Author(s): David Shenk
In this dazzling look at the new science of genetics and the frontiers of human potential, David Shenk argues that talent - for piano playing, sprinting, designing computers, you name it - is not a thing we're gifted from birth and coded in our genes, but a process - a lifelong project. The genetic legacy for which we thank our parents is not what holds us back - it is our inability, so far, to tap into what we already have. Shenk discusses evidence which shows how the average London cabby's posterior hippocampus - the part of the brain that specializes in recalling spatial representations - is not just larger than normal but increases in size as the driver's experience grows. He illustrates that Mozart, seemingly born a musical prodigy, was in fact brought up in an environment almost uniquely perfect to mould him into the child star he became. He points out that Copernicus, Rembrandt, Bach, Newton, Kant, da Vinci, Einstein and Michael Jordan were all super-achievers who led undistinguished lives as children. Genes, he argues, are not a 'blueprint' that bless some with greatness and doom most of us to mediocrity. Integrating cutting-edge research from a wide swath of disciplines - cognitive science, genetics, biology, child development - Shenk portrays a highly optimistic new view of human potential, and in the book's second Part, he outlines his prescription for cultivating excellence within us all. Deftly written and already hugely praised, The Genius in All of Us carries a deeply revolutionary and optimistic message: we are not prisoners of our DNA, and we all have the potential for greatness.
'The thinking man's Outliers.' New York magazine 'A deeply interesting and important book.' New York Times 'The Genius in All of Us has quietly blown my mind.' Salon.com 'Cogent and compelling ... The Genius in All of Us will convince many readers that the conventional wisdom about talent is due to be overthrown. Shenk gets that revolution well under way.' The Week 'Shenk robustly disputes the popular belief that intelligence and talent are genetically predetermined, and methodically explains the thousands of hours of practice behind the 'genius' of a host of musical and athletic superstars (and those amazing London cabbies).' Freakanomics blog, New York Times 'David Shenk sweeps aside decades of misconceptions about genetics - and shows that by overstating the importance of genes, we've understated the potential of ourselves. A persuasive and inspiring book that will make you think anew about your own life and our shared future.' Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us 'A great book. David Shenk handily dispels the myth that one must be born a genius. From consistently whacking the ball out of the park to composing ethereal piano sonatas, Shenk convincingly makes the case for the potential genius that lies in all of us. While our genes may provide a nice runway, only hard work and unwavering focus can allow true genius to take flight.' Rudolph E. Tanzi, Harvard Medical School 'Old fashioned beliefs, a desire to simplify and the remarkable successes of molecular biology led to an undue emphasis on the role of genes in the development of human intelligence. Environmental determinism exists too, but biology and psychology have moved well beyond these extreme positions. The importance of David Shenk's book is that he has made accessible to a wide audience the advances in the understanding of how each person develops. I congratulate him.' Sir Patrick Bateson, Cambridge University
David Shenk is the author of five previous books, including The Forgetting, Data Smog and most recently The Immortal Game. He is a contributor to National Geographic, Harper's, The New Yorker, National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System, and a correspondent for TheAtlantic.com. davidshenk.com geniusblog.davidshenk.com