Better Brains

Three books suggest ways we—and our gadgets—can become smarter.

Despite housing some of the most elite educational institutions in the world, the U.S. is still falling far behind other nations in science, math and reading. In The Learning Brain: Memory and Brain Development in Children (Oxford University Press, 2012), neuroscientist Torkel Klingberg proposes that enhancing children's working memory, which regulates concentration and stores relevant information, may be key to improving academic abilities. Helping children to relieve stress and exercise more can, for instance, improve working memory.

We intuitively know that plagiarizing is wrong. In Good Thinking: Seven Powerful Ideas That Influence the Way We Think (Cambridge University Press, 2012), psychologist and philosopher Denise Cummins reveals how we know this. She discusses how economists, philosophers and other experts have helped to define what makes a decision rational or a judgment moral. She lays out the seven basic tenets that guide our critical thinking and explores tactics to correct faulty logic.

With smartphones getting smarter by the day, what can we expect from devices of the future? Ray Kurzweil, author of the best seller The Singularity Is Near, says the next step lies in unraveling what makes our brain tick. In How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed (Viking Adult, 2012), he argues that “reverse-engineering” the human brain will allow us to understand its intricacies and use that knowledge to advance technology.