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Things That Make Us Smart: Defending Human Attributes In The Age Of The Machine
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Things That Make Us Smart: Defending Human Attributes In The Age Of The Machine

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  360 ratings  ·  22 reviews
In Things That Make Us Smart, Donald A. Norman explores the complex interaction between human thought and the technology it creates, arguing for the development of machines that fit our minds, rather than minds that must conform to the machine.Humans have always worked with objects to extend our cognitive powers, from counting on our fingers to designing massive supercompu ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 21st 1994 by Basic Books (first published 1993)
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Dec 03, 2017 rated it liked it
"Many of the important parts of life go on outside the head, in our interactions with the world...with each other." (Donald Norman, Things That Make Us Smart, pg 117)

"[T]hose who benefit most from a technology and those who must do the work to make it function are different people." (pg 216)

In this 1993 book Norman observed, and mourned, that human experience has become subject to the calculating rhetoric of modern technology. Many tasks and experiences that people regularly engaged in had been
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
20 stars out of 10.

Hot DAMN. Everyone in tech should read this book. It should be mandatory if you are starting any kind of job in technology, particularly if you work with social networks. The main thrust is that there are things computers are good at, and things people are good at, and these are two different kinds of things, and for people who work with computers, they need to approach computer programs and interfaces with humans in mind first.

This book is from 1993 and predicts:

+filter bu
Aug 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Definitely worth reading - my copy is now dense with Post-It flags - but the overall structure and coherence was not great. The latter half of the book felt like Donald Norman scavenged whatever writings he had on hand to hit his deadline. Mostly it was still interesting, but some chapters (especially the chapter on predicting future trends in technology) felt like an annoying diversion from the theme of designing-for-the-human instead designing-for-the-machine.

Cited in Toward a Theory of Design
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it

Norman is such a pleasure to read. His prose style is light and easy, he has brilliant examples, and he mints some very useful concepts. The Things That Make Us Smart picks up many of the themes of The Design of Everyday Things, but gives them a different emphasis. DOET focussed on physical artefacts like plugs and door handles, whereas TTMUS focusses on information technology. DOET focussed, rather humorously, on design failures. TTMUS is more abstract and general, as Norman tries to explain ho

Stuart Macalpine
Dec 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
A really interesting topic, which explores how cognitive artefacts can support thinking and make us smarter. As someone who loves to use lots of these tools, and generally covers their windows in post-it notes, much of this resonated with me. The essential point is that any cognitive artefact, from a sketch on paper to a complex computer program, has three attributes: it has affordances, which is what it lets you do, such as the ability to quickly compare size or importance; It has limitations, ...more
Abhilash Gopalakrishnan
May 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dan the Guru of Design Brings us to get to understand how as human race we are smarter and continue to be. The attributes would help us defend when automation can overpower us in many areas. Important to read to make yourself comfortable that we will win the race!
Tyra Baker
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredible and very quick read. Would suggest everyone reads this at least once in their life.
Mike Murray
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written, very good insights about how the world influence the view of people.
Sep 05, 2007 rated it liked it
I've had this book sitting around for awhile - I'd read Norman's The Design of Everyday Things (originally titled The Psychology of Everyday Things) sometime last summer and really enjoyed it.

Things That Make Us Smart is more scholarly - discussing the viewpoint that technology should adapt to us, instead of the current state where we are adapting to technology. The majority of the book discusses experiential vs. reflective experiences and how we can harness technology's strengths and "affordan
Yates Buckley
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essential
Donald Norman’s work opens the mind to a vast space of science that is still nascent at the boundary of Psychology, Neuroscience, Computer Science and the intangibles of Design and Computer Human Interaction.

Most of all the refreshing perspective is how much room there is for different kinds of methodology in study, which could be as simple as qualitative research from reporting one’s sensation to quantitative studies worked around specific questions.

And most importantly the perspective is a hum
Aug 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: work
It is amazing that this was written in 1993. That is a few years before many people had internet access. Except for a few sections and anecdotes that talk about the state of the art in '93, this book could have been written yesterday.

The premise is that people and machines are good at different tasks and we waste much time trying to get each to behave like the other. The author argues for a human centered view of technology where the machines conform to us rather than the other way around.
Jaco Delport
Mar 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Using tools such as writhing to extend our intelligence, very thoughtful observation.

As an engineering major I can definitely relate, it is nearly impossible to analyse an engineering problem with many variables without the tool of pen and paper to extend your working memory and a calculator to automate tedious arithmetic.

Very good book. Examples are outdated but principles still apply.
Sep 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: cognitivescience
Raises key points about our attitudes towards machines and ourselves. Artefacts and human-centred design. Generally well written.
Norman also makes some surprisingly accurate (and of course some blatantly failing) predictions about technology usage.
Darwin Sass
Apr 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
I first read this book probably 12+ years ago. I've read it once since then. I remember it teaching some very key points that can help many non-IT people understand why a software development requirement that may appear to be very simple ends up being a very difficult implementation. ...more
Feb 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Delightful! Being human in a world of technology: perhaps a more critical account of the phenomenon than Neil Postman's. Both Norman and Postman are brilliant, but Norman's I think makes a sharper point for a more critical audience. Enjoyed the read. ...more
Jun 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
Just admit the machines have won already!

Heh, kidding aside, it had a few interesting ideas, but it wasn't as well thought out or explained as his more famous works.
Jul 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Beau geste!
May 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015, checked-out
Halfway through the book I still felt as if I were reading a prologue. A general idea here, another one there, but not much substance. An average post of provides more food for thought.
May 09, 2013 rated it liked it
outdated but interesting
Jan 16, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: textbooks
Just purchased this for a class. No reviews yet!?! Any Good?
Sergiusz Golec
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Apr 18, 2015
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Jun 11, 2014
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Aug 05, 2019
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Jul 24, 2014
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Feb 25, 2019
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Aug 17, 2011
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Nov 14, 2014
Filippo Camillo
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Aug 31, 2013
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Donald Arthur Norman is a professor emeritus of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego and a Professor of Computer Science at Northwestern University, where he also co-directs the dual degree MBA + Engineering degree program between the Kellogg school and Northwestern Engineering. Norman is on numerous company advisory boards, including the editorial board of Encyclopædia Bri ...more

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