Sunday, 21 June 2009

Neuroscience. Meh.

Well, I've finished the book I mentioned in the previous post (it's got 'business hardback' double-spacing so it's quick work), and it's not brilliant. In fact it really comes across as an amalgam of three separate bits. First, some genuinely interesting insights from neuroscience. These include the importance of visual input in conception, and how the tendency to efficient use of energy in our brains leads us to look for the familiar when faced with new things (hence we can be put off if we can't find something familiar). This is used to point up some of the key features of successful iconoclasts (seeing differently, overcoming fear, social intelligence).

Second, laid on top of these insights - which whilst interesting wouldn't make a whole book on their own - is some Malcolm Gladwell style waffle, providing short stories about successful people from business, politics etc and trying to claim that the aforementioned traits are in evidence. This stuff is tedious and I would argue not really supported by the science. No surprise to see a section on investors in here, which seems to be a requirement of any behavioural science book these days. My favourite low point is the claim in the privatising space travel chapter that the skills to get someone into space are just like those needed to get a dotcom company up and running. Bleurgh!

Then finally, tacked on the end without any thought of how to mesh the content of the rest of the book, is a kind of field guide to what impact different kinds of drugs have on your brain. Again this is actually really interesting, but it just doesn't really link in with the rest of the book (which is presumably why it's described as an appendix).

Strange book, but a few useful nuggets in there.