What a wonderful, wonderful little book. It started off a bit dry and not very engaging but a chapter or two in it started to build intellectual momenWhat a wonderful, wonderful little book. It started off a bit dry and not very engaging but a chapter or two in it started to build intellectual momentum. Donella Meadows was, in a word (which I don't think I've ever actually used to describe a real person), wise. Her breadth and depth of understanding of a wide range of systems is incredible, her analogies and explanations are both accessible and spot on, and her entire outlook is quite simply, reasonable. It would be a better world if this were required reading for all. Overall, a gentle entry into what can be an intimidating field of thought (systems theory)....more
How can a paltry 30,000 genes code for the production of a human being with its trillions of cells, each cell itself an exquisitely complex assembly oHow can a paltry 30,000 genes code for the production of a human being with its trillions of cells, each cell itself an exquisitely complex assembly of interacting organelles, microstructures and molecules? It would seem there wouldn't be enough information contained in such a small number of instructions. Marcus does a masterful job explaining how this so called "gene deficit" is simply a result of thinking of genes the wrong way. The genome is not a blueprint or otherwise static list of instructions; it is a "recipe" for how individual agents (the genes) should interact using simple local rules. The complexity of the body and mind emerge from these interactions through time in dynamic relation with the environment. I have read no better explanation of how genes *really* work. Marcus explodes simplistic notions of deterministic genetic blueprints while painting a satisfying portrait of the true relationship between nature and nurture - as inseparable aspects of the same developmental process. His discussion about how genes build brains (and hence thought) is almost secondary. His main point is that the processes (and genes) that go into building brains and maintaining their function through life are fundamentally no different than those that go into building every other aspect of us. Where this book truly shines, brilliantly, is in elucidating that general developmental process.
At 180ish pages this book is condensed goodness - erudite, educational and entertaining. Loved it. Marcus is one of my favorite new scientists. ...more
If only the author had stopped after part 1, this would have been an amazing book. His discussion of the history of evolutionary thought and its relatIf only the author had stopped after part 1, this would have been an amazing book. His discussion of the history of evolutionary thought and its relation to various systems theories, as well as his explication of his pet "Synergism Hypothesis" was excellent. Corning has a gift for revealing the reductionist/linear thinking emperor's lack of clothes in the face of any complex system where causes form a matrix of relationships rather than a direct line.
But then the book continues, disjointedly, boringly, and not at all convincingly into social and ethical realms where Corning doesn't really have anything all that profound to say. If I didn't have a pathological need to finish every book I started, I would have (and in retrospect should have) quit reading long before the end of the book. In any event, I'd still highly recommend reading part 1, just skip the rest.
While this book provides a great introduction to thinking of cognition in dynamic systems terms, it is incredibly myopic in its treatment of the phenoWhile this book provides a great introduction to thinking of cognition in dynamic systems terms, it is incredibly myopic in its treatment of the phenomenon. The authors write as if humans were the only species on the planet and that studying learning within the lifetime of an individual were the only way to understand cognitive development. A brief analysis of learning in just about any other species would uncover cognitive development that is much more "hardwired" and stereotyped. A butterfly doesn't go through the same processes the authors describe to learn how to navigate its world, yet it navigates its world quite successfully. This is because learning processes similar to those the authors describe happen across vastly different timescales; not just within the lives of individuals but across the lives of generations. Evolution by natural selection carves the channels of interactions between neural systems which lead to both the more stereotyped behavior of other species and the basis of our own learning. ...more
The first 2/3 of the book is dry and technically challenging. The last third, when Bohm starts discussing implicate and explicate order, is one long bThe first 2/3 of the book is dry and technically challenging. The last third, when Bohm starts discussing implicate and explicate order, is one long beautiful mindgasm. I believe Einstein was right when he said "God doesn't play dice," and Bohm has the answer regarding why....more