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Surprising Science

Improving the Cognitive Toolkit

What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit? This question, posed by psychologist Steven Pinker, has garnered over 150 responses at

Being comfortable with uncertainty, knowing the limits of what science can tell us, and understanding the worth of failure are all valuable tools that would improve people’s lives, according to some of the world’s leading thinkers. The ideas were submitted as part of an annual exercise by the web magazine Edge, which invites scientists, philosophers and artists to opine on a major question of the moment. This year it was, “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?” The magazine called for “shorthand abstractions”—a way of encapsulating an idea or scientific concept into a short description that could be used as a component of bigger questions.


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