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 :-)

Friday, September 24, 2010

The utmost surrealism in a realisticly told tale about unreal world ...

I just finished "Nostromo" by Joseph Conrad...
I do not know what to say. This is ulitmate book, the ultimate literature experience.
Through all the book the shiver of someting out-of-this- earth pierced my ears and my mind...

I hope, I will write a true review, but I just wanted to tell you now that this great book is a must...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Victor Hugo on human nature, history and philosophy ...

I'm slowly coming back to my regular writing of reviews for the books I read and/or listen to.

Don't ask me please what has caused this, almost 2 months long, silence. There were reasons, but I wanted to keep them away from digital world, as all the thoughts and feelings caused by them ...

So my first very late review is for Victor's HugoLes Miserables” which reading I shortly reported here.

After „Notre-Dame de Paris” (here and there) I knew that Les Miserables will be THE book of my 2010 reading. And it was. It seems that writing any new review for the masterpiece of literature, which received thousands of excellent reviews, makes little sense. So it is, and let me only very shortly to tell you what is a historical fiction which plot starts in 1815 in France and lasts for about 20 years. The main story of the novel is about ex-convict Jean Valjean and his attempts of expiation and redemption against all odds. It later evolves into a love story in the second generation after him, however, placing his personage always in the context.

Even if it was written in XIX century, the storytelling in the novel is excellent and is still superior to so many later „epoch works” ....

However, I want to stress some other aspects of this enormous (1900 pages) work. It contains a lot of deep philosophical passages about the nature of law, ethics, politics, religion and French history. Set in one of most tumultuous periods of the country history (like defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo or Spring of Nations), it examines the nature of historical and philosophical dispute between royalists and republicans. And in all these, philosophical, historical, sociological analyses, Hugo shows incredible level of maturity and, I could say, professionalism. He does not merely „philosophize" — he goes deeply into the nature of the problem, yet his language remains simple and direct:

„Conscience is the chaos of chimeras, of lusts, and of temptations; the furnace of dreams; the lair of ideas of which we are ashamed; it is the pandemonium of sophisms; it is the battlefield of the passions. Penetrate, at certain hours, past the livid face of a human being who is engaged in reflection, and look behind, gaze into that soul, gaze into that obscurity. There, beneath that external silence, battles of giants, like those recorded in Homer, are in progress; skirmishes of dragons and hydras and swarms of phantoms, as in Milton; visionary circles, as in Dante. What a solemn thing is this infinity which every man bears within him, and which he measures with despair against the caprices of his brain and the actions of his life! ”

And the last, but certainly not least matter: Hugo created the fictional world that still lives in us and in our culture. See around and you will quickly find Jean Valjeans, Fantines, Javerts, Cosettes, or little Gavroches. In operas, movies, theaters and songs... It is enough to remember this one ...

[the post finalized in Beavais, France in a cafe in front of monumental XIII century cathedral]