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Archive for the ‘HARNESSED, the book’ Category

harnessed_korea

My most recent book, Harnessed, has now appeared in Korean translation, with tireless translator Seung Young Noh. For more info about the book, here’s a start: a review by Nobel laureate.

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Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, a managing director of O2Amp, and the author of HARNESSED: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man and THE VISION REVOLUTION. He is finishing up his new book, HUMAN 3.0, a novel about our human future, and working on his next non-fiction book, FORCE OF EMOTION.

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New Scientist's Top Ten Science Books in 2011, Harnessed is on the right

I’m excited that my new book, Harnessed, is among New Scientist’s top ten science books of 2011, standing aside other authors I admire.

In the book I describe (and present a large battery of new evidence for) my radical new theory for how humans came to have language and music. They’re not instincts (i.e., we didn’t evolve them via natural selection), and they’re not something we merely learn. Instead, speech and music have themselves culturally evolved to fit us (not a new idea) by mimicking fundamental aspects of nature (my idea). Namely speech came to sound like physical events among solid objects, and music came to sound like humans moving and behaving in your midst (that’s why music is evocative). Each of these artifacts thereby came to harness an instinct we apes already possessed, namely auditory object-event recognition and auditory human-movement recognition mechanisms.

The story for how we came to have speech and music is, then, analogous to how we came to have writing, something we know we didn’t evolve. Writing, I’ve argued (in The Vision Revolution), culturally evolved to possess the signature shapes found in nature (and specifically in 3D scenes with opaque objects), and thereby harnessed our visual object-recognition system.

Buy the book here.

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Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of
Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man and The Vision Revolution. He is finishing up his new book, HUMAN, a novel about our human future.

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The Library Journal has a short review by Cynthia Knight of my book, Harnessed.

Many scientists believe that the human brain’s capacity for language is innate, that the brain is actually “hard-wired” for this higher-level functionality. But theoretical neurobiologist Changizi (director of human cognition, 2AI Labs; The Vision Revolution) brilliantly challenges this view, claiming that language (and music) are neither innate nor instinctual to the brain but evolved culturally to take advantage of what the most ancient aspect of our brain does best: process the sounds of nature. By “sounds of nature,” Changizi does not mean birds chirping or rain falling. His provocative theory is based on the identification of striking similarities between the phoneme level of language and the elemental auditory properties of solid objects and, in the case of music, similarities between the sounds of human movement and the basic elements of music.

Verdict: Although the book is written in a witty, informal style, the science underpinning this theoretical argument (acoustics, phonology, physics) could be somewhat intimidating to the nonspecialist. Still, it will certainly intrigue evolutionary biologists, linguists, and cultural anthropologists and is strongly recommended for libraries that have Changizi’s previous book.

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Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of
Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man and The Vision Revolution.

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I had the pleasure of attending scifoo-11. I met some terribly interesting folks, and got to talk a bit about my theory of illusions, and do a session on Harnessed.

One thing led to another, and Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek got hold of my book, “read it with fascination,” and gave it a review at Edge.

Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics, MIT; Recipient, Nobel Prize in Physics, 2004; Author, The Lightness of Being

Mark Changizi re-imagined the transition from ape to human. Physical aspects of that transition are documented in the fossil record, and in our DNA, but what about the mental aspects? How, specifically, did the abilities most characteristically “human”—speech, writing, music—get any traction? Here we face an evolutionary conundrum, for those abilities appear useless until they are fully developed (or even after, in the case of music), while evolution by natural selection must proceed by small steps, each contributing to fitness. Darwin himself worried, on similar grounds, over the emergence of sophisticated eyes; the linguists’ postulated organ of language poses, if anything, a knottier puzzle. Changizi proposes that human speech, writing, and music are grounded in much simpler natural abilities. His proposals are impressively specific: basic speech sounds derive from the sounds of impacts among solid bodies; the basic symbols of writing derive from recurring features of natural scenes; the basic elements of music are abstracted from the natural sounds accompanying human (or ape) movements. Biologically useful abilities to discriminate and interpret those features of the natural world evolved, through relatively small steps of abstraction, into our human toolbox. I took Changizi’s Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man — a freebie at Scifoo! — home, and read it with fascination. It describes many oddball facts about language and music that his ideas make sense of. I’d be amazed if everything he says is right; but at this point I’d be even more surprised if his main ideas, which crack open riddles that have annoyed me for years, aren’t on the right track.

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Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of
Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man and The Vision Revolution.

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Recently I wrote a piece in Psychology Today about how e-books and web-libraries fail to tap into our innate spatial navigation powers, and so don’t serve to harness our brains very well. It has sparked a lively conversation, one heavy on “crazy” Russian power plants and their thousands of real live non-virtual dials and buttons.

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Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of The Vision Revolution (Benbella Books, 2009) and the upcoming book Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man (Benbella Books, 2011).

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I’ve argued there’s no imminent singularity, and I’ve thrown water on the idea that the web will become smart or self-aware. But am I just a wet blanket, or do I have a positive vision of our human future?

I have just written up a short “manifesto” of sorts about where we humans are headed, and it appeared in Seed Magazine. It serves not only as guidepost to our long-term future, but also one for how to create better technologies for our brains (part of the aim of the research institute, 2ai, I co-direct with colleague Tim Barber).

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Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of The Vision Revolution (Benbella Books, 2009) and the upcoming book Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man (Benbella Books, 2011).

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Christine Ottery (that’s not her above) recently interviewed me about bare naked skin and the origins of color vision, and she wrote up her piece in Scientific American. Read it here.

Also, note the “Lady Gaga” connection in the piece. This is not the first time “Lady Gaga” has been all over my research — the words, not the actual woman. She also comes up in a story about my research on the origins of music, which you can read here at Gaga-galore.

Let’s keep up the pressure, and perhaps Lady Gaga will hire me as her scientific aesthetics advisor…

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Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of The Vision Revolution (Benbella Books) and the upcoming book Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man (Benbella Books). He is working on his fourth book at the moment, tentatively titled Making Faces, about emotions and facial expressions.

 

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