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What Have You Changed Your Mind About?: Today's Leading Minds Rethink Everything

Overview

Even geniuses change their minds sometimes.

Edge (www.edge.org), the influential online intellectual salon, recently asked 150 high-powered thinkers to discuss their most telling missteps and reconsiderations: What have you changed your mind about? The answers are brilliant, eye-opening, fascinating, sometimes shocking, and certain to kick-start countless passionate debates.

Steven Pinker on the future of human evolution • Richard Dawkins on ...

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Overview

Even geniuses change their minds sometimes.

Edge (www.edge.org), the influential online intellectual salon, recently asked 150 high-powered thinkers to discuss their most telling missteps and reconsiderations: What have you changed your mind about? The answers are brilliant, eye-opening, fascinating, sometimes shocking, and certain to kick-start countless passionate debates.

Steven Pinker on the future of human evolution • Richard Dawkins on the mysteries of courtship • SAM HARRIS on the indifference of Mother Nature • Nassim Nicholas Taleb on the irrelevance of probability • Chris Anderson on the reality of global warming • Alan Alda on the existence of God • Ray Kurzweil on the possibility of extraterrestrial life • Brian Eno on what it means to be a "revolutionary" • Helen Fisher on love, fidelity, and the viability of marriage • Irene Pepperberg on learning from parrots . . . and many others.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this wide-ranging assortment of 150 brief essays, well-known figures from every conceivable field demonstrate why it's a prerogative of all thoughtful people to change their mind once in a while. Technologist Ray Kurzweil says he now shares Enrico Fermi's question: if other intelligent civilizations exist, then where are they? Nassim Nicholas Taleb (The Black Swan) reveals that he has lost faith in probability as a guiding light for making decisions. Oliver Morton (Mapping Mars) confesses that he has lost his childlike faith in the value of manned space flight to distant worlds. J. Craig Venter, celebrated for his work on the human genome, has ceased to believe that nature can absorb any abuses that we subject it to, and that world governments must move quickly to prevent global disaster. Alan Alda says, "So far, I've changed my mind twice about God," going from believer to atheist to agnostic. Brockman, editor of Edge.org and numerous anthologies, has pulled together a thought-provoking collection of focused and tightly argued pieces demonstrating the courage to change strongly held convictions. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Scientists, futurists and other pundits ruminate on roads not taken and missteps along the way. Marvin Minsky, the pioneering cognitive scientist, once said that anyone interested in getting at the real answer to a question had better keep an open mind: "You have to form the habit of not wanting to have been right for very long." He added, perhaps unhelpfully, that most other people won't aid in the quest, since they're "ignorant savages." The contributors to Brockman's edge.com salon are more kindly disposed, but they gamely address the annual question to which Brockman (Digerati, 1996, etc.) puts them-in this case, as the title says, how they've shaken off dogmas, preconceptions and misconceptions to rethink the Big Questions of Life. The noted musician and technologist Brian Eno remarks that doing this is important, just as it's important for consumers of information to be interested in getting the facts right. In the greater scheme of things, he opines, it doesn't really matter how many words the Eskimos have for snow, but "it does matter if they believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11." In somewhat dour spirit, former hipster stalwart Stewart Brand, now approaching 70, discards his previous conviction that old things are authentic and desirable: "New stuff is mostly crap, too, of course. But the best new stuff is invariably better than the best old stuff." With more depth, psychologist Steven Pinker rethinks his previous conviction that humans unhooked themselves from evolution at the dawn of agriculture; the findings of the Human Genome Project suggest otherwise. Neoconservative computer guru David Gelernter observes how smart he's been all along about newfangled thingssuch as cloud computing, owning to being wrong only about the public's attitude to technology ("cautious but not reactionary"). And so on, ranging from the paradoxical and puzzling to the matter of fact (cyberspace is just a place to make a buck; the world is indeed warming). There's some chaff here, but also plenty of insights for the scientifically curious.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061686542
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/6/2009
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 806,838
  • Product dimensions: 7.98 (w) x 5.32 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

The publisher of the online science salon Edge.org, John Brockman is the editor of The Universe, This Explains Everything, This Will Make You Smarter, and other volumes. He is the founder of the literary agency Brockman, Inc., and lives in New York City.

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