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Jason Hillenburg’s Reviews > Intelligence in the Digital Age: How the Search for Something Larger May Be Imperiled by Lyn Lesch

Intelligence in the Digital Age by Lyn Lesch


Jason Hillenburg‘s review

Mar 15, 2020
Lyn Lesch’s “Intelligence in the Digital Age: How the Search for Something Larger May Be Imperiled” is the fifth book from a renowned educator famed for founding and directing his own democratically ran school for children ages six to fourteen over the course of twelve years. Lesch garnered considerable attention for his efforts and has built on that reputation with writing examining how larger issues of consciousness dovetail into our customary views about education. In an increasingly technological age where traditional methods are falling by the wayside each year, Lesch’s voice offers an important counterpoint to the idea of conduction business as usual as well as an antidote to the conceit that technological advancement presents ready-made answers for how society should and can educate its young people. “Intelligence in the Digital Age” confronts such issues with unflinching clarity and intelligence.

Lesch claims in the book’s acknowledgements that the work’s subject matter doesn’t yet entirely exist in the modern world. Such a statement, much of the time, is outright puffery. Lesch, however, isn’t empty braggadocio. “Intelligence in the Digital Age” addresses head on, over eleven chapters, the disruptive effect the digital world today has wrought on learning and consciousness at a fundamental level. There is, perhaps, a tendency some readers will have to dismiss Lesch’s concerns as somewhat Luddite or alarmist in nature – that the deleterious effects on consciousness and learning are personal choices rather than unavoidable consequences of immersion in the digital landscape.ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Perhaps, to a certain extent, the latter is true. The former is not as Lesch readily admits the positives our Brave New World has opened for us. Lesch makes a strong argument though that, despite our best efforts, the very nature of the digital world has inescapable effects on the intellect that are cumulative and increasingly destructive. The vigorous forceful prose utilized to make this point is consistent throughout the book, even when he reorients his focus, and the well chosen research underpinning his arguments lends further strength to the book’s arguments. The neuro-scientific evidence he presents is not fly by night. It is the result of years of evidence based theorizing borne out through practice rather than ideas free floating through the intellectual ether.


He wraps his ideas about consciousness and the digital world together with increasing seamlessness as the book progresses cumulating in the final chapter about consciousness in cyberspace. These final thoughts offer readers an emphatic exclamation point for everything preceding it while still avoiding a strident note as Lesch manages through the ten earlier chapters. It is a testament to Lesch’s talents as a writer that he presents such a powerful document in far less than two hundred pages; it is a book where the author knew exactly what they wanted to say and how to phrase it. This level of confidence is one of the essential ingredients making “Intelligence in the Digital Age: How the Search for Something Larger May Be Imperiled” one of the more important books written and published about life and learning in the digital age.

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Lyn Lesch boasts an unique perspective on learning few can match. The twelve years he helmed the Children’s School in Evanston, Illinois placed him on the proverbial front lines of modern education and his success directing the school he founded, a private and progressive institution serving children ages six through fourteen, is notable. Lesch focused, and continues focusing, on what goes on inside children during the learning process rather than embracing a results-oriented approach. This wont continues unabated with his fifth book Intelligence in the Digital Age: How the Search for Something Larger May Be Imperiled. It is a look at the effects the Internet and digital age exert on modern thinking and Lesch backs it with reams of research substantiating his theories and claims.
   Lesch takes eleven chapters to explore the issue thoroughly. It isn’t a strict clinical examination of the aforementioned topic; he couples the look at the effects the digital age has on the human mind alongside a searching meditation on the transformative results the modern digital world has on consciousness itself. There is a considerable neuroscientific discussion throughout the entirety of Intelligence in the Digital Age and this contribution to the book is key to understanding and accepting the central thesis at the heart of his book. It buttresses his idea that digital life has produced addictive behavior and eroded the critical thinking skills once so common to human life.
  Lesch’s writing, despite the breadth of research defining the work, has a brisk conversational quality but likewise has an easy going eloquence throughout its pages. It’s obviously the product of a seasoned writer and Lesch marshals his research and writing skills alike in such a way that the cumulative impact of the book is far greater than it would have been in the hands of a lesser writer. The structuring of the book, likewise, reflects the experience Lesch brings to bear. Intelligence in the Digital Age unfolds in a coherent and sensible fashion; one can practically track his train of thought on the subject as the book develops.One possible flaw some readers may recognize is Lesch’s seeming insistence these negative effects are unavoidable. You can sense a longing in his writing for a nominally “simpler” rime when thinkers didn’t enjoy the convenience of reference materials available at their fingertips; the idea an individual can use digital materials in responsible fashion without succumbing to an erosion of critical thinking skills receives short shrift from Lesch. Accepting the entirety of his arguments requires, to a point, that readers are sympathetic to Lesch’s point of view. It isn’t an enormous flaw however.Despite whatever failings, large or small, one may detect in Intelligence in the Digital Age: How the Search for Something Larger May Be Imperiled, it is apparent Lesch has written a work of enormous social importance and it behooves us to pay attention to its message. He has a thoughtful and intelligent take on the topic and the book never reads like the work of a knee jerk reactionary.Garth Thomas 


A Review from MobYorkCity

There is a strong personal touch defining Lyn Lesch’s Intelligence in the Digital Age: How the Search for Something Larger May Be Imperiled quite unlike anything else I have encountered in similar works. Some may balk at the airy conceits contained within the pages of this book, but it is clear Lesch has considered the ideas promoted by Intelligence in the Digital Age with great care. There is nothing breezy about his treatment. It is reflective of the serious forward-thinking point of view once leading Lesch to establish and direct the famed Children’s School where Lesch’s curriculum served young people ages six through fourteen. His educational ideas zeroed in more on the interior life of young learners rather than typical ends common to traditional scholastic models.ABOUT THE AUTHOR: groundbreaking continues with this text. Lesch does an exceptional job of marrying hard quantifiable data proving the digital age has produced significant cognitive negatives for the population at large, despite making communication superficially easier, with further study suggesting it has likewise refashioned the very nature of our consciousness for ill rather than a greater good. He doesn’t just reference hard data, however, but also utilizes a number of quotes from both literary and philosophical sources to help further underline his points. True believers in the Internet’s power to bridge previously unworkable societal divides may take issue with his sometimes dour view of the digital world’s utility for users, but it isn’t without cause. Lesch presents readers with plenty of evidence supporting his point of view.The book’s construction illustrates the solidity of his thought process well. The value of Intelligence in the Digital Age reveals itself to readers in systematic rather than slapdash fashion and his unified approach reinforces the strength of its arguments. Readers will finish the text convinced Lesch has touched on all the relevant issues connected with the topic, glossing over nothing, and I suggest a first reading go from beginning to end rather than dipping piecemeal into the text. Interested readers, if they opt to return to the book, as I believe they will, can choose to go straight to particular chapters for further studies on follow-up readings rather pursuing the same A-Z path defining their initial run-through of the book.AMAZON: sections of more high-flown theorizing included in Intelligence in the Digital Age are, invariably, less successful than those driven by data and hard logic alone for obvious reasons. More personal concerns drive ideas about the nature of consciousness and not everyone will concur with Lesch’s conclusions, or others he cites, regarding this phenomena. The book nonetheless retains your interest; a big reason for this is due to Lesch’s inherent writing skill luring you into his web on each page. Intelligence in the Digital Age: How the Search for Something Larger May Be Imperiled may be a slightly unwieldy title, but the contents are far from that. Instead, Lyn Lesch’s book will likely harbor a high degree of relevance for many years to come despite inevitable changes in our technological, social, and psychological makeup.Nicole Killian 

Independent Music and Arts, Inc

Intelligence in the Digital Age by Lyn Lesch

Intelligence in the Digital Age: How the Search for Something Larger May Be Imperiled by renowned educator Lyn Lesch is a brief book, but he manages to cover an enormous amount of theoretical territory in less than two hundred pages. It scarcely does his book justice to describe it as such, but the central thesis underlying Intelligence in the Digital Age is that the Internet and social media has undercut our neurological skills in significant ways and those negative consequences have even affected the nature of human consciousness in our modern world. It is Lesch’s fifth book and arguably his greatest work. In some ways, Intelligence in the Digital Age feels like the end result of the dozen years Lesch led the Children’s School he founded in Evanston, Illinois. One can easily imagine this work as a by-product of the observations he made during his tenure directing the school.

It does not stop there however. Lesch backs up his ideas with ample research, but the bulk of the book hinges on Lesch’s reasoning rather than relying on the aforementioned research. Lesch proves himself a lucid thinker throughout the whole of Intelligence in the Digital Age and, even if you disagree with a silver of his conclusion, you cannot argue he fails to make a strong case for his point of view. The neuroscientific evidence he harnesses in support of his points are extensive, but some may disagree outright with the seeming absolutism creeping in about the drawbacks he sees inherent in the digital age. Yes, many become addicted to the dopamine rush of technological engagement, but many do use the Internet in responsible fashion and experience no such drawbacks.


He is a polished writer, naturally, and his far reaching authorial experience takes full flight in this text. Lesch has a manner of writing about academically slanted subjects in an accessible fashion many other writers undoubtedly would envy. Intelligence in the Digital Age never reads like a stiff academic text; instead, it reads like an intelligent study with academic overtones. He quotes freely from academic, philosophical, and literary sources alike. The variety fueling this book is one of its chief strengths.

Another of its strengths comes from Lesch’s obvious investment in the topic. While Lesch never figuratively beats his chest in name of the “cause”, it is clear throughout Intelligence in the Digital Age that Lesch is a passionate advocate for the book’s topic. He has a sincere and human desire for readers to examine the topic at hand with the same seriousness he pays to the topic. The intellectual slant of the work never precludes Lesch from speaking with an impassioned voice without ever losing the unimpeachable reason and logic running throughout the work.

Intelligence in the Digital Age: How the Search for Something Larger May Be Imperiled certainly isn’t trusting of the digital world and its blandishments, but Lesch isn’t skeptical without reason. He offers ample justification, through both sheer rhetorical force and research, for why our world should exercise caution treating the digital age as the dawning of a new model for living. It’s a book well worth any serious thinker’s attention.

Cay Burton