The Genius In All of Us by David Shenk

“An inspiring and liberating book. It’s a powerful antidote to the genetic determinism rampant in the Age of the Genome, and an instructive guide, grounded in science, to living a more enriching life.”
–STEVEN JOHNSON, author of The Invention of Air, Ghost Map, Everything Bad is Good for You, Mind Wide Open, Emergence, and Interface Culture

“This book, both rigorous and accessible, is a close study of the idea of genius, an investigation of popular misconceptions about genetics, and an examination of the American virtue of self-determination. It is written with assurance, insight, clarity, and wit.” – ANDREW SOLOMON, author of The Noonday Demon(National Book Award Winner, 2001)

“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.” — RUDOLPH E. TANZI, PH.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School; Director, Genetics and Aging Research Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital

“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. This is 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 and A Whole New Mind

“In clear, forceful language, backed up by a boatload of science, David Shenk delivers a message that should be read by every parent, educator, and policy-maker who cares about the future of our children. The Genius in All of Us convincingly debunks the “genes are destiny” argument when it comes to human talent, and will force you to rethink everything from IQ tests and twins studies to child-rearing practices. Shenk’s book turns Baby Mozart on his head, and will give pause–a hopeful, empowering pause–to parents who wish to nurture excellence in their children.”
– STEPHEN S. HALL, author of Wisdom: From Philosophy to Neuroscience

Why the President Should Read It
People respond to incentives. Policy-makers, such as Presidents, create incentives. If policy-makers do not understand human nature, then they will craft incentives that are ill-matched to those they are designed to influence. For example, if the President believes most people are stupid, he will be inclined to create policies that are detailed and restrictive on one hand, and that provide generous material benefits on the other. If the President believes most people are smart, he will favor and hands-off approach to policy-making, and in most cases will focus on executing his duties rather than expanding the power of government.

This book makes the case that most people are not only smart, but capable of genius-like achievements. While the book does not necessarily make the case for or against government intervention to stimulate such achievement, understanding what humans are capable of can only help.

Personal Notes
For me, this is a positive book. I believe most people are capable of extraordinary greatness, but then I see what depths of stupidity some of us descend to, and at times my positive outlook is challenged. This book has strengthened my belief that we are indeed capable of much, much more than most of us realize, and that what holds many of us back is only ourselves. Well, that and government red tape.