Brain Gain: Technology and the Quest for Digital Wisdom

Prensky, Marc

"In an age where the answer to every question is at your fingertips, where does the human brain fit in?" In one hand-held object, we are able to manage all of our calendars, documents, and interpersonal relationships with such ease that many people are lost when forced to do perform these tasks without the aid of electronics. Often heard are the calls for less technology and more face-to-face interaction, for fear that the use of all this artificial intelligence is dampening our own ability to think. Author Marc Prensky has a different idea. In this controversial and well-argued treatise, Prensky offers the idea that rather than stunting the mind--that most essential aspect of an individual's intelligence and sense of self--smart technology (and smart use of technology) enhances our humanity in ways that the brain on its own never could. Through scores of fascinating examples, Prensky shows that the symbiotic combination of the human brain and technology--from marrying the brain's strengths such as sense-making and complex reasoning abilities with technology's strengths like storing and processing large amounts of data--has great benefits for our own cognitive functioning. How should we best combine the strengths of mind and machine for maximum benefit? Prensky's call is for digital wisdom--a new interconnectedness between human and technology that is already enabling Homo Sapiens to begin the journey into the next stages of cognitive evolution. Editorial Reviews From the Publisher "An intriguing, astute counterbalance to the scaremongering that dominates many other books on digital life." -Kirkus Review "A well-crafted antidote to the purveyors of doom and gloom regarding how the digital revolution affects our minds. Sure, there are many unanswered questions but the jury is in. Prensky shows beyond a reasonable doubt that technology is extending our brains beyond their conventional limitations. We're getting smarter not dumber, maybe even capable enough to survive and thrive in an ever more complex world. " --Don Tapscott, bestselling coauthor of 14 books, Most recently Macrowikinomics: New Solutions For a Connected Planet. "From flint axes to cloud computing, access to technology has constantly transformed how people think, feel, and behave. In this provocative and insightful book, Marc Prensky argues that our interactions with technology have now brought us literally to a new phase of human evolution, and that the implications are immense for how we live, relate, and educate ourselves. With his characteristic rigor and verve, Prensky challenges cherished assumptions of what it is to be human and analyses the powerful roles of technology in shaping who we are and who we are becoming. An essential read." --Sir Ken Robinson, author and educator. Kirkus Reviews A technology and education expert examines how technology can make us better--if we let it. Prensky (From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom: Hopeful Essays for 21st Century Learning, 2012, etc.) opens with the thought that "today's technology is changing your mind--and all of our minds--for the better." He then rigorously examines the notion that technology improves not only our daily lives, but humanity as a whole. The author devotes many chapters to the questions surrounding the ways in which technology has changed our lives, predominantly in how we receive or use information. For example, Prensky addresses the question of whether making communication more concise (e.g., the 140-character limit of Twitter) is dumbing us down, taking the position that the ability to be succinct in our communication is a worthwhile skill and one we need in order to stay current. The most interesting chapters focus on education, a subject the author has covered at length in two previous books. Here, he posits that because many adults are uncomfortable with the latest innovations, they focus only on the possible downsides and too often limit children's access to laptops, smartphones, tablets and other technological devices. It should come as no surprise, Prensky concludes, that students may have little interest in entering science, engineering or any technology-based fields when teachers "are continually broadcasting to them the unconscious message that technology is bad and best avoided." The author closes with a chapter on the coming "Singularity," which refers to "the moment, not very far off...when our technology will become as powerful, and even more powerful than our human brains." Referencing theories from science fiction writers and futurists (including Ray Kurzweil), this ending seems an odd, speculative conclusion in an otherwise reasonable, practical book. An intriguing, astute counterbalance to the scaremongering that dominates many other books on digital life.

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