Wednesday 28 February 2018

Review: The Genius Within: Smart pills, brain hacks and adventures in intelligence

The Genius Within: Smart pills, brain hacks and adventures in intelligence The Genius Within: Smart pills, brain hacks and adventures in intelligence by David Adam
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Science has discovered almost uncountable things since the beginning of the 20th century. We have found elements and compounds that have almost magical properties, seen the vastness of the solar system and untangled the very strands of life. There are still things that we have yet to discover, secrets that the universe is yet to relinquish and one the most mysterious is what lies in the 6-inch gap between your ears.

Neuroscience is slowly revealing how the mind works and just what it is actually capable of, but what if you could supercharge your grey matter without having to go through the effort of hard work, revision and practice and just pop a pill? David Adam is up for a challenge, so to benchmark his own capability prior to trying out the latest science and technologies available for mind enhancement he decides to have a go at the Mensa examination. Scores achieved, it is time to begin his journey into the inner recesses of his own mind and to see what enhancements will help improve his score when he comes to take it again.

There have been many methods that people have tried to enhance the mind, and some of the discussed in the book include the spectres of eugenics and the way that intelligence tests have been used for all manner of nefarious ends. Adam selects two methods to try enhancements, the first is the drug modafinil to see the effects. As it is normally a prescription drug then he has to acquire his tablets, through other means, shall we say, before trying various before and after experiments. As electrical stimulation has been shown to have some effects a system with electrodes is acquired to run a similar set of experiments. It comes with instructions, but no details on where to place the electrodes as they might be liable for incorrect placements so the manual suggests just googling it…

His self-experiments make for amusing reading, but it is the questions that Adam poses that go some way to addressing the question of what is intelligence, how it affects us as an individual, and how societies treat those at the top and bottom of the scale, but his book can only provide answers to some of these questions. The more we find out about the capacity of our minds the more we realise just how little we know, we may all have untapped intelligence that is normally attributed to savants and whilst the IQ test can give a gauge of one factor of intelligence there are others that it doesn't account for. If you want a well written popular science book on the possibilities and limits of intelligence, then you can't go wrong reading this.

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