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What Should We Be Worried About?: Real…

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

by John Brockman (Editor)

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A few years ago I decided I didn't have as much time to live on edge.org like I'd like to so I stopped reading the site every day. I pretty much stopped altogether and try to fit into my too long reading list John Brockman's annual collections of answers to his...um, annual questions.

Now that the Edge Question is a pageant, I get the impression reading this one that quite a few contributors think to themselves, "Crap! Another question. Well, I have to submit something or I won't be viable anymore!" And I really want to know who didn't make the cut! because some of these baffle me. Jim Rome's radio schtick of "have a take...and don't suck" didn't seem to apply to the getting process. Or, maybe it did!

The answers to what we should worry about range from a handful of genuine concerns to some pretty whacky (think soft sciences) ones, running the gamut with more than a little overlap. A lot of those soft science contributions - from psychologists, sociologists and... apparently people actually do call themselves...philosophers - sure seemed to either be lectures on some sort of history or self-promotion. Note to those guys: answer the damn question and stroke your ego on your own time.

Carlo Rovelli, a theoretical physicist, wrote in his essay, “The task of separating the good thoughts from the silly ones is hard, of course, but this is where intelligence matters”. Brockman's editing/selection could have used more intelligence, because we're supposed to be worried about Internet effects on words or declining population or it being too late to stop telling aggressive aliens where we live. On the other hand, there are excellent observations about legitimate concerns over dumbing down of the populace, science illiteracy and similar sentiments.

Despite the odd assortment of WTF? essays, I concurred with many, including problems of "fast knowledge" - (paraphrasing in my words) smart devices make it so we don't have to think/remember; digital tattoos - we're leaving lasting trails of ourselves everyday on the world interconnections; reduction in science knowledge due to social media - “In sum, the science that laypeople encounter will become increasingly unfiltered by scientific experts."; anti-intellectualism; and the rise of stupid.

Always interesting, for the social experiment of scientists and others vying to be included, as well as the content. ( )
  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
What could I be happier about? Seriously, this was right up my alley. Bite-size nuggets from the world's greatest thinkers? Discussing earth's problems? Ina manner unique one from the other? Sign me up! The editor did a masterful job eliciting the best from the writers. Even if similar topics were discussed, the angles were entirely different, making this a truly full book of wisdom and knowledge. Also making my day happy was that there are several more extant books in this series, with several more to follow. I can't get enough, and I've got an unending supply. ( )
  MartinBodek | Jun 11, 2015 |
Almost every essay is thoughtful and thought-provoking, but a kind of worry fatigue set in around page 400. Had I owned this book, I would have kept it at bedside and dipped in to read one or two now and then. That's the way to read this. ( )
1 vote nmele | May 9, 2014 |
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Posing the question "What should we be worried about?" to one hundred fifty of the world's greatest minds, this collection of responses reveals what about the present or the future worries each of them the most.

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