for this book:

1. While great
Of uneven quality, as all collections are.

Some common themes (full post ,a href="http://assemblingimaginations.blogspo...

1. Doubt and Experimentation. Instead of treating what we're told as a given, we should see for ourselves the results of actions.

2. Statistics and Probability. A better understanding of risk, probability, uncertainty, would help us worry about the right things--the small, constant dangers (like carbon emissions)--rather than the headline-grabbing but unlikely perils (terroris
Another book club selection - led to a great discussion. Reading it felt like a great review of graduate methods classes. Was a bit annoyed by the brevity of the selections. Some days I loved it, other days was rolling my eyes.
Aug 26, 2015 Brittany marked it as abandoned

This book will make you smarter because you have to look up at least one word per page, in the dictionary.

I gave up on page 33 when I read "nexus causality, moral warfare and misattribution arbitrage".
Upon flipping a few pages simply to get past that chapter I found myself asking, myself, what is the point of this book. So I flipped to the beginning and found the basic sentence that fueled this book: "what scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?".
And found the inability

A teensy bit, perhaps. About 10% of the essays introduced concepts sufficiently new and relevant to me to make the entire slog (and it was a slog at times) worthwhile. The clustering of related essays proved to be one of the more interesting aspects of the book, as novel facets were highlighted by practitioners operating from different standpoints. And there were some recurrent themes that popped up again and again, e.g. importance of considering multiple causes for events, rather than simply la ...more
Michael Zhang
Ugly name, beautiful content.
not smarter a bit but annoyed
Chris Hellstrom
At least I hope it did.
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With a broad career spanning the fields of art, science, books, software and the Internet. In 1960 he established the bases for "intermedia kinetic environments" in art, theatre and commerce, while consulting for clients such as General Electric, Columbia Pictures, The Pentagon, The White House... In 1973 he formed his own literary and software agency. He is founder of the Edge Foundation and edit ...more
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