Radar Roundup: Brains

Today’s topic is: our brains, understanding how they work, and living with the consequences of that knowledge.

  • Brain Enhancement: Right or Wrong? (NYT): amazing gray areas we’re getting into. Is it okay for a scientist to take brain-enhancing drugs? Compare with Wired News’s write-up of Quinn Norton‘s ETech talk on the subject of how new bio technology will make us confront difficult questions around what it means to be human.
  • How To Think (Ed Boyden’s blog): Ten rules that were originally to be the basis for a class that taught MIT students how to think. Sample: “1. Synthesize new ideas constantly. Never read passively. Annotate, model, think, and synthesize while you read, even when you’re reading what you conceive to be introductory stuff. That way, you will always aim towards understanding things at a resolution fine enough for you to be creative.”
  • Notes on “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely (Toby Segaran’s blog): fascinating list of ways in which we are irrational. The book looks interesting for its exposure of just these various ways in which we don’t do the “right thing”.
  • Brain Rules: web site for the book by John Medina. Interesting book that tries to help people understand their brains and use them better. Ultimately it’s frustrating: too much anecdote, not enough science for me. I came away feeling it would be a good 50 pager. I see a lot of people doing the “use your brain better” thing, possibly inspired by the $110M brain training software market (Nintendo is $80M of it). See gbrainy for an open source version. Vaughn Bell over at the Mind Hacks blog points to research that says the software doesn’t work, and along the way coins the killer phrase “the four dopamen of the neurocalypse”.
  • Why we’re powerless to resist grazing on endless web data (WSJ): “coming across what Dr. Biederman calls new and richly interpretable information triggers a chemical reaction that makes us feel good, which in turn causes us to seek out even more of it. The reverse is true as well: We want to avoid not getting those hits because, for one, we are so averse to boredom.” Push the lever, rat, and get your next damn blog post to read.
  • Pricing and the brain (Economist): high-priced goods are perceived as better than low-priced, even to the point where high-priced placebos are more effective than lower-priced. Nobody’s yet answered the question of what this means for open source/free software, other than to point out that it’s a good reason for “free” to mean “freedom” and not simply “price”.
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  • Rat

    “Push the lever, rat, and get your next damn blog post to read.” No (squeak) reason to be (squeak) so snippy about it (squeak?).

  • John Reynolds

    gbrainy link is broken

  • http://www.radar.com/nat gnat

    @John Reynolds: thanks! Fixed.

  • http://www.cutcaster.com john griffin

    pricing and the brain is really an interesting topic and one we are watching closely at cutcaster as people price their photos and videos to sell to advertisers, film makers and graphic designers. we give people the option to set their own price or use a cutcaster algorithm to set the price or on the other hand we let buyers submit a lower price which a seller can accept, decline or re-negotiate. so there is a real desire to understand how to price content better so buyers come in and get what they want. pricing is an interesting thing to look at in terms of what utility people get out of a higher priced good and in our case at Cutcaster a higher priced piece of content.

    people definitely feel they are getting more quality when they pay more and its interesting to see that the brain can support that feeling even if they are not. cheers.

  • http://log.24typo.de Christian

    thanks for this amazing list, nat.
    we are talking about this stuff in university right now and this just came in good season.