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The Fate of the Species: Why the Human Race May Cause Its Own Extinction and How We Can Stop It Hardcover – May 22, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1608192588 ISBN-10: 160819258X Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (May 22, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160819258X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608192588
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #866,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


 "An intelligent account of the mess we are making of the planet."—Kirkus Reviews

"While Guterl’s pessimism is not for the faint of heart, it turns out to be remarkably entertaining."—Publishers Weekly

"This is a beautifully written book that will make you think and worry. Fred Guterl explains everything that could go wrong in lucid prose. It is an arresting, though unnerving combination."—Fareed Zakaria, author of The Post-American World and host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS

"It feels strange to call a book about the end of humanity elegant and engaging, but so be it. Fred Guterl has researched the many, many ways in which we could bring destruction down upon our own heads, bringing them up to date with the latest research in climatology, synthetic biology, and computer science. I hope the world doesn't crash, but if it does, I can't say Guterl didn't warn me."—Carl Zimmer, author of A Planet of Viruses

"An important, awe-inspiring book. This is a straight-from-the-shoulder assessment of the future of a humankind trapped by its own technological prowess. The Fate of the Species is written by a master of his craft with provocative, thoughtful elegance. Guterl combines measured optimism with scary scenarios in a telling synthesis of cutting edge science made understandable. This book should be required reading for everyone, and I mean everyone."—Brian Fagan, archaeologist and author of Elixir and The Great Warming

"Guterl has written 'How We Die' for the human species. From reverse genetics that creates a deadly flu virus to climate change that kills the Asian monsoons, his scenarios are so fascinating and compelling you almost forget what's at stake. Almost."—Sharon Begley, former science columnist for Newsweek and The Wall St. Journal

"The human species has no shortage of ways to meet its end—superviruses, climate change,  global famine. But unlike other species that have come and gone in the long and sometimes pitiless history of the planet, we'd be the agents of our own destruction. The good news is, a creature powerful enough to author its own demise is also smart enough to avoid it. The Fate of the Species tells both sides of that very big tale and does so with honesty, wisdom—and more than a little hope."—Jeff Kluger, author of The Sibling Effect

"The Fate of the Species somehow manages to frighten, amuse and enlighten all at the same time. It isn't about doom as much as the opportunity for the human race to come up with a happier ending to its story. Fred Guterl reveals how science can be by turns heroic, dangerous and helpless, and he proves a thoughtful, even-handed and sometimes playful guide to the risks that we ourselves have created. The news is sobering, but also fascinating and in some ways surprisingly uplifting."—David Freedman, author of Wrong

About the Author

Fred Guterl is an award-winning journalist and executive editor of Scientific American. He worked for ten years at Newsweek, most recently as deputy editor, covering the most important trends in science, technology, and international affairs. He has also appeared on CNN, Charlie Rose, the Today Show, and on other television programs to discuss popular issues in science. Guterl holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Rochester, and has taught science writing at Princeton University. He lives in the New York City area with his wife and two children.

More About the Author

Fred Guterl is an award winning journalist who has been writing about science for more than 25 years. He is currently executive editor of Scientific American. During the 2000s he was deputy editor at Newsweek International, and before that worked at various times as an editor of Discover and IEEE Spectrum. He also did a short stint at IBM under Lou Gerstner and worked as a foreign correspondent based in London, England.

Guterl's article "Riddles in the Sand" (Discover) won the Journalism Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The Overseas Press Club honored his article "The Wasteland" (Newsweek) for environmental writing (written with the help of Eve Conant and other ace Newsweek reporters). In 2011, Scientific American won the General Excellence Award for the National Society of Magazine editors for the first time in its 166-year history. The Fate of the Species is his first book.

Customer Reviews

This book seemed very depressing, but it forces you to think about the pitfalls of our complex society.
Janet B. Zehr
Fred Guterl is executive editor of "Scientific American" providing a sense of credibility to his easy to read writing.
Dennis Twosheds
This book flows like a mystery novel at times which is refreshing compared to the textbooks I read for fun.
Daniel Ingersoll

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Seran on May 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm going to recommend Fate of the Species to my book club and to my undergraduate students in anthropology. Though my book club usually reads literature, Fate of the Species will give us the chance to discuss the existential issues we face as citizens of the 21st century in both a factual way and philosophical way. Without being sensational, the author gives readers a good feel for the immediacy of our predicaments and the ironies of our time--so we can really talk about what we would do if faced with a world changing event like a major epidemic--who would live, who would die, how would life change? From this perspective, we could have a more meaningful conversation about public policies and how our own actions affect everyone else on the planet. Great discussion topics! The author is correct in saying we need to become aware of the problems we face before we can come up with a solution. I found the chapters on superviruses and ecosystems particularly informative though throughout the entire book, Guterl shows us how we exist as part of local and global ecosystems--in terms of food resources, germs and viruses, information, security.
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37 of 45 people found the following review helpful By BLehner on May 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The end is near. But just how near? And what will be the cause? In his book The Fate Of The Species Scientific American editor Fred Guterl delves into what may cause our extinction and what we can do about it.
There are many books out there discussing this topic, most of them in a very sensationalist and wildly exaggerating style. Luckily for me, this isn't the case here as the author sets a matter of fact tone which I was immediately taken with. Written in a conversational style and painting both vivid and plausible scenarios of what could happen, he takes the reader from super viruses past climate change straight to what he obviously sees as the most likely culprit of all - scientific and technological progress. Our own inventions as source and cause of our possible extinction might not sound quite as exciting as a meteor striking, but according to this survey it's scarily likely.
Regrettably, it's the minutely detailed examples, highlighting present day research, which create an imbalance, sometimes long-winded enough to break up a chapter, and often reducing the fascinating question of what might happen to a mere afterthought. Another thing I found slightly unfortunate were the thoughts on solutions being pooled into the last chapter instead of complementing the individual chapters. A general conclusion would have been more fitting in my opinion.
In short: Technology as our downfall - an interesting excursion into what may cause the next mass extinction event on our planet!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By L.Marzulli on June 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Fate of the Species draws you in with its history, scientific background and the very plausible end of the world possibilities Guterl makes you consider. It's the kind of book people stop and ask you about when you are reading it - it really generates some interesting discussion. I was especially excited when my kids wanted to discuss it -- it gave us an opportunity to dialogue about something fascinating, scary and very important. A must read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By The Next Big Reading Thing on October 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Fred Guterl isn't afraid to take on the heavies. In "The Fate of the Species," he discusses the possibility that the human race may ultimately cause its own extinction. Not only that, he manages to write a book on that subject that is intriguing, detailed, thought-provoking, and yet somehow not an all-out bummer. As the world gets hotter and species die off by the thousands, he offers some hope that the same technology and ingenuity that's killing the planet now can also be marshaled to save it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John Richard Schrock on December 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
"The Fate of the Species: Why the Human Race May Cause Its Own Extinction and How We Can Stop It" by Fred Guterl, Bloomsbury USA; 2012, hardcover, 209 pp.

Superviruses, extinction, climate change, ecosystem collapse, synthetic biology and machines--"This book is about those monsters" relates Guterl. While the explication of these scenarios is a step above that of a tabloid newspaper, it is sadly not a solid bridge between the science and the reader who is looking for a science-based perspective.

For instance, Guterl proclaims that "Thomas Malthus got it wrong in the eighteenth century and Paul Ehrlich in the 1960s." That is more superficial bar-room talk than analysis. Guterl later describes why "the doomsayers turned out to be wrong" when he explains the green revolution work of Norman Borlaug. But then he waxes pessimistic while describing recent new wheat rusts--himself doomsaying. Sadly, the situation is far more complex than described here and generalizations about Malthus and Ehrlich having been wrong are superficial and do not belong in a reasoned discussion. Malthus and Ehrlich were correct in their basic thesis; Malthus just did not anticipate the work of Margaret Sanger, nor did Ehrlich forsee Norman Borlaug.

Ironically, in describing the eclectic scientist Freeman Dyson and the global warming debate, Guterl clearly acknowledges "What matters more than the merits of any particular idea is the way in which conversations about climate and many other problems we face have been framed...." He is "referring to how important issues are being turned into choices between technology on the one hand and nature on the other." True, but he goes nowhere with this dilemma.
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