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The Brain is Wider Than the Sky: Why Simple Solutions Don't Work in a Complex World by [Appleyard, Bryan]
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The Brain is Wider Than the Sky: Why Simple Solutions Don't Work in a Complex World Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product Description


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.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2244 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (10 Nov. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005ZTBW5I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #229,361 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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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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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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hi,I am just over half way through reading this, and am aware of the lack of constructive usefull infomation on Amazon(here), to me there are is a great deal of cross over with the themes and ideas in a lot of Adam Curtis' films for the bbc. And it says a lot about how our enamourment with technological progress of the last 50 years has made us forget the lessons of the previous 200 000 years or so.
There are lots of juicily quotable bits/ bites of info in the book, but I just thought I would quote this paragraph and a bit, if I may. (I'm sure one of those website administrator poeple will delete it due to copy right or some such)
"...This was the assumption that lay behind the line 'Greed is good' uttered by Gorden Gekko (micheal Douglas) in the movie Wall Street(1987). The implication was that the moral injunction followed in a law- like manor from the underlying truth of the market. The induvidual's pursuit of wealth would inevetably enrich us all, therefore greed was not an excess, it was an obligation. The bottom line of profit and loss account for the top line of Moral behavour.
But some things- most things- humans do are nothing are nothing to do with the bottom line. Cheese, for example. Cheese has probably been produced since humans first became settled farmers 10 000 years ago. It can be seen as both a natural and a highly artificial food- natural because it simply happens when protien in milk coagulates, artificial in that it requires tame, milk-delivering animals and a reasonably stable community to allow time for cheese to develop. the passing of time- aging- is important in most cheese production. Cheese is a complex product of the interaction of man and nature."
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