Thursday, July 30, 2009

The "Neuro Revolution"

German cognitive scientist and writer Stephan Schleim writes a review (download here) that is appropriately critical of Zack Lynch's new spiel "The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World."

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I heard Lynch speak last week on his book tour in Boston and found him not only credible, but thoughtful and engaging. He mentioned that his goal in writing the book is to spark public dialogue about how neurotechnology is impacting society now and in the future. I think the book does a very effective job of this. Given that the book is not a scientific article and Lynch never portends to be a scientist, I don't think Mr. Schleim's remarks are appropriate. Many of the scientific points he makes are, in fact, rather nitpicky and don't add up to the vituperative comments he makes. I found the book to be a thought-provoking and important read and hope others will read it too.

Robert said...

That review is not that good. Especially the first part where he claims that lynch said the MRI is working by sound. I read that sentence and knew what Lynch meant. I'm pretty positive that Lynch knows an MRI doesn't work by sound. The reviewer is just misrepresenting a colloquialized sentence that Zack made. Schleim thinks he's a genius for knowing that an MRI uses magnetism and radio waves to work.

The rest of his review is just extremely nitpicky and nothing he mentions is that bad. Schleim doesn't seem to be able to make a review without misrepresenting the person he is reviewing. So his inability to correctly understand simple sentences calls into question his judgement on these matters.

Stephan Schleim said...

Thanks for your criticism.

If someone who advertises himself as a leading technology consultant obviously is not informed by the state of the art of neuroscience (e.g. concerning lie detection, where he does not seem to be familiar with the research after 2002) and obviously misrepresents scientific figures (e.g. concerning the spread of stimulant abuse) and hides himself between anonymous experts (immunizing his claims against criticism), I think this seriously calls into question his ability to advertise third parties on the possibilities and limitations of neuroscience.

Of course, some of my comments are a little bit nitpicky; but I think it is quite embarrassing if an "expert" like Lynch spends almost a decade on such a book and does not even get basic references right. Perhaps he should have been a little bit more nitpicky, or careful, when writing the manuscript.

A completely different point is his firm believe in a "self-fulfilling positive prophecy", his apparently central thesis, that neurotechnology will somehow magically be employed for the better of humankind (actually he quotes the basketball player Magic Johnson to make this point), and his resulting lack in addressing any of the ethical considerations. I could have focused more on his ideas about "neuro warfare" of the future, but will keep this criticism for a more scholarly review of his book.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Robert. Mr. Schleim is missing/misrepresenting the big picture by focusing on a sentence here and there. Lynch uses many popular quotes and references to make the book fun and readable but supports his view of the future (sometimes optimistic, sometimes wary) with an analysis of historical patterns and previous waves of technoeconomic development. He raises many ethical considerations some explicitly, some implicitly. Mr. Schleim seems to want everything spelled out for him in excruciating detail. Dr. Mike Huerta, a respected neuroscientist and Co-Chair of NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience gives a much more useful review of the actual content. http://dana.org/news/cerebrum/detail.aspx?id=23134.

Continuing to say he "hides behind" anonymous experts as though it is some nefarious plan is rediculous. Lynch mentions and interviews many many researchers by name, but a book for the general public is obviously going to have some general references to "researchers" and "experts".

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