Posts Tagged ‘A Whole New Mind’

A Book to Be Read with Caution

September 23, 2015

And that book is, A Whole New Mind:  Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink.  First of all, one should be suspicious of any book making such an outlandish claim, but perhaps outlandish claims sell books.  I’ve heard that this book is being used in an introductory psychology class.  I find this to be especially disturbing.  I think Introductory Psychology is a very important class.  I wrote the Correspondence Course, Introductory Psychology, for the University of Utah before I left and continued teaching it for several years.  Using Pink’s book in an Introductory Psychology Class would seriously handicap students taking more advanced courses in psychology, and would not provide foundational information about Psychology to be a good citizen and to live a healthy, productive life.

First of all, here is a very coarse description of the two hemispheres of the brain.  The left hemisphere processes language, is logical, and is a serial processor.  The right hemisphere is intuitive, wholistic, and engages in parallel processing.  This is a crass oversimplification, and the functions of the two hemispheres can be reversed in certain individuals.

Pink argues that past successes have been due to left hemisphere processing, that is responsible for logical thinking which is germane to scientific, engineering, and business success.  However, his claim is that computers can now do those tasks better.  He also notes that many computer tasks are being outsourced to countries whose labor costs are much lower.  But humans are better at tasks that require empathy and the interaction with other humans.  This last statement is true.  Pink and others claim that there will be sufficient demand tor these tasks that there should be no fear of being replaced by computers.  Therefore right-brainers will rule the future.

The claim that empathic skills will be in  sufficient demand such that right brainers will always be employed is a common theme.  The next post will review another book The Second Machine Age:  Work Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies  by Erik Brunjolfsson & Andrew McAfee of the MIT Sloan School of Management, will also argue that there is a definite need for the empathic skills at which humans excel.  However, they also make a strong case that there will be a significant unemployment problem and discuss ways of dealing with it.

Throughout history humans have used both hemispheres using the different hemispheres as appropriate.  Intellectuals apparently make heavy use of their left hemispheres, and artists heavy use of their right hemispheres.  The goal should be to use our Whole Mind, that is both hemispheres, to best advantage.  Computers provide support, we call this transitive memory in the lingo of the health memory blog.  Nevertheless, the ultimate processing, making decisions, needs to be done by humans using both hemispheres.  The left hemisphere has an especially important role to play in the the control of emotions, which is important to the development of empathy.

Nevertheless, there is some virtue to Pink’s book.  He includes many exercises that focus on developing skills in which the right hemisphere dominates.  This is commendable.  Developing right brain skills is a worthy goal, always remembering that the whole brain needs to be used, and one hemisphere should not be used to the of the other.

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