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Tag: neuroscience

Review: Scott Barry Kaufman’s “Transcend”

In 2020––a year painfully riddled with death, loss, and uncertainty––cultivating our capacities for compassion, love, and flourishing seems both harder and more necessary than ever. In this crucial project, I can think of no better text to guide us than Scott Barry Kaufman‘s Transcend. This enlightening and joyous voyage into humanity’s psychological history, present, and possible futures arrived [...]

Review: Ada Palmer’s “Seven Surrenders”

Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota Quartet continues to delight and astound me. Since Seven Surrenders was originally planned as the second half of Too Like the Lightning, please start with my review of that book; I won’t repeat key information about the series that was covered there. Better yet, just stop reading this review and get your hands on a copy of Too [...]

Review: Mark Johnson and George Lakoff’s “Philosophy in the Flesh”

In a recent discussion, a friend of mine identified a conspicuous lacuna in our cultural conversations about the human mind and technology. This lacuna, he said, arose from a tendency to treat the brain as a discrete, self-contained information-processing and experience-producing system. When we do this, it becomes easier (albeit still daunting), to imagine successfully [...]

Review: Ted Chiang’s “Exhalation”

Each story in Ted Chiang’s Exhalation feels whispered onto the page from a different dimension. In a voice both lyrical and mysterious, Chiang toys with classical philosophical questions and contemporary scientific problems, whipping up beautiful narrative blends that tease, inspire, baffle and delight. The main thing that makes this book stand out is the impressive number of [...]

Review: Richard Powers’s “The Overstory”

I grew up and still reside in Humboldt County, California. My body-mind came of age amidst giant Redwoods and Douglas Firs, many of which grace my family’s six-acre parcel. It’s no exaggeration to say that these majestic beings were my companions and castles, brimming with all the mysterious life-energy a boy’s imagination could ever need. [...]

Review: Adrian Tchaikovsky’s “Children of Ruin”

Writing an excellent science fiction novel is a notable achievement, but writing an even better sequel is something truly grand. Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Ruin improves on each and every element that made Children of Time shine, while also plumbing new depths of intrigue and intellect. It is among the most daring and creative works of science fiction I’ve [...]

Review: Neal Stephenson’s “Fall; or, Dodge in Hell”

Like Swiss Army Knives, Neal Stephenson’s novels attempt to imbue a singular instrument with a wide range of utility. These attempts have produced both elegant masterpieces and convoluted kluges, but on the whole I think Stephenson’s recent work has solidified his position as one of his generation’s most ambitious and accomplished storytellers. Fall; or Dodge [...]

Review: Kevin J. Mitchell’s “Innate”

People who study the classic scientific debate between nature and nurture tend to reach some version of this conclusion: It’s complicated, both sides make significant contributions to human behavior, and we should never be too quick to attribute a particular outcome solely to genetic or environmental factors. Kevin J. Mitchell’s Innate doesn’t completely overturn this paradigm, but it definitely modifies [...]

Review: Peter F. Hamilton’s “Judas Unchained”

Peter F. Hamilton’s Commonwealth Saga would be a strong contender for the most disappointing work of science fiction I’ve ever read. This 2000-page duology, which begins with Pandora’s Star and concludes with Judas Unchained, reads like the product of an incorrigibly-garrulous and testosterone-poisoned 16-year-old boy with doctoral degrees in materials science and particle physics. It’s a dismal example of what happens when [...]

Review: Yuval Noah Harari’s “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”

Last week, I was one of the lucky audience members who witnessed a live discussion between Yuval Noah Harari and Sam Harris in San Francisco. Harris opened the conversation by saying, “So, Yuval, you have these books that just steamroll over all other books.” That’s pretty much how I felt about Harari’s two previous works, [...]