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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Review: Iconoclaust

I really wanted to like the book Iconoclast. It promised to explain in a neuro-scientific manner how certain people can achieve what others thought could not be done, and then show you how you can do the same for yourself.

Unfortunately, the book falls far short of the goals. Each chapter begins with a few stories about famous iconoclasts and describes in less than a page what he or she did and what brilliant insight they had, or what obstacles they overcame. Then the book goes into the neurobiology of what's going on in your brain when discovering a new idea, or confront opposition to your ideas. There's no actionable component about what you can do to make it more likely that you'll have a great idea ,though some are pretty obvious: one of the most important things to do is to learn to ignore what other people say or do, and another one is to actively seek out new experiences. Unfortunately, such topics are far better covered by Richard Wiseman's The Luck Factor.

The last chapter in particular is pretty lame. It describes various mind-enhancing drugs and what they can do for you. Someone once told me that he thought a significant percentage of Google engineers was already on Ritalin or other such medication in an attempt to get such an advantage. However, there are no studies at all to back such use of drugs, and even the author admits that many of these drugs have side-effects that can have dire health consequences.

All in all, I thought the book was barely worth the time spent reading it. Not recommended.

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