Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind by Gary Marcus pp, Faber, £ Why do I find it so difficult to remember a string. Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind. Gary Marcus. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, pages, ISBN: (hbk); $ Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind is a non-fiction book by American psychologist Gary Marcus. A “kluge” is a patched-together.

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Return to Book Page. Preview — Kluge by Gary F. He unveils a fundamentally new way of looking at the human mind — think duct tape, not supercomputer — that sheds light on some of the most mysterious aspects of human nature.

Taking us on a tour of the fundamental areas of human experience — memory, belief, decision-making, language, and happiness — Marcus reveals the myriad ways our minds fall short. Marcus also offers surprisingly effective ways to outwit our inner kluge, for the betterment of ourselves and society. Throughout, he shows how only evolution — haphazard and undirected — could have produced the minds we humans have, while making a brilliant case for the power and usefulness of imperfection.

Hardcoverpages. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Klugeplease sign up. I Claude want to know about kluge and what makes it so differently than my own thoughts and how I think about the brain? Is there anything in Marcus’ book not covered by Linden? See 2 questions about Kluge…. Lists with This Book.

Jul 25, Trevor rated it really liked it Shelves: In some ways the start of this is just The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making put into chapters and continuous prose. Not that I mean that as a bad thing — quite the opposite.

The ideas in both books are terribly important to anyone with a brain, particularly anyone who finds that brain getting away with terribly odd and distressing things at times. The Panda has no thumb, but it has a wrist bone it has more or less successfully evolved to use for the purpose.

Did the Panda have the option to start from scratch — no. In passing this book is an excellent critique of Intelligent Design — but where Darwin criticised this notion on the basis of the badly designed bits of the human body too many teeth for our mouths, a vestige tail bone, an appendix that does very little other than rupture occasionally and then kill us this book does much the same with our curiously badly designed brains.

He quotes that lovely line about rationalisation being more important than sex when was the last time you went a week without a rationalisation? The best bit of this is the last bit where he goes through the sorts of things that one ought to do not to be too fooled by our makeshift minds towards the end.

Kluge, The Book, by Gary Marcus

These are the sorts of things you can never hear too often — avoiding confirmation bias where we select the facts that support our views and ignore those that challenge them, trying to think of alternatives, reframing things so as to see what we are thinking about in another light — all of these are things we do far too infrequently and would be better people if we did them more often.

There is a nice piece of research on asking female coffee drinkers about some research into the bad effects of coffee on women here where many of these biases are shown all too clearly. This is a book where if you are paying close enough attention you might see yourself over and over again.

One of my favourite bits from this last section of the book was a report of an investigation where it was found that people tended to pay for their coffee more frequently in the office honesty-box if there was a poster near the coffee with a pair of eyes in it rather than a poster with a flower, say. He recommends pretending that you are going to have to justify your decision after making it as a good way to make better decisions. Perhaps this is as a good reason as any to believe in an ever-present God?

Not because this sort of creature makes a lot of sense in itself, per se, but because it or It rather encourages us to think again about the decisions we are making. You know, perhaps anxiety and depression are bad side effects of a haphazardly put together brain — perhaps homosexuality is due more to people being more interested in the pleasure that might be derived from sex you know, like View all 3 comments.


May 25, Lena rated it really liked it Shelves: Kluge is a slang term for “a clumsy or inelegant solution to a problem. The basis of Marcus’ argument is that evolution was working with the tools at hand when it whipped up the more complex parts of our brain and that the result, while generally functio Kluge is a slang term for “a clumsy or inelegant solution to a problem.

The basis of Marcus’ argument is that evolution was working with the tools at hand when it whipped up the more complex parts of our brain and that the result, while generally functional, is often far from optimal.

In each chapter, Marcus details various maddening brain systems ranging from memory to belief to pleasure and offers intriguing reasons why they so often fail to work as we would like them to.

In the chapter on choice, for example, he points out that we often make highly irrational decisions when it comes to money because our mind is basically trying to wing it with a system that was developed not to deal with money but rather with food.

Anybody who has ever found themselves staring at the result of some financial indiscretion will well understand that evolution is clearly still working out the kinks on that one. Marcus is not shy about highlighting the fact that klugey nature of our minds does not bode well for arguments in favor of intelligent design. As he discusses how we adapted our existing physiology to deal with the increasingly complex demands of language, it does make one wonder why—if there was an intelligent designer involved—the adaptations to the larynx that gave us more control over our vocalizations also dramatically increased our chances of choking to death.

It does seem like there could have been a better way. Though this book does revisit some territory I was already familiar with, his fundamental premise was compelling enough that it added a new dimension of understanding to the things that frustrate me about my own brain.

In his final chapter, Marcus makes a good argument that we all need to understand the sloppy shortcuts evolution made with our minds so that we can better defend ourselves against the tendency of advertisers, politicians, cults and the like to exploit the flaws in the system, and he concludes with a useful, point listing of concrete steps we can take to counteract the built-in weaknesses of our klugey brains.

As this book suggests, the human mind is a mixture of inconsistencies. It can systematically plan and prepare, but it can also disregard those prepared plans in favor of immediate and short-term gratification. It can store and accurately retrieve memories, but it can also hardly absorb readily available information, and sometimes, memories which can be retrieved at one particular time can also be distorted due to subjectively retained external stimuli.

In other words, despite its reliability in As this book suggests, the human mind is a mixture of inconsistencies. In other words, despite its reliability in certain aspects of information processing and retrieval, it is actually a mixture of complex areas which oftentimes seem to work together in an intertwined manner—rational decisions can be influenced with the subjective preferences of emotions.

The human mind is a fantastic kluge and it is a quirky yet magnificent product of the entirely blind process of evolution. It was even compared to a brand of paper feeder which was described as Accordingly temperamental, subject to frequent breakdowns, and devilishly difficult to repair—but oh so clever!

It was possible to do better. It is a great metaphor for our everyday acceptance of the idiosyncrasies of the human mind, imaginably impressive, a lot better than any available alternative. For the most part, we simply accept our faults—as standard equipment.

Recognizing a kluge, such as the human mind, requires thinking outside the box. The best science often comes from understanding not just how things are, but how else they could have been.

If something works, it spreads.

Trial-and-error evolution

All else is metaphor. Since the main ideas presented on this book are based on Evolutionary psychology, much of its concepts had to be looked into question, and since the mind is modeled like a clumsy instrument, developing on a random process, the question remains, is it really so? This wonderful book confronts a truth about evolution as it relates to biological science. The title rhymes with ‘rouge’ or ‘scrooge’, and is slang for ‘a clumsy or inelegant solution to a problem’.

It is used by Marcus to refer to the haphazard construction of the human mind, as necessitated by evolution. Darwinian evolution has given us powerful insights which explain how each one of us as individuals are indeed individuals: We have thus come to learn that no human being’s body is ‘perfect’: The ideal of ‘perfection’ is our greatest illusion. It is usually limited to the realm of the Arts, where it ‘exists’ only as an Ideal, but is pervasive in philosophy and reasoning as well.


It is in this area that we have been misled for millennia by Plato’s rationalisation of these Ideals as being the only true Reality, with everything else, everything in the real world, being merely ‘shadows’ of those Ideals, not reality itself. Such a misconception creates real problems for ‘ordinary’ human beings who as a result cannot, or are unable to perceive themselves as having anything to do with ‘ideal beauty’ or ‘ideal perfection’.

We must accept ourselves as being imperfect, and often miserable and sometimes even evil aspects ‘sinners’ of some imagined ‘true’ humanity. It is not a surprise, therefore, to find that most religions and their ilk belabour this point, precisely because these organisations then proceed to try and convince us that they are needed to teach us how to achieve release from these imperfections, sometimes in one go, but mostly only through passing through specific ritualised procedures, before achieving differing higher ‘levels of being’, the absolute resolution of which will occur only when you are dead imagine!

In this context, therefore, this work can also be considered as a demolishing of the belief that human beings are ‘perfectly designed’ mechanisms. As a psychologist, Marcus is intrigued by the fact that despite this awareness at least by those who understand that the concept of ideal human bodily perfection is an illusion it seems that we have yet to fully comprehend that this same type of ‘imperfection’ lies in what we call the human brain, and so in our minds.

He sets out to set the record straight, examining such ‘mind’ qualities as Memory, Belief, Choice, Language and Pleasure. All of these are kluges: More importantly, none of them can be perfect, precisely because what we call our minds are also products of a very long process of evolution.

Bits and pieces of ‘earlier’ remnants of our evolutionary history are retained in our brains, and ‘later’ developments are layered on top of these. To be human, therefore, means to be quintessentially ‘imperfect’: It’s who we are. For some people this might sound terrifying, if only because this questions the very nature of our ‘absolute certainties’ on about just about anything we believe, remember, feel, etc.

Those who firmly believe they are in perfect control of their mind and in what happens to them and their bodies and who expect others to be the same might find this ‘message’ disconcerting. They may feel that accepting this message is too ‘costly’ — that in losing ‘certainty’ we are losing too much.

Ultimately, however, appreciation of this reality of our imperfection can only result in the acquisition of greater wisdom, not only about ourselves and the external world, but also in regard how we ‘deal’ personally, socially, politically, etc.

It will make us calmer, more tolerant and understanding, less judgemental, and more able to be amused rather than annoyed or even angry at ourselves and towards others. If all the above issues sounds heavy-handed and difficult and perhaps they are Marcus writes in a clear, compassionate, and illuminating way, using readily accessible language which no one would have difficulty understanding. What the reader gains, on the other hand, is wonderfully liberating and leads, naturally, to an kind of wisdom.

Marcus indeed provides a final chapter entitled ‘True Wisdom’ which offers 13 suggestions anyone would do well to adopt in their everyday dealings with themselves and with others. These are not ‘rules’ but suggestions. Their intent is to help us become aware of the ‘kluginess’ of the human mind and to help us appreciate that we can choose more wisely in our dealings with our realities; and with any luck we will all be wiser and happier as a result.

View all 5 comments. I read the NOOkcolor ebook edition I thought I’d really love a book about evolution’s mistakes, especially one who shows irrefutably Creationists are. Marcus starts out by noting that if God made man in His image, and if he made man perfect, it’s more than passingly strange that we have lousy spines that are actually retreaded quadruped spines.

Everyone who has had back and neck problems can relate to this, However, that was the beginning. Where Marcus goes stupidly wrong is his claim that if Go I read the NOOkcolor ebook edition I thought I’d really love a book about evolution’s mistakes, especially one who shows irrefutably Creationists are. Where Marcus goes stupidly wrong is his claim that if God really designed man.