20230326 – The Extended Mind
In this book, the author argues that the usual perception of the brain as the sole organ where thinking occurs is incorrect. The author discusses the familiar analogies of a brain as a muscle or computer, which she believes are inaccurate. The author defines her position here:” For one thing: thought happens not only inside the skull but out in the world, too; it’s an act of continuous assembly and reassembly that draws on resources external to the brain. For another: the kinds of materials available to “think with” affect the nature and quality of the thought that can be produced. And last: the capacity to think well—that is, to be intelligent—is not a fixed property of the individual but rather a shifting state that is dependent on access to extra-neural resources and the knowledge of how to use them.” Another essential point that the author makes is that humans now have powerful tools for information processing, such as computers, that increase the processing power of the human mind, making it evident that it becomes an extended entity, most of which resides outside of the human head.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I think that idea of an extended mind is somewhat trivial. It was so long before computers were invented, and it is doubtful that anybody would argue that the concept of the duality of body and mind applies anywhere outside of philosophical discussions. However, the quality of the brain is the most important factor defining the quality of the mind. Based on a lot of research, I am pretty sure that the quality of the individual mind is highly inheritable. Hence, the idea that everybody could achieve anything if a proper environment is provided just by putting in 10,000 hours of practice is just not supported by human experience. However, the mode of application of the mind to a variety of problems is highly dependent on available tools, making the individual ability to use tools effectively much more critical than the ability to do a task without tools. For example, the prodigy capable of doing complex calculations in the head could be easily outclassed by any person with a calculator. This reality makes the whole idea of dividing people into more and less intelligent somewhat outdated. Instead, the division should be between individuals capable of achieving results in some specific area and those who cannot do it. The significant thing is that since just about any area of activity is complex and tools dependent, it is not possible to design tests that would perfectly predict individual performance. So, the best way would be to stop trying select people upfront and provide everybody with resources and access to the ability to act. Based on these actions’ results, only after that decide who should get the extended opportunity.
20230319 – The Neuroscience of Intelligence
This book is pretty much a scientific report on contemporary knowledge about human intelligence. It is not ideological and, based on recent technological achievements such as functional MRI, allows a look inside the brain when it is working, creating images of the process. The author provides such a definition of his effort:” Three laws govern this book: (1) no story about the brain is simple; (2) no one study is definitive; (3) it takes many years to sort out conflicting and inconsistent findings and establish a compelling weight of evidence.”
MY TAKE ON IT:
For me, this book provides a nice confirmation for my understanding of human intelligence as a tool, evolutionary developed for survival. Therefore, it presents a sufficiently broad set of characteristics that make individuals intellectually different. It contradicts the contemporary dominant pseudo-egalitarian ideology that demands equality of results and acceptance of scientifically unsupported claims of the infinite malleability of humans that would allow anybody to achieve anything. In my opinion, the diversity of human intellect is not a bug but an essential feature that increases the probability of adjustment to a rapidly changing environment. After all, in some cases, the group is better off if it includes Einstein. Still, in other situations, it is better off if it includes people on the other side of the intellectual spectrum.
20230312 – Taxes Have Consequences
This book is a pretty much detailed history of taxation in the USA in the XXth and the first 20 years of the XXIst centuries. It provides a thorough examination of taxes and their effectiveness or lack thereof. The author’s name is well known because it relates to the famous “Laffer curve.” He convincingly demonstrates that the tax rates, more often than not, are just political games that have little impact on what people at the top pay because these people have access to a great many loopholes and a massive industry of legal tax evasion. In addition to a laundry list of tax evasion methods, the author demonstrates how high taxes produce a negative impact on the economy by diverting efforts of the most productive people of the society away from active efforts to create more ideas, inventions, goods, and services to not less vigorous, demanding, but economically non-productive activity of saving what they already have from taxes.
MY TAKE ON IT:
Probably the most interesting point that the author makes is that actual tax rates for the rich remain the same regardless of the declarative tax rates. I always enjoy seeing this graph, which so nicely demonstrates how taxes work:
I think that the problem is not really with taxes and their rates. The problem is with the use of the state by the elite in control. Is it used as a valuable tool for prosperity or as a mechanism that negatively impacts the population’s life? I believe that the simple rule is this: a state is a machine of violence, and as such, it should be used exclusively for the prevention of violence, its suppression if prevention fails, and for retaliation against individuals that use it. All other uses of this machine always have one and only one main cause: the poor functional design of processes used for the generation and allocation of resources in the society, including non-material resources such as respect of individuals to each other and prestige of individuals in the eyes of others.
20230305 – How the Body Knows it’s Mind
This book is about complex processes outside the human mind that broadly define what is happening inside of this mind. These processes occur outside the brain in different human body parts. In addition, many processes occur outside the body, such as interactions with others and the environment. All these processes have some impact on the brain’s work, resulting in specific functions of the mind and, eventually, human actions.
MY TAKE ON IT:
This book is a good review of the different interfaces between the human body and the human mind. It is well documented, and I believe it generally correctly represents such interfaces and how they work. However, the most interesting part is probably about using these interfaces to achieve some preferable condition of mind that could not be consciously achieved by just being willing to do it. The simplest example would be to change one’s emotional state by consciously imitating external manifestations of such a state. In short, the simple mechanical process of smiling, even when sad, makes the person less sad and more open to a brighter side of life.
Similarly, bodily mimicking another person could be a way to understand this person’s condition better. In short, the brain is not a separate, isolated place where the mind resides. It is instead a part of the whole body, and conditions of the entire body define states of the mind.