The Undiscovered Mind

April 9, 2016


I’m currently reading Four Arguments For The Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander and The Undiscovered Mind by John Horgan. The former I’ve read previously and the latter is a new discovery.

Jerry Mander makes the point of his book quite clear. Before I began re-reading it -I first read it about two years ago, I flipped to the back and read the last section. I remembered that it was the last section that struck me the most. After giving a presentation to a group of fifth graders about the effects of technology on society and the individual, I remembered Jerry Mander recalling in the last section of his book that despite many reading his book and agreeing with him they still thought themselves powerless. “Are you really going to advocate its elimination?” one interlocutor asks Mander. Despite having laid out the harms of television so clearly -it’s harms to our health, to democracy, human experience and many other factors it seems we are still faced with the same question when anyone proposes that we ought to not watch TV or professes to not watch it themselves.

But in all honestly not watching TV is less rare today, not because we’ve finally awaken to its harms, but because the internet on its various devices has replaced it. The reasons to not watch TV don’t all relate to the Internet -the idea of the few talking to the many is not eliminated but it is not as present in the medium, it may in fact be among the most democratic mediums. But many of the other issues he spoke about against TV do apply to the Internet as well. I’ve read a chapter of The Shallows and it will probably be the next book I read, it seems to be the most appropriate next choice.

The Undiscovered Mind is about the limitation of science when it comes to the brain. It’s not just amazing how little we know but how little progress has been made in the field of neuroscience. One thing I dislike about our access to constant streams of information is that it allows us to believe we know so much and it’s only a matter of time before we know it all. The truth is quite the opposite. Why did a steel pole get rammed in to a man’s head and he retained complete functionality except that his personality changed dramatically? Why is it that the left hemisphere of a young boy was so deformed it had to be removed and somehow 10 months later he could speak? (Neuroscientists promoted the idea that the left side of the brain is responsible for language). Why do lobotomizes make some patients catatonic and others lose control? One quote I love from the book so far:

Because every individual is comprised of a singular combination of physiology, social identity, and personal values, in effect each patient constitutes a unique experience.

Since I’ve read The Four Arguments… already I can highly recommend it. The Undiscovered Mind is excellent so far. To make a small note, besides being enthusiastic about both these books I also find it extremely important to read books. Reading books, long form reading that required from the author a painstaking time commitment, research and well thought out philosophies are extremely valuable. For example I knew I had a hate-love relationship with TV before reading Jerry Mander’s book but his research and conviction of the subject helped to give me an even deeper perspective. I love reading blog posts, essays, magazine articles, etc. but there is no equivalent to sitting down quietly with a book -preferably a paper book that can’t distract you with Facebook notifications, to intimately take in the authors words, to pause, to reflect.

They’ve been announcing the “death of books” for some time now but I’m almost certain that the day this is true will be the day a part of humanity dies. One thing that stands out about modern society more than others is our mass literacy, we should not take it for granted.


♣ Available for purchase below ♣

The Undiscovered Mind: How the Human Brain Defies Replication, Medication, and Explanation
Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television


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