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The year is 2014. The digital age is upon us and Greenfield seeks to explore what the impact of its technologies might be.

Mind Change by Susan Greenfield

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Category: Popular Science
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Stacey Barkley
Reviewed by Stacey Barkley
Summary: A tour de force of the digital age and its impact on our brain; on how we think, learn and socialise.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 368 Date: August 2014
Publisher: Rider Books
ISBN: 9781846044328

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Heralding from the discipline of neuroscience, Greenfield’s case, in short, is that the brain may be changing to meet the demands of the digital twenty-first century. Online mass-player games, digitally equipped classrooms, electronic readers and search-engines each challenge how the mind has traditionally socialised and learned.

As a worst-case scenario she depicts a dystopia altogether unnerving. It goes a little as follows. Over one billion of us are signed up to Facebook, while a further two million are active on Twitter. Never before have we been so connected, nor has communication been so instant. In such an environment we can easily present an image of oneself to an audience as large as 500 ‘friends’, and we constantly receive edited versions of the lives of others, too. The potential toll on identity is stark. Bombarded by staged photos it seems that everyone else is leading unbelievably exciting lives. And so, feeling inadequate, we are propelled to try and match this unrealistic version of life. This is a dangerous slope as we seek to cover up the real us without seeing that everyone else is doing the very same thing.

The book is crammed with data, but never fails to tie down what is current and real as a reader. Indeed, the pinnacle of the dystopia is wrapped up in the latest gadget to hit the market, Google-glasses. With this clever little piece the world will literally be right in front of us. Need directions? You don’t even have to ask. Advanced technology means this device can tap into your surroundings providing the information before you even ask, perhaps before you even know you want it.

Greenfield is rightly concerned about the potential such technology holds for how we think and interact, and as such this picture is certainly one that will make you think. Guiding us along as she considers the impact of social networking, video games and Internet surfing, Greenfield is measured in how she presents the findings. Yes, there is data to suggest a link between violent games and increased aggression, but yes too, do gamers display greater precision and skill as drone pilots, or brain surgeons and other such professions.

While many of the findings cited are inconclusive, and while Greenfield may at times paint a picture that is extreme, she makes no move to hide this, for this is exactly her point. While hard and fast conclusions are yet to be established, it is a big gamble to sit back and wait to react. Greenfield instead urges action now. If we work to understand this digital age, then we may exert control over how we harness and use its potential for the best possible outcome.

While not the easiest book to glide through given the spate of back and forth arguments, this is testimony to how messy and complex the data is on the impact of digital technologies. Persevere, though, and you will be rewarded with an eye-opening take on how things stand, and a new found critical caution, which can only be a good thing.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy The Woman who Changed Her Brain: How We Can Shape our Minds and Other Tales of Cognitive Transformation by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young.

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Buy Mind Change by Susan Greenfield at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Mind Change by Susan Greenfield at


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