Author: David Eagleman
Review by: Jacobus Boers, senior lecturer in international business at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business
Throughout this year, our country has struggled to find agreement about some very basic facts in ways that have challenged the very core institutions of our democracy. With this in view, I have been searching for better answers about how we each see and understand the world.
I stumbled upon this book after my wife gave a me a copy of a fabulous PBS video titled “The Brain,” which featured the author. I cannot say that it answered my questions, but strangely, I found some comfort in reading to what extent we make decisions and judgments based on things happening our brains of which we are not aware. This is not new, but to see data representing the full impact of unconscious brain activity on our daily actions is both disconcerting and refreshing.
As an educator and businessman working in cross-cultural contexts over many years, I’ve seen that new skills take consistent effort over time to become imprinted, while maintaining them is much easier. Just think of the rate at which you adapted to using Webex or Zoom over the past nine months — are you still in the “Can y’all hear me?” stage, or are you approaching high proficiency?
One foundational question that has grown louder for me recently is how much new information or reprogramming is needed to adjust or correct inaccurate perceptions.
My interest in understanding ideas, meaning and values was kindled after reading Descartes when I was 14 years old. These have intrigued me throughout college and graduate school, prompting me to read Husserl, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Freud, Popper and then Whitehead.
As Eagleman’s book reminds us, neuroscience brings us new insights and in often illuminates concepts these earlier thinkers proposed. Of course, perception stems from more than our brain’s machinery, as Eagleman argues using an old metaphor by Leibniz.
This book leaves me once again in awe of just how amazing the human brain is and how incredible the evolutionary processes were that left us as Homo Sapiens. I highly recommend it.
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Each year, Global Atlanta asks influential readers and community leaders to review the most impactful book they read during the course of the year. This endeavor has continued annually since 2010.
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