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Book Review: Looking Glass

The Smarter Screen is a very tough book to read and it requires tremendous attention from its reader, the opposite of the subjects it talks about, writes Vinu Syriac

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of the latest technological advancements is in need of a brain. For those who don’t read the classics: Gadgets make us dumb.

Does The Smarter Screen claim otherwise? Oh, no, it acknowledges the fact and then goes on to explain how to take advantage of it. Shlomo Benartzi is a behavioural economist and chooses his examples shrewdly. He begins with three very different, but relevant cases: Obama’s ambitious www.healthcare.gov, how the US military collects intelligence and Uber and its surge pricing. Three things that most Americans would have an opinion or two about. He uses the same to introduce the reader to the concept of the Mental Screen. The screen within our brains that analyses information and makes choices.

In his words, “The human being is supposed to be the most amazing machine in the universe. But when you start to probe our information processing specs, what you soon discover is we are defined by our shortcomings”. These shortcomings (and they are growing at an alarming rate) are what Benartzi wants prospective marketers to address and circumvent.

Using examples of famous websites and studies done by researchers across the country, Benartzi shows us the mismatch between the physical screens in front of us and our mental screens. He analyses our reaction times with a set of tests and shows how our attention spans and recollection abilities are coming down by the day. He makes a good case for digital tailoring of advertising. This is the part where any company that is looking at advertising and selling its services need to concentrate. It is also where there are more misses than hits, primarily because of how different people are.

The Smarter Screen is a very tough book to read and it requires tremendous attention from its reader, the opposite of the subjects it talks about. This is not a book for the average non-fiction reader, but rather for a select few. The blurb and its quotes seem to suggest a self-help book for business owners. But it requires them to do much more. I, however, found it difficult to turn the pages because it kept proving that my first paragraph was more and more true.