Now You See It

Cathy N. Davidson starts Now You See It, a book on the science of attention, with a research study. Participants were asked to count passes between basketball players on a video. Afterwards, they were asked how many passes they counted, and how many saw the gorilla. “What gorilla?!” most responded. Turns out a woman in a gorilla costume had walked past the basketball players, but, with their attention focused on one thing -- counting passes -- most missed the great ape in the room.


If we pay attention differently, Davidson argues, we will find the gorilla, and we will be more prepared for the 21st century, which requires multitasking and problem solving. She discusses how education, the workplace, and individuals need to change, profiling those who are shifting their focus to the future. “Because we’re in a transitional moment, most of us aren’t aware of how structurally different our life has become because of the Internet.”


Davidson asks important, pressing questions -- do we need our children to succeed in standardized tests when the workplace now values collaboration and innovation? And her answers are unconventional and smart -- why not build our curricula around games, which better motivate kids and reward creativity?


But Davidson is surprisingly credulous: all of the educators, bosses, and architects she profiles are Great! Fantastic! One wishes this scholar brought her old-school critical thinking skills to probe deeper and raise more complicating questions. Her definition of attention is awfully rubbery, extending to the mental states of those who build environmentally green LEED hotels -- a builder in North Carolina is praised because he does not simply "pay attention" to profits, but also focuses on sustainability, or the future. A chapter on an injury Davidson sustained to her arm diverts into a discussion of lazy physical therapy patients whose negativism diverted her attention from her daily rehab activities.


It is ironic, I realize, to claim this book on focus lacks focus. Still, readers who pay attention to Davidson’s main point -- we need to rethink how we think -- will see the gorilla in this book full of basketball passes.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangledeshi mathematician and the haunting crime he's committed barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and ravaged Afghanistan with vinegar-steeped prose recalling the best of George Orwell and Joseph Conrad.

The People's Platform

Why is the Internet - once touted as the democratizer of the future - ruled by a few corporate giants, while countless aspirants work for free? Astra Taylor diagnoses why the web has failed to be a utopian playing field, and offers compelling ways we can diversify the marketplace and give voice to the marginalized.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.