December 30, 2004
Mind Hacks: The Snarkmarket
Brains: They are as amazing in their limitations as in their capabilities.
Yes, a brain can recognize a human face — and its mood — with a speed and accuracy to make Google weep.
(P.S. Both central dots are the same size.)
Mental misdirection and optical illusions are fun; they’re also really useful tools.
These hacks amaze because they reveal the brain’s hidden logic; they shed light on the cheats and shortcuts and latent assumptions our brains make about the world. Most of the time, these mechanisms are invisible to us—or so ubiquitous we no longer notice their existence. A brain hack is a way of pulling back the curtain of consciousness to glimpse — however fleetingly — the machinery on the other side.
“The machinery on the other side.”
We might be the first generation to be totally down with that idea. The soul, the oversoul, the trinity of the id/ego/superego, the Incredible Homunculus… forget it. We don’t have to settle for a theory that just sounds sensible, or makes us feel good, or harmonizes with some broke-ass theology. Thanks to new tools, we can actually investigate.
That’s, er, not to say we’ve got everything figured out. No way. Brain science — and Mind Hacks — is more questions than answers.
There’s a Mind Hacks blog if you are sufficiently intrigued.
AND NOW: Actually, O’Reilly sent El Snark two copies of the book. This may have been a clerical error… or it may have been their way of saying, “Have a contest!!”
Clearly we will choose door #2.
I’ll send a pristine copy of Mind Hacks to the person who comments with the best research finding and/or anecdote from the intersection of brains and romance. Deadline is Friday, January 7, at midnight PST. It can be about “your friend” if you want.