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"Download an app to your necktop"

I like to turn my brain off as much as the next guy. My main tools for thinking until very recently have been (personal) classics like: “Ignore it and maybe it will go away”, or “Time for a glass of scotch”. Daniel Dennett’s book, Intuition Pumps strongly makes the case for thinking as a fun activity. It’s a shame that it is a big heavy hardcover or I would just keep it in my bag and carry it around constantly to chew on.

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(Click on Einstein)

Intuition pumps are tools to analyze the logic of an argument or as Dennett calls them- ‘handy prosthetic imagination extenders’. “All really serious thinking is interpersonal; we think by challenging each other with our ideas,” he says. These ‘candidates for fixed points’ give you a focus on a topic that is very useful.

Each device is described in short one or two page chapters (sometimes longer for the trippier ideas- and there are deeply trippyideas.) Simple, proven devices like the classic ‘Occam’s Razor’ share the page with examples of bad tools such as ‘Boom Crutches’: props for misguided thinking that eventually explode and leave one flat on his back. Anyone who has a passing acquaintance with Deepak Chopra’s particular brand of blarney will laugh having finished the ‘Deepities’ chapter, a term invented by the teenage daughter of a colleague: “A deepity is a proposition that seems to be profound because it is logically ill-formed. It has at least two meanings and balances precariously between the them. One reading is false and on the other it would be earth-shattering if true.”

“Love is just a word.” Yes, “love” is just a word. True and trivial. As Dennett puts it, “Cheeseburger” is also just a word. Minus the quotations, love is just a word is false. As Dennett writes, “Whatever love is, it isn’t just a word. Love may an emotion, it may be the most wonderful phenomenon in human psychology or it may be just an illusion… but it isn’t a just a word.”

(Relatedly, I love this Random computer-generated
Depak quote machine someone linked to on Facebook: http://www.wisdomofchopra.com)

Sturgeon’s Law is fun too and immediately applicable to music. With the tremendous amount of musical and artistic static out there these days, Sturgeon’s Law has been popping into my head much more frequently. Thankfully. “When people talk about the mystery novel, they mention The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep.  When they talk about the western, they say there’s The Way West and Shane.  But when they talk about science fiction, they call it “Buck Rogers stuff,” and they say “ninety percent of science fiction is crud.”  Well, they’re right.  Ninety percent of science fiction is crud.  But then ninety percent of everything is crud, and it’s the ten percent that isn’t crud that is important, and the ten percent of science fiction that isn’t crud is as good or better than anything being written anywhere.” -writer Robert Sturgeon

Dennett observes: “A good moral to draw from this observation is that when you want to criticize a field, a genre, a discipline, an art form,… don’t waste your time and ours hooting at the crap!  Go after the good stuff, or leave it alone. This advice is often ignored by idealogues intent on destroying the reputation of analytic philosophy, evolutionary psychology, sociology, cultural anthropology, macroeconomics, plastic surgery, improvisational theater, television sitcoms, philosophical theology, massage therapy, you name it.  Let’s stipulate at the outset that there is a great deal of deplorable, stupid, second-rate stuff out there, of all sorts.  Now, in order not to waste your time and try our patiences, make sure you concentrate on the best stuff you can find, the flagship examples extolled by the leaders in the field, the prize-winning entries, not the dregs.”

Maybe more simply: Don’t waste your time on garbage, or “If it isn’t worth doing, it isn’t worth doing well.”
© 2016 Paul Bryan Contact