Summary and book reviews of Livewired by David Eagleman

Livewired

The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain

by David Eagleman

Livewired by David Eagleman X
Livewired by David Eagleman
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2020, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2021, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Bintrim
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the best-selling author of Incognito and Sum comes a revelatory portrait of the human brain, based on the most recent scientific discoveries about how it continually adapts, recreates, and formulates new ways of understanding the world we live in.

The magic of the brain is not found in its parts, but in the way those parts constantly reweave themselves in an electric, living fabric. To help us understand the nature and changing texture of that fabric, there is no more accomplished and accessible guide than renowned neuroscientist David Eagleman. With his hallmark clarity and enthusiasm, Eagleman reveals the myriad ways that the brain absorbs experience: developing, redeploying, organizing, and arranging the data it receives from the body's own absorption of external stimuli, which enables us to gain the skills, facilities, and practices that make us who we are.

Eagleman covers decades of the most important research into the functioning of the brain and also presents new discoveries from his own research: about synesthesia, dreaming, and wearable devices that are revolutionizing how we think about the five human senses. Brilliantly engaging, Livewired is as deeply informative as it is accessible.



[Editor's Note: In addition to the excerpt of Livewired below, you might be interested in David Eagleman's TED Talk about how we can leverage the principles of livewiring to feed totally new kinds of data streams into the brain.]

1

THE DELICATE PINK MAGISTERIUM

Imagine this: instead of sending a four-hundred-pound rover vehicle to Mars, we merely shoot over to the planet a single sphere, one that can fit on the end of a pin. Using energy from sources around it, the sphere divides itself into a diversified army of similar spheres. The spheres hang on to each other and sprout features: wheels, lenses, temperature sensors, and a full internal guidance system. You'd be gobsmacked to watch such a system discharge itself.

But you only need to go to any nursery to see this unpacking in action. You'll see wailing babies who began as a single, microscopic, fertilized egg and are now in the process of emancipating themselves into enormous humans, replete with photon detectors, multi-...

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Reviews

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As far-fetched as some of his ideas seem, Eagleman grounds all of his predictions in extensive research, citing dozens of experiments. And although the book can get technical in its descriptions of how the brain works, he makes good use of analogies and anecdotes to keep the material approachable regardless of the reader's prior knowledge. At some points, Eagleman gets too wrapped up in the "gee-whiz" factor of future possibilities. However, the author is a skilled storyteller and an assured guide. Fans of Oliver Sacks' narrative science will find much to enjoy in this neurological tale, as will anyone with an interest in the vast possibilities of our brains...continued

Full Review (771 words).

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(Reviewed by Lisa Bintrim).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A masterful update on how the brain operates...Outstanding popular science.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[A]n intellectually exhilarating look at neuroplasticity...Eagleman's skill as teacher, bold vision, and command of current research will make this superb work a curious reader's delight.

Library Journal (starred review)
Eagleman claims that whatever information the brain is fed, it will learn to extract what it can, and there is much to extract from this fascinating work, that is recommended for readers interested in neuroscience, technology, and the intersection of the two.

Author Blurb Russell Brand, Comedian & Activist
David Eagleman, the Jolly Sherlock Holmes of neuroscience, makes me believe that the universe of possibility required to create utopia is already housed in each of our brains. His knowledge and enthusiasm are intoxicating. His book demonstrates the principle about which he is writing; my mind has been changed by his words.

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Beyond the Book

The Ethics of Human Enhancement

Infant with cochlear implant In Livewired, David Eagleman is bullish on the prospects for human enhancement. He's not alone. In a 2016 Pew research report, David Masci notes that "humanity may be on the cusp of an enhancement revolution." Those in favor of human enhancement, generally known as transhumanists, believe, according to Masci, that "science will allow us to take control of our species' development, making ourselves and future generations stronger, smarter, healthier and happier."

Not everyone is on board with human enhancement, though. A Pew survey referenced in Masci's report found that around two-thirds of adults would not want to get a brain chip implanted in order to improve cognitive functioning. Moreover, philosophers, ethicists, religious ...

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