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The Brain is Wider Than the Sky: Why Simple Solutions Don't Work in a Complex World Paperback – 27 Sep 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (27 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780220154
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780220154
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 270,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

As readers have come to expect from Bryan Appleyard, his new book is another literate and sensitive reflection on how science is changing our self-understanding. (Steve Fuller THE LITERARY REVIEW)

an acerbic expose of the empty promise of the computer age. (James McConnachie THE SUNDAY TIMES)

Brian Appleyard's 'The Brain is Wider than the Sky' is a beautifully written defence of human complexity in the face of the corporate mechanisation of our lives. If you are frustrated by automated queuing, this is one for you. (Michael Burleigh THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH SEVEN Magazine)

Appleyard is scientifically literate, vigorous and intelligent...Appleyard's meditation is essential reading. (Simon Ings THE OBSERVER)

Bryan Appleyard is our foremost guide to understanding contemporary culture. This exploration of what it means to be human today grips the reader from the first page.

(John Gray)

There are great science writers and there are great arts writers - and then there's Bryan Appleyard. He's both

(John Humphrys)

Bryan Appleyard is that rarest of rare birds, a journalist who can mine factual subjects for their poetic resonance right across the spectrum. He is our main man for this kind of writing

(Clive James)

One of the most interesting, curious, cultured and trenchant writers on this planet

(Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan)

Appleyard is a gifted writer, able to explain both the beauty of a Hockney drawing and the mathematical unit used to measure how many computations processors like our brains are capable of performing...it's always fascinating, and always clearly expressed. (Helen Lewis-Hasteley NEW STATESMAN)

In an engaging style, drawing on personal meetings with key figures, cultural analysis and scientific evidence from a wide variety of areas, Appleyard explains how simplification, whereby technology provides simple solutions to complex problems, has been unable to capture the full depth and complexity of human experience...A fascinating and informative read. (GOOD BOOK GUIDE)

An admirably sceptical guide, with a superb journalist's eye for detail, Appleyard makes an engaging prophet. (THE SUNDAY TIMES)

A sagacious and timely riposte to contemporary thinking. (THE LADY)

With a scientific and philosophical approach Appleyard's polemic - to listen to the voices of art rather than technocrats - is intelligent and convincing. (BIG ISSUE IN THE NORTH)

Book Description

A brand-new book from the award-winning SUNDAY TIMES journalist Brian Appleyard.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 18 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
(review by David's wife, we both use this account)
I bought this book after becoming acquainted with the author's writing via Twitter. His early morning tweets of news articles make terrific reading, cutting across areas of education, philosophy, science, religion, technology and humour. You get a sense of a genuine 'renaissance man', and that's very much the delivery of 'The Brain Is Wider Than The Sky'.

"The Brain Is Wider Than The Sky" has a simple concept at its heart too; that simple solutions don't work for a complex world. Anyone who's spent time trying to prise nature's secrets from inside the cell knows from experience that this is true. Or any computer technician. Why do these systems behave in sometimes unpredictable ways? Because they are complex.

But this 'simple concept' is countercultural within the mainstream. Mainstream culture encourages us to believe that character is a matter of 'simple' genetics, one gene equals one phenotype, to Keep It Simple Stupid and a whole lot more.

When the mainstream has embraced something so fundamentally wrong, terrible consequences will follow. Banks will fail. The environment will falter. "The Brain Is Wider Than The Sky" seeks to explain why the mainstream drive for 'simplicity' is wrong and to show how it's leading us to hell in a hand-basket.

Many popular science/technology/economics books take a simple concept that is usually contentious and expound on it with example after example, giving very little in the way of new ideas beyond chapter four. This book, however, has chewy food for thought all the way to the end.

The author achieves this through his cross-disciplinary erudition and via the input of a wide network of renown specialists from the fields of art, economics, medicine and science. He even subjects himself to a two-hour long MRI scan to study the brain, which is what I'd call Commitment.

A truly insightful, fascinating read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David Smith on 12 Feb. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Having heard a review/discussion on Radio 4 recently, I was intrigued enough to buy this book; I'm very glad I did! Although at times it is not easy to follow the thread, or see the links between one strand and the next, the ideas are very interesting, challenging and thought-provoking. The nature of the relationship between human (brain) and machine (computer) is one central theme; and how this plays out in the realms of music, industry, science and art makes for an entertaining, informative and, at times, chilling read. If you have noticed that laptops, notebooks and mobile phones are proliferating, you will love this insightful glimpse of the possible road ahead.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A reader on 18 April 2012
Format: Hardcover
The human brain is the most complex entity that we know of and it remains far beyond our ability to comprehend. Appleyard opens his book by describing the recent developments in fMRI scanning technology to demonstrate just how little we know about how our minds emerge from our brains. Brain activity cannot be translated into thoughts, images, ideas or language -- and we still have no idea how this happens.
He then looks at our current obsession in the West with electronic gadgetry, and the false philosophy which underpins much of modern artificial intelligence. People are increasingly addicted to the short term stimulation of using this gadgetry especially the false notion that we are communicating meaningfully with large numbers of (often) anonymous people via social network sites. Yet all of this electronic wizardry and artificial intelligence misses a key point: that as sentient beings we are creative, feeling, thinking, living animals. No computer has ever been able to demonstrate properties of creative thought, and there is absolutely no sign of one appearing because we do not know how this ability is generated in our brains. In short, our brains are not highly sophisticated versions of modern computers: the fallacy of artificial intelligence is to assume that they are.
He also makes important critical comments about the mathematisation of important parts of our lives, especially finance and banking, were highly intelligent mathematicians have deceived themselves and deluded many others into thinking that their models can predict the future behaviour of complex systems. They cannot and Appleyard explains why.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mike £ on 25 Feb. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great to read someone engaged by the developing personal technologies who is aware of their abhorrent potential. The upside and the downside and a route map for what may be inevitable which happy concludes that humanity and humanism has a future.
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By J Ph on 20 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a book for anyone who seeks to understand the enormity of the changes that confront societies. The digital age is now a challenge to many of the traditional values and experiences that have given meaning to everyday life. The book also reassures as it shows that the fears of domination by the tecnmology just will not happen as human ingenuity will adapt and innovate. The questions that are raised over the artistic expression show the potential and possibility that is possible. This is a book to be read and kept close as each reading seems to reveal more insights. The Paris Hilton chapter is a wonderful example.
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