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Nerding out about Daniel Pink, Lateralization, and the Evolution of Google

Nine years ago Daniel Pink released his book A Whole New Mind, and with it the idea that we, as a modern society, are collectively moving away from the logical and computer-like “Information Age,” and towards a more empathetic, context-driven “Conceptual Age.” Pink’s book focuses on the creative, narrative, and conceptual power of those who work to master “right brain skills” and emphasizes the heightened importance of a left-brainer’s ability to understand the subtleties of human interaction in a world where outsourced engineers are writing software that writes software.

He emphasizes that both the analytical left side of the brain and the perceptive right side rely on one another and need to work together, but stresses the particular importance of right-brain cognitive abilities that only humans can accomplish with grace — like meaning interpretation, empathy, storytelling, and the act of piecing together seemingly unrelated things in meaningful, symphonic ways.

In the years since A Whole New Mind was published there’s been quite the controversy about the legitimacy of “lateralization,” and whether it’s accurate to describe people as predominantly “left-brained” or “right-brained.” As it turns out, yes —some skills are controlled by the left side of the brain and others are controlled by the right side, but largely humans actually use both sides of their brain equally. So the right isn’t more important than the left and there are no “right brained” or “left brained” people; only whole brained people who excel by flexing both their conceptual and their calculative mind muscles.

Que sera sera.

As I am re-reading A Whole New Mind in the year 2015 I can’t help but think of Google, where the engine was when Pink was writing this book in 2006, and where it is today. Actually, more specifically, I can’t help but notice how the linear, logic-based, exact-match, HTML-munching left-brain Google engine of 2009 has developed into a personalized, responsive, concept-driven, right-brained Conceptual Age idealization.

Right and Left semantics aside, I love how cleanly Pink’s shift to an age of conceptual importance coincides with Google’s shift to the age of “the Star Trek Computer.” It’s as if Amit Singhal and Daniel Pink sat down over coffee in 2009 and collectively agreed that data is good, but knowledge is better.


( … this is out of the box for what I usually write about in this blog, but it was on my mind today so I thought I’d share… )

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