Clive Thompson

The weirdly common co-occurrence of genius ideas

"Are you having a big, breakthrough idea right now? A few hundred people around the world are probably having the exact same insight at the exact same time," writes Clive Thompson, author of Smarter Than You Think, over at Medium. From his post:

This is what’s known as the principle of “multiples,” which posits that genius breakthroughs in innovation, science, and the arts aren’t rare at all. They’re quite common. And once you understand that, it can change the way you think about developing really big, interesting ideas....

Inventors’ ideas are influenced and midwifed by the state of technology around them, the conversational topics in society, and the maturity of other science and artisanship they’re building on. Since inventors are embedded in the same environment with each other — particularly if they’re in the same social and educational class — it increases the chance they’ll turn their minds to similar problems.

"Genius is More Common Than You Think" (Medium)

Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Amazon) Read the rest

How the photocopier changed the way we worked -- and played

In 1959 Xerox released the 914 photocopier. It weighed 648 pounds, but it was a huge improvement over previous document copying technologies, which used wet chemicals. Read the rest

How to spot mail written by a robot

Clive Thompson looks into the business of robot handwriting, which is increasingly being used by junk mail companies to trick recipients into thinking someone cares about them.

How to tell when a robot has written you a letter Read the rest

1974 young adult novel that forecasted the politics of drones

Over at Medium's The List, Clive Thompson argues that a 1974 science fiction novel for teens called Danny Dunn, Invisible Boy "nailed everything we’re arguing today about personal drones, privacy, and the danger of government overreach." I can't wait to read the book! Read the rest

Digital tools have a mind of their own: yours

Clive Thompson says that there are three principal biases that today's digital tools introduce to human thought.

Multiscreening is the new Multitasking

"Now that people have several devices at work—a laptop, a phone, a tablet—they’re finding their way to a similar trick, where they use each piece of hardware for a different purpose. Consider it a new way to manage all the digital demands on our attention: Instead of putting different tasks in different windows, people are starting to put them on different devices." Clive Thompson in this month's Wired Magazine on "How Working on Multiple Screens Can Actually Help You Focus." Read the rest

Clive Thompson -- guest on new Cool Tools podcast

Kevin Kelly and I launched a new podcast at Cool Tools. In this entertaining second installment of the Cool Tools podcast, Clive Thompson, author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better, discusses the problem with laptop calculators, a surprising use for uncommonly bad tools, and what we all can do to stop stock photos from ruining the internet… all while introducing us to some terrific cool tools. (Listen to episode 001 with guest David Pogue here.) Read the rest

Email considered harmful

Clive Thompson writes about the growing body of evidence about the negative impact of electronic messaging on workplace productivity. Not only has the smartphone extended the working week to something like 75 hours for the US workers in a recent survey, but some daring experiments suggest that when limits are put on electronic messaging (for example, a ban on out-of-hours emailing), that productivity and quality of work soars -- along with the happiness and quality of life of workers (these two phenomena are related). Some businesses have banned electronic messaging altogether, requiring workers to physically traverse their workplaces and exchange vibrating air molecules in order to coordinate their activities. Read the rest

Gweek podcast 134: Minecraft Raspberry Pi

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In each episode of Gweek, I invite a guest or two to join me in a discussion about recommended media, apps, and gadgets. This time my guests were Clive Thompson, a science and technology journalist, whose new book is Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better, and Ruben Bolling, author of the weekly comic strip Tom the Dancing Bug, which premieres each week on Boing Boing, and pre-premiers for members of his Inner Hive.

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Show Notes:

Clives's picks:

The Gorgeous Nothings, a book that reprints 52 of Emily Dickinson’s poems that she wrote on the backs of used envelopes.

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Why old people complain about Millennials

Clive Thompson, 45, marvels at the sudden attacks on Millennials -- roughly speaking, people born since the late 1970s. As a Gen Xer, he remembers how things were exactly the same for his lot, until, just as suddenly, the ranting op-eds dried up. Only one thing had changed: Read the rest

Gweek podcast 127 - Orphan Black

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In each episode of Gweek, I invite a guest or two to join me in a discussion about recommended media, apps, and gadgets. My guests this time were Veronica Belmont, the co-host of The Sword and Laser podcast (now on Boing Boing!), and Clive Thompson, a science and technology journalist, whose new book is Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better. Veronica recommends the third season of Sherlock ("I love the parallels the show makes with the original stories... it's all very fun for people who have been Sherlock fans for ages.") and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag ("I am totally obsessed with the latest AC game for Xbox One. I play for several hours a day, and I'm still only 50% done!"). Clive recommends Orphan Black ("an insanely cool TV show about a woman who discovers she’s a clone, part of some crazy scientific experiment.") and the smartphone game Badland ("you have to guide a little flying creature through a set of obstacles. It’s extremely well-designed in terms of play; it’s very addictive, lovely, great visuals and sounds. But it also has something more: It has physics that are incredibly witty.") I recommend Lexicon, by Max Berry ("Science fiction novel about students who are taught neurolinguistic programming techniques to persuade people. Read the rest

Weekend listening: Boing Boing's latest podcast episodes

Take a gander at all the wonderful Boing Boing podcasts we have lined up for you to listen to, free of charge!

GWEEK 124: I talked to the visionary artist Jim Woodring about his imaginary universe called The Unifactor.

HAPPY MUTANTS 001: I interviewed Mark Williams and Sasha Robinson, designers of a new instant-on, lithium-ion battery vaporizer called The Firefly.

INCREDIBLY INTERESTING AUTHORS 003: John Durant's new book, The Paleo Manifesto, blends science and culture, anthropology and philosophy, distilling the lessons from his adventures and showing how to apply them to day-to-day life. Read the rest

You Are Not So Smart podcast 013: Clive Thompson and How Technology Affects Our Minds

YANSS: RSS | iTunes |

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Ricky Jay really hates the book 'Fooling Houdini'

Halfway through reading Alex Stone's memoir, Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind, I read Ricky Jay's blisteringly negative review of the book in the Wall Street Journal. Cleverly titled "Slight of Hand," Jay described Stone's book as "an ostensibly self-effacing memoir by an inept amateur conjurer."

I love Ricky Jay's magic, his books, his quarterly magazine, and his performances. Jay is a talented magician and a fascinating storytelling historian of magic, con artists, and sideshows. He's certainly a more talented magician and a more knowledgable historian that Stone. And Jay rightfully calls out several errors of fact that Stone made in Fooling Houdini.

But even so, I finished Stone's book because I was fascinated by his story. Read the rest

Gweek 111: Smarter Than You Think

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Gweek is a podcast where the editors and friends of Boing Boing talk about comic books, science fiction and fantasy, video games, board games, TV shows, music, movies, tools, gadgets, apps, and other neat stuff.

This episode's guests:

Clive Thompson is a science and technology journalist, whose new book just came out: Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (website). He’s a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and Wired, and blogs at Collision Detection, and can be found on Twitter as @pomeranian99. (Photo of Clive by Tom Igoe)

Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and semiotician. He is co-author of Significant Objects, published by Fantagraphics, and Unbored, the kids' field guide to serious fun. He edits the website HiLobrow, which as HiLoBooks is now publishing classics -- by Jack London, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, and others -- from what he calls science fiction's Radium Age.

GET GWEEK: RSS | On iTunes | Download episode | Listen on Stitcher Read the rest

Wired Love: a novel from 1880 that could have been written last week

On the subject of book-scanning bringing the 19th century to life, Clive Thompson reviews "Wired Love," a novel from 1880 about telegraphic romance that features some amazingly contemporary themes. As Clive says, "This book is 130 years old, but it could have been written last week." Read the rest

Clive Thompson on how making stuff makes you a better fixer

"[T]here are some interesting differences in the psychologies of making vs. fixing. I’ve found it’s easier to be daring with fixer projects, because the emotional cost of failure is lower. If I’ve got a busted laptop, why not crack it open? What’s the worst I can do? Break it? It’s already broken! There’s also a sort of puzzle-solving pleasure in fixing, a sense of grappling with complexity. You encounter a lot of mystery that you’ll never solve and just have to live with, which is what makes repair a philosophically powerful activity. You learn humbleness in the face of intransigent reality." Read the rest

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