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What is Your Dangerous Idea? by John…

What is Your Dangerous Idea? (edition 2007)

by John (editor) Brockman

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484621,248 (3.82)9
Title:What is Your Dangerous Idea?
Authors:John (editor) Brockman
Info:Pocket Books (2007), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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What Is Your Dangerous Idea?: Today's Leading Thinkers on the Unthinkable by John Brockman (Editor)



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4 1/2 stars: Super, couldn't put it down.

From the back cover: "Scientists have always promoted theories and unveiled discoveries that challenge everything society holds dear; ideas with both positive and dire consequences. Many thoughts that resonate today are dangerous not because they are assumed to be false, but because they might turn out to be true. What do the world's leading scientists and thinkers consider to be their most dangerous idea? The online forum The Edge collects the answers....and takes an unflinching look at the daring, breathtaking, sometimes terrifying thoughts that could forever alter our world and the way we live in it.


I will let this book speak for itself. A fascinating read, 2-4 page essays by leading scientists and thinkers answering the question: what is your dangerous idea. Engaging, thought provoking.

Quotes and excerpts below:

"We are entirely alone... Personally, I have never found this possibility particularly troubling, but my experience has been that most people go to considerable lengths to convince themselves that it is otherwise.... The fact that our existence has no purpose outside that existence is completely irrelevant to the way we live our lives, since we are inside our existence. The fact that our existence has no purpose for the universe --whatever that means--in no way means that it has no purpose for us. We must ask and answer questions about ourselves within the framework of our existence as what we are." -- Keith Devlin

"I don't share my most dangerous ideas. Ideas are the most powerful forces we can unleash on the world, and they should not be let loose without careful consideration of their consequences. Some ideas are dangerous because they are false, like an idea that one race of humans is more worthy than another, or that one religion has a monopoly on the truth. False ideas like these spread like wildfire and have caused immeasurable harm. They still do. Such false ideas should obviously not be encouraged, but there are also plenty of true ideas that should not be spread--ideas about how to cause terror and pain and chaos, ideas of how to better convince people of things that are not true." --W. Daniel Hillis

"The most important thing about [climate change] is that it hurts people; the basis of our response should be human solidarity. The planet will take care of itself."-- Oliver Morton

"Bertrand Russell's idea... is about as dangerous as they come. .. 'I wish to propose for the reader's favorable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing its true.'"--Nicholas Humphrey

"In response to [religious diversity] most sensible people advocate something called 'religious tolerance'. While religious tolera(nce is surely better than religious war, tolerance is not without its liabilities. Our fear of provoking religious hatred has rendered us incapable of criticizing ideas that are now patently absurd and increasingly maladaptive. It has also obliged us to lie to ourselves--repeatedly and at the highest levels-- about the compatability between religious faith and scientific rationality."--Sam Harris

"Resolution of religious conflict is impossible, because there is no empirical test of the ghostly, and many theologians prey, intentionally or not, on the fears, superstitions, irrationality, and herd tendencies that are our species' neurobehavioral endowment. Religious fundamentalism inflames conflict and prevents solution; the more extreme and irrational one's position, the stronger one's faith. When you are in possession of absolute truth, compromise is not an option.... Space exploration is a goal of sufficient grandeur to unite people of all nations. This is all there is. The sooner we accept this dangerous idea, the sooner we can get on with the essential task of making the most of our lives on this planet."--Robert Provine

"An underlying reason [for increased religious fervor] is that science treats humans and intentions only as incidental elements in the universe, whereas for religion they are central. Science is not particularly well suited to deal with people's existential anxieties, including death, deception, sudden catastrophe, loneliness, or longing for love or justice. It cannot tell us what we ought to do, only what we can do. Religion thrives because it addresses people' deepest emotional yearnings and society's foundational moral needs, perhaps even more so in complex and mobile societies that are increasingly divorced from nurturing family settings and long familiar environments. -- Scott Atran

"Within the US there are many who are adapting successfully. They tend to concentrate on a very few zip codes-- life science clusters like 92121 (between Salk, Scripps and UCSD) and techno-empires like 02139 (MIT). Most of the nation's wealth and taxes are generated by a few states--and inside those states, within a few square miles. Those who live in these areas are the most affronted by restrictions on research, the lack of science-literate teenagers, and the reliance on God instead of science. Politicians well understand these divides, and they have gerrymandered their districts to reflect them. Because competitive elections are rarer today than turnover within the Soviet politburo, there is hardly ever an open discussion as to why other parts of the country think and act so differently. -- Juan Enriquez

"Are there any dangerous ideas that are conspicuously unrepresented in this book? ... First I noticed only fleeting references to eugenics, and they were disparaging. In the 20s and 30s scientists from both political left and right would not have found the idea of designer babies particularly dangerous. Today I suggest that the idea is too dangerous for comfortable discussion, even under the license granted by a book like this, and my conujecture is that Adolf Hitler is responsible for the change. ... My other surprise omission from this list of dangerous ideas concerns the unspoken assumption of human moral uniqueness. It is harder than most people realize to justify the unique and exclusive status that Homo Sapiens enjoys in our unconscious assumptions. ... What precisely is the moral difference between our ancestors attitude toward slaves and our attitude toward nonhuman animals? "-- Richard Dawkins in the afterword ( )
  PokPok | Jan 22, 2016 |
Very interesting indeed. Great coffee table books that could be read over days or months. The new ideas are still very dangerous in this modern world fucked up by Christian and Islamic religions.

Science is the only way to advance humankind and hopefully we will not destroy it out of stupidity. The rational thinking of the brightest minds reminds us that we are still animals, come along in the last few seconds of the evoluation history. Look how much we have destroyed on Earth already. We are not good for Earth for that matter because we destroyed more than we could build, yet we are the only specie that could have the chance to find solutions to the problems we created.

Most of the human on Earth do not think rationally. That's just sad and make the future that much more dangerous. ( )
  XOX | Jun 7, 2011 |
A collection of short essays about the next "dangerous idea". Copernicus's idea that the earth went round the moon and Darwin's idea of evolution are given as the stock examples of ideas that were dangerous in the past. What will be proved true in the future that we would find difficult to believe today? I found the articles to be very hit and miss. They variously seemed too obvious, too esoteric or barely worth mentioning. And too many were of the navel gazing "the idea of a dangerous idea is dangerous" or variations. One of the problems is that there are a lot of short articles and they've been arranged so that the themes follow on from one writer to the next; this makes for some degree of redundancy. There is a lot here that's interesting to read but the book as a whole wasn't gripping.
  nocto | Dec 8, 2010 |
Every year the Edge website gathers together a large number of "scientists and other thinkers in the empirical world," many of them giants in their fields, asks them to answer some broad, philosophical question, and then collects all the answers together into a book. 2006's question was "What is your dangerous idea?", defined as "an idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true." The result is a bit of a mixed bag. A lot of the answers failed to strike me as either particularly shocking or remotely likely to lead to social destabilization. There was a fair amount of repetition, as multiple people offered essentially the same answers in different words. A number of folks seem to have subtly misinterpreted the question, choosing to talk more about other people's false ideas than their own true-but-dangerous ones. And a few of them were just plain wacky. On the other hand, there were also quite a few answers that were both intriguing and provocative, and the book as a whole is interesting as a snapshot of what really smart people are thinking about and finding themselves disturbed by here in the early 21st century. The central question itself is also interesting, since it raises the further question -- which a number of respondents addressed explicitly -- of whether "dangerous" ideas ought to be suppressed or embraced. ( )
1 vote bragan | May 1, 2009 |
This book contains over a hundred essays from scientists and thinkers on what they consider to be their most dangerous idea. Some ideas were good, some were ridiculous and some were incomprehensable. My eyes glazed over during the physics section - string theory, blah, blah. But I really enjoyed reading the ideas that were related to the social sciences and psychology. ( )
  mcelhra | Oct 9, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brockman, JohnEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anderson, AlunContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anderson, Philip W.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Atran, ScottContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Banaji, Mahzarin R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baron-Cohen, SimonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barondes, SamuelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Benford, GregoryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bering, JesseContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bernstein, JeremyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blackmore, SusanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bloom, PaulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bodanis, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brand, StewartContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brooks, RodneyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Buss, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Campbell, PhilipContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chalupa, Leo M.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Clark, AndyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cochran, GregoryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Coyne, Jerry A.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Csikszentmihalyi, MihalyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davies, Paul C. W.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dawkins, RichardAfterwordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dennett, Daniel C.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Devlin, KeithContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Diamond, JaredContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dutton, DenisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dyson, Freeman J.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dyson, GeorgeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Enriquez, JuanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ewald, Paul W.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Feinberg, Todd E.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fischl, EricContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fisher, HelenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gardner, HowardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Garreau, JoelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gelernter, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gershenfeld, NeilContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gilbert, DanielContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gleiser, MarceloContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goleman, DanielContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gopnik, AlisonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gornik, AprilContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Kelly, KevinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Miller, GeoffreyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Nørretranders, TorContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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O'Donnell, James J.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Paulos, John AllenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pöppel, ErnstContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Pickover, CliffordContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pinker, StevenIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pizarro, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pollack, JordanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Porco, Carolyn C.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Provine, Robert R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061214957, Paperback)

From Copernicus to Darwin, to current-day thinkers, scientists have always promoted theories and unveiled discoveries that challenge everything society holds dear; ideas with both positive and dire consequences. Many thoughts that resonate today are dangerous not because they are assumed to be false, but because they might turn out to be true.

What do the world's leading scientists and thinkers consider to be their most dangerous idea? Through the leading online forum Edge (www.edge.org), the call went out, and this compelling and easily digestible volume collects the answers. From using medication to permanently alter our personalities to contemplating a universe in which we are utterly alone, to the idea that the universe might be fundamentally inexplicable, What Is Your Dangerous Idea? takes an unflinching look at the daring, breathtaking, sometimes terrifying thoughts that could forever alter our world and the way we live in it.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:58 -0400)

The follow-up to 'What We Believe But Cannot Prove', this is a collection of thought-experiments by some of the most eminent thinkers and scientists alive, including Richard Dawkins, Jared Diamond and Steven Pinker.

(summary from another edition)

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