This is a surprising book! After being a fan of John and Edge dot org for years, as well as thoroughly enjoying Fast and Slow (Thinking, Fast and Slow), I expected great things from this, especially given the "Edge" contributors, and was not disappointed. However, the range of topics is so much greater than neuro/computing, and some of the more technical topics on Edge, that I was pleasantly surprised.
Instead of only looking at the usual "cutting edge" theories of Bayes, Markov, utility functions vs. probabilities, etc. the authors actually challenge nearly all of the "status quo" ideas from stats and emotion to neuro. Frankly, I sometimes get a bit tired of the "brain as computer" as well as "brain not as computer" tug of war, and this refreshing collection is so creative, innovative and pro/con that it leaves many of the "popular neuro" books in the dust. The selection of contributors is breathtaking, not just from credentials, but the pace and quality of the writing and range of topics, keeping us turning the page without writing down to us.
If you check out the contents you'll find a wide range of topics, from developmental to neuro, decision theory, linguistics, problem solving, and much more. Hannah Arendt wrote Thinking, Willing and part of Judging, and I think she would have been impressed with this collection (which also adds Feeling and Acting/Deciding) even from a more philosophical frame. The pace is lively and John/ Daniel's editing is consistenly well done, so the quality and "page turner" nature doesn't vary by author. Some are more technical than others, but you can tell the marching orders were to make it fun and enlightening, whether you were talking addiction or econometrics! Although cognitive science and decision theory has been overrun by stats lately, although they are covered thoroughly, they aren't center stage or overstated to show off the contributors' math skills.
Daniel does expand some of his fast and slow (as well as "pick a gist") ideas here, especially in two of his favorite areas (intuition and the unconscious), but the range is so broad that there is a ton of new material to consider beyond fast/slow, as well as the other contributors. This will genuinely make your next plane ride go: "What, we're landing?" This doesn't take a "self help" tone any more than fast/slow did, but can truly be life changing in many of its deep and surprising connections between less rational choices and our hormones, wiring, architecture, decision processes, problem solving strategies, and even parsing/ semiotics/ ethics.
If you enjoy Kurzweil, Pinker, Eliasmith, Dennett, etc. you will really like this new gem, which covers an amazing range of thinking facets, highways and even backroads, and explores more than one side of the issues. Current tug of ware areas like molecular Darwinism and body/mind chicken vs. egg controversies are handled pleasantly gray and pro/con, not black/white. There is a LOT to digest, and the publisher/Amazon is offering it at a price sympathetic to our budgets.
Honestly, the how to build a brain, make a mind, etc. comparables are well written, albeit not nearly as broad or current, and this relatively long text stands equal or better than the best out there, yet doesn't try to capitalize on the success of fast and slow or similar titles by inflating the price into the Springer league! I've read nearly 7 books recently in this general category that are selling in the $40+ range without this book's breadth or depth, let alone currency, research foundations or readability. (Cf: Build a Brain, though brilliant, is $88!). Kurzweil is more reasonable. Highly Recommended at any price, a must at 400+ astonishing and revelatory pages for under $12 US.
Emailer question: "Is this a lot of psych? Why is it NOT self help?" A. Good and subtle question. If you compare it with books like the many titled "Blind Spot" that show cognitive biases, demographic/psychographic biases, philosophical quandaries of nature/nurture or "business and leadership" type titles, it is head and shoulders above them neurologically, computationally, psychologically and philosophically. An intelligent reader can look up a dozen links on Wiki on cognitive biases and get the "gist" without investing a dime in any book. This is not some tome on how to avoid mistakes if you are basically an idiot, and the contributors are leading edge in each of their fields.
There are many elements that are fun, funny and "homey" but there are graduate probability level discussions too. In brief, it is very well balanced technically, but humanistic and "spiritual" enough (despite sometimes controversial "materialistic" contributors who ironically also believe in free will ala Nietszche-- no one dimensional characters here) to avoid suggesting that if we "only" could balance probability with utility functions like "brilliant" mathematicians with wrecked lives, we'd be fine.
The "Edge" controversies over humanities vs. science are not overstated or really even argued here, and with due respect to artists and liberal arts folk/ non science philosophers, the contributors still come down with a LOT of hard science, as that is their frame in general. In general also, a very good mix of both philosophy/ art/ intuition/ creativity and science-- I mean most young artists I know (and I'm OLD) also use Processing, Maya and other digital techniques and math (including splines, kinematics and beziers) along with brushes (physical and digital), so the "humanities" controversy centers more on the rarer select group of philosophers who attack science as having hijacked their field, which is really a little silly.
Q. Is this a marketing or management book? A. I get the question. A LOT of books about thinking/decisions are about why consumers pick pink instead of blue, etc., or the math used for "leadership." NO, this is not one of those. Some of those are mildly interesting, but these authors are heavy hitters, including in philosophy as well as math. NOT the annoying semantic kind that splits hairs between specialized nouns, but issues important to our inner and outer lives day to day, as well as fun and exciting as thought provoking, deep frame and modeling issues, as well as practical but nuanced thinking help and techniques beyond "just match your utility functions to the probability weights of success" etc. Obviously with Professor Taleb involved, we do get some black swan "management" wisdom, but more about why academic models are so flawed, not about touting our heroic math prowess in econometrics, let alone using it to invest or "manage portfolios."