Tuesday, September 4, 2012

From "The User Illusion" to "Enriching the Brain"

"What is done by what is called myself is, I feel, done by something greater than myself in me." -- James Clerk Maxwell

I took advantage of the long weekend to polish off Tor Norretranders' The User Illusion, and what a book it was. I bogged down for a while mid-week, but got my second wind Monday, and after re-reading a couple of passages that I'd spaced out on, was able forge all the way to the end. Ahh, the finish line!

This book is far more than a neuroscience tome. Among the variegated science topics covered and called upon are Information Theory (Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver), the limits of science and knowledge (Zeno of Elea and Kurt Godel), physics, entropy (James Clerk Maxwell), computer science (Alan Turing), the Big Bang theory, cosmology, the Gaia hypothesis, evolution, emergence, complexity, chaos, fractals, gestalt theory, religion, endosymbiosis, genetics, consciousness, the bicameral mind, and more. Fortunately, I'd already read much about many of these topics. What an accomplishment by Norretranders to attempt to tie it all together. Bravo!

One of the main themes is that our consciousness operates by using a compressed amount of information bits (exformation), and thus our view of reality is actually an expected simulation based on much, much larger numbers of information bits experienced (and discarded) by the senses. This conscious "I" is only a very small part of the entire body's "me" and it requires a half-a-second delay (Benjamin Libet) to produce its unconscious simulation.

Now, just in time for the start of the school year, it's on to:

Enriching the Brain: How to Maximize Every Learner's Potential by Eric Jensen 

"Eric Jensen—a leading expert in the translation of brain research into education, argues in Enriching the Brain that we greatly underestimate students’ achievement capacity. Drawing from a wide range of neuroscience research as well as related studies, Jensen reveals that the human brain is far more dynamic and malleable than we earlier believed. He offers us a powerful new understanding of how the brain can be “enriched,” across the board to maximize learning, memory, behavior and overall function. The bottom line is we have far more to do with how our children’s brains turn out than we previously thought. Enriching the Brain shows that lasting brain enrichment doesn’t occur randomly through routine or ordinary learning. It requires a specific, and persistent experiences that amount to a “formula” for maximizing brain potential. Parents, teachers and policy-makers would do well to memorize this formula. In fact, the lifelong potential of all school age kids depends on whether or not we use it. Offering an inspiring and innovative set of practices for promoting enrichment in the home, the school, and the classroom, this book is a clarion call. All of us, from teachers to parents to policymakers must take their role as ‘brain shapers’ much more seriously and this book gives the tools with which to do it."

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