Monday, September 27, 2010

The Neuro Revolution - Two reviews in one post

I have just read Zack's Lynch „The Neuro Revolution”. As before — seems to me the full review will come in due time :-)

However, I must say, that I have very mixed impressions. And I must say frankly, it is quite bombastic, utopian book with very little knowledge about the field itself ...

It is perhaps characteristic, that I found the similar tendencies of utopian thinking in this book, as it was in Lakoff's „Political Mind”...

If there is some value in reading the book, it is in really good number of references to significant events and other books and other people of the field...

Going to Munich today... No more time ....

Two weeks later:

I honestly tried to add a bit more about the book, but finally I didn't find it reasonable...

Particularly, in the light of another book related to brain science I read ("Shallows"), I found Lynch's book quite naive and utopian...

When he writes about such things like neuroenablers, oxytocin or concepts like neuroteology or neurocosmetics, he does not deliver any deeper information, but a kind of superficial hype of pseudo-science...

See, as an example, how he writes about the potential of neuroscience for business and society:

„In a neuro-society, corporate wealth will flow in a more lateral way, decreasing the gap between the haves and have-nots bolstering the middle class and reducing poverty. That development will add to our social capital making prosperity last longer. Neurotechnology will also provide new tools for management, it will become less seed of the pants and start being something of the science.(...) But many people who get to be managers, are often the fiercest competitors and they don't always have a good emphatic skill set. In the future more people will have better tools in training, perhaps in neurofeedback even in exquisitely targeted neuropharmaceuticals ....”

Not only Lynch's visions are utopian and inhumane but also scary ... All of this seems to be very strange, even more, when one discovers how active Lynch is on the public scene and how high is his influence (See his blog...)

So what is the book's value? Is there any?

As I wrote before — there is some value in it as a source or collection of some very good references.

For example, thanks to the book I found an interesting TED talk by Jill Bolte Taylor and discovered for myself great scientist Vilayanur Ramachandran. The another reference was to an article about Neuropsychology of Religious Experience.

Some books, referred to by Lynch, like Steven's Mitchen:
The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body
, „Why We Believe What We Believe: Uncovering Our Biological Need for Meaning, Spirituality, and Truth” by Andrew Newberg, or „Proust was a Neuroscientist” by Jonah Lehrer will certainly be on my next-reading list !

So, I suggest not to read it from cover to cover but to harvest it for indeed quite good references :-)


  1. Anonymous5:27 PM

    Mirek - A book that professes to be "utopian" must be post-corporate. Corporations are inherently hierarchical and to state that corporate wealth will ever flow laterally is to intentionally deceive. I find that neuro-science and cognitive science are inadequate because they explicate only 1/4 of human consciousness yet they promote their quadrant of knowing as 100% of the human mind. I agree that spiritual consciousness will lead us out of this reductionism, and I also believe that Art arises from a place distinctly different from the rational mind.
    As a world culture we are at the end of rational hegemony. Those who are conservative, many of whom are in power and do wield great influence, are attempting to use nuero and cognitive science as the last defense against the new paradigm. Human Consciousness is too vast, rich, and mysterious to be reduced to only that which is material or reasonable. I love to read your writings because you are immersed in the field of computers, yet you realize that spirit transcends reason. I am very interested in 'The Shallows'. Raymond Harrison

  2. Raymond,

    Thanks for your comment. You are right. In the noise Zack makes about neuro- he seems to treat even art with the typical reductionist approach. He cites books like Musicophilia or Singing Neanderthals, but seems not to notice what emerges from all of them. It's exactly as you write - the true spiritual nature of artistic consciousness escapes reductionist approach of authors like Lynch or Lakoff...

    Shallows is much deeper and reasonable book, even though the author does not enter into spiritually colored discussions. Yet there is specific respect to the mystery of the mind, despite enormous progress in brain science, understanding of memory, etc - that he describes.

    I should have my review done later tonight, if I feel OK (caught some flu :-) )