A reading club with a view to the future

086 John Brockman: This Will Make You Smarter

Leading thinkers share ideas to expand your knowledge, sharpen your wits, and improve your critical thinking skills.

John Brockman: This Will Make You Smarter


This book is a compilation of short essays by leading scientists and thinkers, each presenting a single idea or concept that they believe will make the reader smarter. The essays cover a broad range of topics, from neuroscience to cosmology, and are intended to be both accessible to non-experts and thought-provoking to those with more specialized knowledge. Some of the ideas presented include the power of metaphor, the importance of sleep, the concept of "black swans," and the idea of "collective intelligence."


Title: This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking

Author: John Brockman

Year of publication: 2013

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Length in hours: 12 hours and 7 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. Metaphors are a powerful tool for understanding complex ideas and are crucial to scientific discovery.
  2. Sleep is critical to our physical and mental health, and lack of sleep can impair our cognitive abilities and decision-making.
  3. "Black swans" - rare, unpredictable events - have a significant impact on history and economics, and we need to be better prepared for them.
  4. "Collective intelligence" - the idea that groups can be smarter than individuals - is becoming increasingly important in the modern world.
  5. Our understanding of the universe and our place in it is constantly evolving, and science is our best tool for exploring and explaining it.
John Brockman: This Will Make You Smarter

5 funny quotes

  1. "Some people drink deeply from the fountain of knowledge. Others just gargle."
  2. "Did you know that if you mix flour and water together you can make glue? And if you add eggs, sugar, and butter you can make a cake? Where did you learn all that? Grandma, they said. They never taught us important stuff like that in school."
  3. "Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool."
  4. "Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity."
  5. "I'm not lazy, I'm just very relaxed."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "Science is not about control. It is about cultivating a perpetual condition of wonder in the face of something that forever grows one step richer and subtler than our latest theory about it."
  2. "The one real difference between 'leadership' and 'management' is in the connotations of the words themselves: 'Leadership' implies the existence of followers, and suggests that one is a master of a given domain, while 'management' suggests the duty to perform operations under given constraints."
  3. "Our brains are made up of lots of little parts, each with its own special responsibility, and each working away without our conscious knowledge or control. We are in effect a committee in our own heads."
  4. "Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty – some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain."
  5. "People who know that they are not geniuses can outsmart people who think that they are."

5 dilemmas

  1. The balance between individualism and groupthink
  2. The tension between stability and change
  3. The trade-off between simplicity and complexity
  4. The challenge of reconciling science and religion
  5. The paradox of choice and its impact on decision making.

5 examples

  1. Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences
  2. Robert Trivers' theory of self-deception
  3. Nicholas Christakis' research on social networks
  4. Judith Rich Harris' theory of child development
  5. Kevin Kelly's concept of the "technium"

Referenced books

  1. "The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  2. "The Wisdom of Crowds" by James Surowiecki
  3. "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by Thomas S. Kuhn
  4. "The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us" by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons
  5. "The Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin

Share a quote

"Some people drink deeply from the fountain of knowledge. Others just gargle."

John Brockman: This Will Make You Smarter
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