"Brain Power" accompanies Tiffany Shlain's film with the same title that can be downloaded from YouTube.[...]
The book adds depth and detail to the content of the film. Whilst "Brain Power" can be read fairly quickly and, as Tiffany Shlain writes, should be read and experienced in one go like a Ted Talk, it covers a lot of scientific and intellectual ground. The book begins with the development of the brain of a young child and how is influenced by the use of the Internet. It then uses the development of the child's brain as an analogy for the developing internet that like the brain in early stages of its development generates an increasing amount of connections, some useful, some less useful, some harmful. Like the human brain it will need some "pruning" as it develops.
On a different level the book and in a different way the film continue a theme that leads through the films Shlain has produced over the past years, i.e. the question of who we are and who are we becoming in a world that is increasingly interconnected by the web and related technologies. Whilst there is plenty of popular literature out there that argues the Internet is shaping (in a positive or negative way) children's brains Shlain suggests that there is a reflexive relationship between technology and us who interact with, and through, it. The technology allows us to create ever more connections with other people, offering myriad opportunities but also challenges and maybe dangers.
Like a child's brain that grows through interacting with the world, the Internet develops in response to the ways in which we shape it in and through our interaction with it. One of Tiffany Shlain's messages therefore is to be mindful in how we interact with it, what we produce, share and consume because thus we also create what the Internet will be in the future. Tiffany Shlain's other message is that we should be mindful how we interact with the Web because that interaction is shaping who we are and who we become. In particular, she encourages people to take a break from the technology, to let your thoughts settle and give time to prune the emerging web, in your head and on the Internet. "Unplug" as the narrator calls out in Shlain and Ken Goldberg's film "Yelp! With an apology to Alan Ginsberg", and then think about how to use the resources offered by the Web for the better of the world and humanity.
Brain Power is one of a series of films Tiffany Shlain has produced using what she calls "cloud filmmaking". This stimulating and insightful book gives the series an intellectual foundation. I am looking forward to seeing how the series and Shlain's larger project will continue.