The Knowledge Illusion

Steven Sloman

Philip Fernbach

3.86 based on 931 ratings & 129 reviews on
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06 April 2017
304 pages

Human reasoning is remarkably shallow - in fact, our thinking and justifications just scratch the surface of the true complexity of the issues we deal with. The ability to think may still be the greatest wonder in the world (and beyond), but the way that individuals think is less than ideal. In The Knowledge Illusion, Sloman and Fernbach show that our intelligence resides not in individual brains but in the collective mind. To function, individuals rely not only on knowledge that is stored within our skulls but also on knowledge stored elsewhere, be it in our bodies, in the environment or especially in other people. Put together, human thought is incredibly impressive, but at its deepest level it never belongs to any individual alone.

And yet the mind supports the most sublime, incredible phenomenon of all: consciousness. How can any of this be possible with a mind that is so imperfect? This is one of the key challenges confronted in this book. The Knowledge Illusion ties together established scientific facts whilst also considering what the mind is for. Understanding why the mind is as it is, and what it is for, will show why we need to consider it as extending beyond our skulls; why we should think about 'the mind' as far more than an extension of the brain but as an emergence from multiple brains interacting. Simply put, individuals know relatively little, but the human hive that emerges when people work together knows a lot.

In The Knowledge Illusion, the cognitive scientists Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach hammer another nail into the coffin of the rational individual... positing that not just rationality but the very idea of individual thinking is a myth.

Yuval Harari, bestselling author of Sapiens and Homo Deus

Sloman and Fernbach offer clever demonstrations of how much we take for granted, and how little we actually understand... The book is stimulating, and any explanation of our current malaise that attributes it to cognitive failures — rather than putting it down to the moral wickedness of one group or another — is most welcome. Sloman and Fernbach are working to uproot a very important problem.

Financial Times

We all know less than we think we do, including how much we know about how much we know. There's no cure for this condition, but there is a treatment: this fascinating book. The Knowledge Illusion is filled with insights on how we should deal with our individual ignorance and collective wisdom

Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought