Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A bad smell

Take a look at the image attached to this tweet, from the Varsity Match that took place last weekend. I've written about that match before, but it rolls around once a year and once a year some obvious points require restating. So take a look at that image. What does it tell you about the Varsity Match? What does it tell you about the institutions involved?

Obviously what looms out at the reader is the larger-than-life multiple plagiarist and conman in the front row, but there's not much to add to what I wrote last year: either this is a fine old tradition of a match between great academic institutions, or it is a tacky and disreputable occasion from which a bad smell emanates due to the people attached to it.

As it stands, it's the latter, and the smell is getting worse.

Why do I say so? Well, who's the chap at the back, holding his chin?

The answer is that it's Tony Buzan, longstanding Ray friend and crony, business partner of the Penguin's in various dubious enterprises and notorious peddler of pseudoscience and outright claptrap to the gullible and stupid.

Jonathan Joshua Foer, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (Penguin, 2011)

Now, recalling that this is supposed to be a contest between students at two world-class academic institutions, how do you think you would fare as a student at those institutions if your work consisted of the kind of claptrap?

Or if you wrote "as a species we are not large like the Whale or the Elephant" or "our Brain is what we are. Possibly unique in the past present and future history of the Universe"?

Or if more than a hundred examples of your work were demonstrably plagiarised in the most crude and obvious way?

We know the answer. But still, there's Ray at the front of the picture and Buzan at the back, confirming that this isn't, any longer, any kind of prestigious contest, any kind of respectable tradition, but an event which serves largely to promote a thoroughly disreputable individual along with his friends and cronies.

Make your minds up. Either be a prestigious event, or don't. And if you put people like this at front and back of your photographs, what you've done is chosen "don't".

Simple as that.
- - - - -

Just out of interest - what on earth is this about?

This particular passage comes from a book called Building Brainpower by Dilip Mukherjea (Westland, 2011) but you can find similar claims in various Buzan-related sources. Scholars in the field of Penguin Studies are aware that whenever Ray makes a ludicrous claim it's usually based on some kind of reality - so if the same principle applies here, what connection has Tony Buzan had with the Olympiad team?

[Ray Keene index]


David R said...

This from Buzan's website: hope you're sitting firmly on your chair

"Tony Buzan’s Mind Map Book will do for the brain what Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time did for the universe."
Raymond Keene, O.B.E., Chess Grandmaster, Mind Sports Correspondent, The Times of London

Anonymous said...

Looks like ex-chess player Peter A N Webster top right. What's he doing there?

an ordinary chessplayer said...

So I googled "list of thinking tools" and looked at the 2nd result:
I agree that I might use 15% of these. I would like to meet the youngster who uses 98%.

Skeptic said...

You *can* learn to think better of course - it's known as "education" - but this is taught by the (perfectly legitimate) courses in your local college or high school which teach you, say, the basics of formal logic or skeptical thinking or the scientific method, without dishonestly implying this will make you a genius, or that the instructor is the world's smartest man.

(It is sad to contemplate how little formal education deals either with this or with teaching actual facts about, say, history or grammar or math or any other particular subjec. Then again, complaints about education's declining standards go back to ancient Egypt. But I digress.)

Such courses are also much cheaper - often available for free online, or for nominal registration fees at your local adult education center - which gives us a clue as to what Burzan (my iPad appropriately autocorrects to "burden") and Keene are really after: your money.

You have to ask yourself why, if those involved are such latter-day Aristotles, they are selling dubious seminars and lousy, plagiarized books, instead of - say - winning Nobel prizes, curing cancer, founding the next Google, or for that matter becoming world chess champions.

The last goal, at least, should be an easy feat for such transcendental geniuses who know the secret to use 98% of their hidden intellectual abilities, instead of the 10 or 15% the rest of us poor slobs use. Why isn't Buzan a GM?

Anonymous said...

Of course you meant Joshua Foer not Jonathan. I can recommend a book on memory by an outstanding writer...what's his name...oh yes..Tony Boozan.