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What Is Your Dangerous Idea?: Today's Leading Thinkers on the Unthinkable Paperback – Bargain Price, March 13, 2007
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About the Author
The founder and publisher of the online science salon Edge.org, John Brockman is the editor of Culture, The Mind, Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?, This Will Change Everything, and other volumes. He is CEO of the literary agency Brockman Inc., and lives in New York City.
Top Customer Reviews
In other words, Joe and Jane Citizen were not invited to participate in this project. Too bad... it would have been a worthy exercise to see "third culture intellectuals" spouting out alongside those who live in... our first and second culture?
Regardless, there are some interesting ideas presented here, even if the pool of writers has been high-graded through a filter that is not clearly specified.
There is an introduction and an afterward written by Steven Pinker and Richard Dawkins, respectively. These are both interesting essays in their own right. Pinker stated that "When done right, science (together with other truth-seeking institutions, such as history and journalism) characterizes the world as it is, without regard to whose feelings get hurt. Science in particular has always been a source of heresy, and today the galloping advances in touchy areas like genetics, evolution, and the environmental sciences are bound to throw unsettling possibilities at us" (p. xxv).
Pinker continues, "Another contributor to the perception of dangerousness is the intellectual blinkers that humans tend to don when they split into factions.Read more ›
The mini-essays are short enough to pick the book up, read several, put it down and mull them over for awhile. Often, two very well-articulated dangerous ideas will be in complete contradiction to one another and will thus be placed one right after the other.
Highly recommend reading.
I'll give you some dangerous ideas. Take steps to reduce the human population worldwide to around a billion people and keep it there. Take the biological desire of people to play house and be mothers and fathers, and redirect it into responsible stewardship of the planet.
Don't like that one? Seems too draconian? How about this? End all tax exempt status for churches, mosques, etc. (Resounding voice coming onstage: "Only when they tear my cold, dead fingers from the collection plate!")
Here's another: realize that to know all is to forgive all, and that we are all just biological automations acting out our genetic drives and have no more free will than an ant on the pheromone trail. Deal with people acting in antisocial ways by (1) curing them with psychopharmacology, surgery, retraining, or (2) euthanasia.
Decriminalize street drug use. Allow Phillip Morris to get into the cannabis business and Merck to process opium into heroin. If some people become dysfunctional, see previous dangerous idea and employ it.
Well, none of John Brockman's esteemed contributors came up with anything quite THAT dangerous, probably because the danger of such ideas is most immediately to the person who would advance them! Psychiatrist Randolph M. Nesse gives us some guidance on why such ideas are not being advanced in this book in his modest essay on "Unspeakable Ideas." (pp. 193-195) Here's one: "when your business group is trying to deal with a savvy competitor, say, `It seems to me that their product is superior, because they are smarter than we are.'" Also unspeakable is, "I will only do what benefits me." Nesse writes that saying something like that is akin to committing "social suicide.Read more ›
Pinker raises high expectations in his introduction by including some dangerous, thought provoking and disturbing ideas that people have thought in the past. Unfortunately, the majority of the ideas presented in this book pale in comparison. Many contributors came up with ideas that only a religious fundamentalist or a completely uneducated person would find dangerous (e.g., there is no soul, much of our behaviour is controlled by genes, ...), whereas others were just playing games. However, I did come across some genuinely interesting ideas that result from thinking outside the box (e.g., the fact that our ethical snap decisions are sometimes irrational refutes the idea of a divine origin of morality), and one genuinely disturbing one (all pregnant single moms should undergo a forced abortion). And I came across the main concept of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.
Despite the weaknesses, this is an enjoyable read. The contributions are so short that you never really get annoyed about a weak idea, and there are enough gems in this collection to make up for the rest.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very Good answers by very intelligent and qualified people.Published 28 days ago by William West C/O CompTIA
I had this book years ago and found it to be diverse and well written,Thoughtful examination of wide array of concepts.Published 1 month ago by Kirk Alan Edwards
Awesome. Although it's one of the books that I need to read for the assignment for my class, I'll still recommend other to read it!Published on May 22, 2014 by Eric Huo
According to founder and editor, John Brockman, the Edge Question was first posed in 1998: "What questions are you asking yourself? Read morePublished on September 6, 2013 by Robert Morris
I gave it 3 stars for the nice font. But this is the most racist book ever.
"Groups of people may..." i can't even finish this. Read more
Well the ideas were not as dangerous as we have hoped. Moreover anyone expecting Little Green Men maybe disappointed. Read morePublished on August 20, 2012 by Jack Young
In 110 short essays by over 100 different writers, this book runs the gamut from the provocative to the banal (sometimes even empty) to the profound. Read morePublished on May 26, 2012 by Fenway Forever
Essays written by academics, philosophers, scientists and more, pushing the boundaries of conventional wisdom and thought. Read morePublished on March 26, 2012 by Carioca56