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Planetary Intelligence - Resources

Books Supporting the Idea of Planetary Intelligence

Since writing Planetary Intelligence, I came across a wonderful resource that supports and expands upon the same ideas I put forward. Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less by Guy Claxton shows how our “undermind”, as Claxton calls it, is a supermind that is capable of astounding feats of thinking skill. While we have all been trained in the ways of fast-thinking, Claxton shows how slow thinking is more able to deal with ambiguous and paradoxical situations. Confusing and uncertainty often lead to more original, creative thinking than calculated, linear, rational thought. Claxton's book goes a long way in showing us the power of process-oriented thinking and the benefits of slowing down to a more natural pace of life.

From my review:

Deep Thoughts with Solid Research and New Ideas (April 13, 2006)

In this wide-ranging, scholarly study, Guy Claxton does a superb job of showing the reader how complex consciousness is, and why, in our awareness, things aren't what they seem to be. You might think from the book's title that this is largely a metaphysical or philosophical discussion. That's hardly the case. Claxton presents numerous results from psychology experiments that show, unequivocally, that we are not primarily rational beings, but rationalizing ones. In other words, we invent reasons to justify doing the things that we do, but these ideas are more likely to be intellectual alibis than the real motivations for our behavior.

You may think that you consciously make moment to moment decisions about your life. But Claxton convincingly shows us that the mysterious "undermind," as he calls it, has more to do with who we are and what we do than our conscious, logical, linear mind. The "d-mode", our deliberate thinking style--the one we perfect in our years of schooling--is the most commonly accepted model of how our minds work. However, the experimental evidence suggests that d-mode thinking has relatively little to do with how we make most of the decisions in our lives. The d-mode actually comes up with plausible reasons that justify our actions, but it isn't the source of those actions. The conscious mind's job is to focus a lot of attention on a particular problem and maintain a coherent sense of ourselves: but these processes all come after the fact of our inner decision-making. In fact, people often seem happier with their decisions in the long run, if they think less about them from the outset. It is in this sense, that "think less" makes one more intelligent.

Contrary to our training, Claxton shows us that in many situations, our slower mind is much more effective at running our lives than our more efficient fast mind. The undermind is especially good in ambiguous situations, where information is undefined and uncertain. In our fast-paced lives, we often demand instant results based on objective, linear data-production systems. But Claxton argues that we would often be better off to slow down and let the subconscious solve our problems more spontaneously. This idea is not just a values-based belief: it is backed by empirical studies such as subliminal research experiments and small-group studies.

HARE BRAIN, TORTOISE MIND will get you to re-evaluate a lot of assumptions you have about yourself. Who is really in charge of your life? Who are you? These are the sorts of questions that this book evokes and once Claxton gets your attention, he doesn't let go. After presenting the empirical evidence Claxton goes onto to explain their significance in religious thought and social history. But the main point throughout is that we need to respect, cultivate, and develop our intuitive, whole-brain thinking processes. And that wisdom, in the largest sense of the word, is a lot more than bits and bytes that flow through our PDAs and laptop computers. Because what makes for really profound thinking isn't only a profusion of data and information: it is also an awareness of the uncertainty and totality of relationships that sustain life in all its forms.

This book is like a bottle of good wine. It just gets better as you keep reading. Claxton encourages us to follow our intuitions and develop ourselves into complete beings rather than logical, numbed, rational robots. Readers who enjoy this book may also appreciate Tor Norretrander's THE USER ILLUSION and Carl Honore's IN PRAISE OF SLOWNESS.

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