What Should We Be Worried About?: Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night

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Overview

Drawing from the horizons of science, today's leading thinkers reveal the hidden threats nobody is talking about—and expose the false fears everyone else is distracted by.

What should we be worried about? That is the question John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org ("The world's smartest website"—The Guardian), posed to the planet's most influential minds. He asked them to disclose something that, for scientific reasons, worries them—particularly scenarios that aren't on the ...

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What Should We Be Worried About?: Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night

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Overview

Drawing from the horizons of science, today's leading thinkers reveal the hidden threats nobody is talking about—and expose the false fears everyone else is distracted by.

What should we be worried about? That is the question John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org ("The world's smartest website"—The Guardian), posed to the planet's most influential minds. He asked them to disclose something that, for scientific reasons, worries them—particularly scenarios that aren't on the popular radar yet. Encompassing neuroscience, economics, philosophy, physics, psychology, biology, and more—here are 150 ideas that will revolutionize your understanding of the world.

Steven Pinker uncovers the real risk factors for war
• Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi peers into the coming virtual abyss
• Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek laments our squandered opportunities to prevent global catastrophe
• Seth Lloyd calculates the threat of a financial black hole
• Alison Gopnik on the loss of childhood
• Nassim Nicholas Taleb explains why firefighters understand risk far better than economic "experts"
• Matt Ridley on the alarming re-emergence of superstition
• Daniel C. Dennett and george dyson ponder the impact of a major breakdown of the Internet
• Jennifer Jacquet fears human-induced damage to the planet due to "the Anthropocebo Effect"
• Douglas Rushkoff fears humanity is losing its soul
• Nicholas Carr on the "patience deficit"
• Tim O'Reilly foresees a coming new Dark Age
• Scott Atran on the homogenization of human experience
• Sherry Turkle explores what's lost when kids are constantly connected
• Kevin Kelly outlines the looming "underpopulation bomb"
• Helen Fisher on the fate of men
• Lawrence Krauss dreads what we don't know about the universe
• Susan Blackmore on the loss of manual skills
• Kate Jeffery on the death of death
• plus J. Craig Venter, Daniel Goleman, Virginia Heffernan, Sam Harris, Brian Eno, Martin Rees, and more

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
11/04/2013
Those without enough to worry about will have fuel for many a future sleepless night after perusing this thick collection of concerns from 150 influential philosophers, futurists, and scientists compiled by Brockman, the CEO of literary agency Brockman Inc. and founder of online science salon Edge.org. The essays vary in length, from film director Terry Gilliam’s wry, sentence-long “I’ve Given Up Worrying,” to a handful of five- and six-page screeds. The subjects fall into predictable categories, from the dangers of our dependence on the Internet and the possibility of a technological Singularity, to concern for how technology could change children’s brains and reduce the overall level of general knowledge. Security technologist Bruce Schneier and others raise questions of privacy in a world of commodified information; others worry about the rise of superstition and anti-science sentiments and the growing lack of informed science coverage in the news. Contributors run the gamut from science fiction author Bruce Sterling and technological sociologist Sherry Turkle to composer Brian Eno and physicist Lisa Randall. While some arguments are more compelling than others, Brockman offers an impressive array of ideas from a diverse group that’s sure to make readers think, argue, and—presumably—worry. (Feb.)
Atlantic.com
“Edge.org has become an epicenter of bleeding-edge insight across science, technology and beyond, hosting conversations with some of our era’s greatest thinkers”
Booklist (starred review)
“Substantial and engrossing. . . . Brockman and the Edge contributors offer fresh and invaluable perspectives on crucial aspects of our lives.”
Booklist
“Substantial and engrossing. . .Brockman and the Edge contributors offer fresh and invaluable perspectives on crucial aspects of our lives.”
New York Times
“Reads like an atlas of fear.”
Washington Post
“This collection helps us see the myriad possible concerns laid out before us, articulating the various elements of fear that we need to fear.”
Iron Mountain Daily News
“An interesting collection of food for thought.”
Kirkus Reviews
2014-01-04
As if we didn't have enough to worry about, an acclaimed website gleans sophisticated anxieties for our consideration from a cohort of well-educated, highly influential people. Each year, literary agent and Edge.org founder Brockman (Thinking: The New Science of Decision-Making, Problem-Solving, and Prediction, 2013, etc.) asks dozens of scientists, academics, authors and artists (in roughly declining order of representation) a thought-provoking question to which he invites a brief response. This year, the author asked what people should worry about that is "under the radar," or what is on the radar that isn't worth worrying about? In this collection, climate change and the impending collapse of the world financial system are relegated to supporting roles, giving way to a more eclectic hodgepodge of concerns, many reflecting their authors' professional backgrounds. The physicists tend to worry about the disastrous effect that the lack of public support for big science projects, like the Large Hadron Collider, is already having on future discoveries and theories. A number of neuroscientists are anxious about the effect of information technologies on the minds and language of young people. Few worry about overpopulation; in fact, several participants propose a projected collapse of the global population curve toward the end of the century as cause for worry about how the youthful minority will cope with a superabundance of seniors. A little of these worries goes a very long way, and reading this collection can soon oppress readers: Imagine 150 very smart people taking turns trying to outdo each other with bad scenarios no one else has thought of. Instead of reading straight through, dip in and sample the ideas of the likes of Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Mary Catherine Bateson, Evgeny Morozov, J. Craig Venter, Brian Eno and many more obscure but no less erudite thinkers. You will be surprised, you will learn a lot, and indeed, you will have a higher quality of things to worry about.
From the Publisher
"Substantial and engrossing . . . Brockman and the Edge contributors offer fresh and invaluable perspectives on crucial aspects of our lives." —-Booklist Starred Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062296238
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/11/2014
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 135,603
  • Product dimensions: 10.60 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

The publisher of the influential online science salon Edge.org, John Brockman is the editor of Thinking, This Explains Everything, This Will Make You Smarter, and What Should We Be Worried About? He founded the literary agency Brockman Inc. and lives in New York City.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2014

    AWESOME!!

    I just finished reading the excerpt of the the book in John Brockman's previous book:"This Will Make You Smarter". It is awesome! I would like to get the actual book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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