“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances” – William Shakespeare
In I Is An Other, James Geary explores the power of metaphor and its pervasiveness in everyday life, arguing that it is not just a literary device but fundamental to human thought across domains as diverse as economics, advertising, politics, psychology and many more. Metaphor is “essential to how we communicate, learn, discover, and invent”.
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Douglas Hofsatdter’s first book, Godel, Escher, Bach, had a profound influence on me while I was at university. First published in 1979, I don’t remember when I first read the book. but have since re-read more than once (and it’s not a short book!).
In the book, Hofstadter explores common themes in the lives and works of Kurt Godel (logician), M.C.Escher (artist) and Johann Sebastian Bach (musician), drawing out concepts fundamental to mathematics, symmetry, intelligence and philosophy of mind. Specifically, Hofstadter discusses how self-reference and formal rules allow systems to develop meanings which ‘emerge’ from the system however meaningless the individual elements of that system. That is, the book describes how thinking emerges from the mechanics of neurons firing, creating a unified sense of self, in the same way that a colony of ants self-organises to produce social behaviours which ‘emerge’ from the acts of individual ants. Read more »
“An illusion, however convincing, is still an illusion.” – Philip K. Dick (paraphrased)
Watching an old movie of yourself or looking at an old picture, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine the person you see in the frame. You recognise the image, and perhaps can recall something about the occasion, but (for me if I am honest) it can often be difficult to fully identify with the person you see. Identity changes over time, and although you look at a picture and know that it is you, you also know that that version of ‘you’ is different to the version of you that is looking at the image and contemplating who is there. Read more »
The brain science of marketing
In his recent book Brainfluence, Roger Dooley shares 100 tricks for persuading and convincing consumers based on a wide range of evidence from neuromarketing and many other fields such as psychology and behavioural economics. The examples are well documented and overall this is a much more practical, structured and sound guide to brain science of marketing than many other books (including notably Buyology which is less structured and poorly documented). Read more »
The New York Times reports some interesting findings on the phenomenon of decision fatigue in a recent article which is well worth reading for those who are burdened by a continuous stream of data, meetings and decision making. Not only is this bad for you and your brain, it means that you end up making really bad decisions which are not in your (or your business’s) best interests! Read more »
An article on the BBC news website, discusses IBM’s latest development in artificial intelligence, which is modelled on the way that the brain is wired via neural connections which build and strengthen but also adapt and change over time, making the brain plastic and malleable (read about brain plasticity here). The computer chips used by IBM are capable of rewiring their connections when they encounter new information, in a similar way as that which it is believed biological synapses use in the brain. Read more »
“Champions know that success is inevitable; that there is no such thing as failure, only feedback. They know that the best way to forecast the future is to create it.” – Michael J. Gelb
The way in which our mind processes visual information is a miniature version of the way in which it processes all kinds of information, with multiple layers of processing and continuous feedback loops being used to construct an internal mental reality which most effectively helps us to maximize rewards from the external world. That is, consciousness is merely a system for using feedback to help us create the future.
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“Brain researchers estimate that your unconscious database outweighs the conscious on an order exceeding ten million to one. This database is the source of your hidden, natural genius. In other words, a part of you is much smarter than you are. The wise people regularly consult that smarter part.” - Michael J. Gelb
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“Anyone who has begun to think places some portion of the world in jeopardy.” - John Dewey
You can learn a lot from the game of Jeopardy! as revealed in a recent blog by Jonah Lehrer and the original work by IBM, who have spent years building a “question answering” machine called Watson, in the quest to develop artificial intelligence. While Watson performs impressively, (s)he has some significant failings, and chief among them is that (s)he doesn’t know what (s)he knows in the same way that you and I know what we know. What I mean by that is that humans can be remarkably quick to react to a question, even when they do not have the answer, but only know that they know the answer (ie we recognise that the answer is buried somewhere in our brain, and therefore react to a question, without having the answer immediately to hand). Think of all those times that you stick your hand up to ask a question, without knowing precisely what you want to ask – despite your pre-emption, you still manage to ask something intelligent. Or remember the experience of having something on the ‘tip of your tongue’ – you know that someone’s name beings with K, but you can’t quite remember what the name is!
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