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Talent Show and Tell

David Shenk, author of a bunch of really interesting non-fiction books including this one on chess, and this one on Alzheimer’s disease, has begun working on a book about talent. In one key regard, Shenk is following in footsteps of, inter alia, Chris Anderson, who used a blog to help develop the content of his book, both called The Long Tail. Here is Shenk’s new blog, in which he describes his book, to be called The Genius In All of Us: Nature, Nurture and the New Science of Talent and Giftedness:

Where does greatness come from? How did Mozart become Mozart or Tiger Woods become Tiger Woods? How does one 10-year-old develop perfect pitch while his kid brother can’t even get through “Happy Birthday” without scaring people out of the room? The search for the root of talent and “giftedness” is an old and contentious one, and has high-stakes implications. A century-old nature vs. nurture debate has continuously flummoxed scientists and inflamed popular discourse.

Now, thanks to a gym full of new science, there is a new, third way to understand talent, giftedness, and extraordinary achievement. The details are tricky, but the message and implications are clear.

I am pretty sure that the “third way” Shenk refers to is the work of researchers like Anders Ericsson, which we wrote about here.

The goal of Shenk’s blog is meant to generate discourse on the subject. Given that goal, I predict it will be, shall we say, wildly successful. It would be fun to take bets on how long it takes for a certain kind of I.Q. evangelist to show up and commandeer the discussion. But, just as Vegas bookmakers won’t take bets on events that can be too easily manipulated by the parties involved, I’m afraid that’s a non-starter.