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Culture: Leading Scientists Explore Societies, Art, Power, and Technology (Best of Edge Series) 0th Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0062023131
ISBN-10: 0062023136
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Why do civilizations rise and fall?
What are the origins and purpose of art?
How does technology shape society?
Did culture direct human evolution?
Is the Internet an agent of democracy or dictatorships?

An immensely powerful but little-understood force that impacts society, art, politics, and even human biological development, culture is the very stage on which human experience plays out. But what is it, exactly? What are its rules and origins? In this fascinating volume, John Brockman, editor and publisher of Edge, presents short, accessible explorations of culture’s essential aspects, by today’s most influential scientists and thinkers.

Contributors and topics include

Jared Diamond on why societies collapse and how we can make better decisions to protect our own future • Denis Dutton on the origins of art Daniel C. Dennett on the evolution of cultures • Jaron Lanier on the ominous impact of the Internet • Nicholas Christakis on the structure and rules of social networks, both “real” and online • Clay Shirky and Evgeny Morozov on the new political reality of the digital era • Brian Eno on what cultures value Stewart Brand on the responsibilities of human power • Douglas Rushkoff on the next Renaissance • W. Daniel Hillis on the Net as a global “knowledge web”

About the Author

The publisher of the online science salon Edge.org, John Brockman is the editor of the national bestsellers This Idea Must Die, This Explains Everything, This Will Make You Smarter, and other volumes.

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Product Details

  • Series: Best of Edge Series
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (August 16, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062023136
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062023131
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I suppose the link in this compendium of essays by members of the Edge Foundation is "big ideas", but the substance is not what it should be. The first essay manages to make the exciting concept of memes dull. Brian Arthur's essay on the evolution of technology does a creditable job with the familiar idea of increasing returns (e.g. the more users you have, for an operating system or social network, the more likely you are to attract additional users). Once Arthur tries to move beyond this idea, his concept is vacuous: no implications, no empirical hypothesis, nothing to make you see the world in a different way. I would recommend Jared Diamond's essay if you are not familiar with his book on societal collapse, and also the Christakis discussion of his work on social contagion, although it gains little from the way he leads up to it. Dutton's essay is worth reading for its biographical anecdotes, discussion of animal art, and possibly for its references (note that, contrary to Dutton, Ellen Dissanayake has had several prestigious academic jobs, although apparently not a permanent position - I would love to read more about HER life). Eno's article should be skipped, noting that his discussion of the importance of metaphor is neither original nor well written. Brand's essay meanders and could also be skipped. I did not get much out of the internet essays, but those readers who enjoy reading philosophy might like them very much.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Culture: Leading Scientists Explore Civilizations, Art, Networks, Reputation, and the Online Revolution Edited by John Brockman

“Culture” is a thought-provoking book of scientific essays brought to you by The Edge. The Edge is an organization that presents original ideas by today's leading thinkers from a wide spectrum of scientific fields. For this second volume, scholars from various fields explore new ways of thinking about culture. This interesting 307-page book includes the following seventeen chapters/essays: 1. The Evolution of Culture, 2. Why Do Some Societies Make Disastrous Decisions?, 3. Art and Human Reality, 4. A Big Theory of Culture, 5. We Are As Gods and Have to Get Good at It, 6. Turing’s Cathedral, 7. Time to Start Taking the Internet Seriously, 8. Indirect Reciprocity, Assessment Hardwiring, and Reputation, 9. Digital Maoism, 10. On Jaron Lanier’s “Digital Maoism” An Edge Conversation, 11, Social Networks Are Like the Eye, 12, The Next Renaissance, 13. Digital Power and Its Discontents, 14. Does Technology Evolve?, 15. Aristotle, 16. The Pancake People vs. the Godel-To-Google Net, and 17. The Age of the Informavore.

Positives:
1. High-quality essays.
2. The fascinating topic of culture from various intellectual perspectives.
3. The four parallel levels of memetic selection in human culture.
4. Jared Diamond provides one of the best essays in the book. Causes for societal collapse. “First of all, a group may fail to anticipate a problem before the problem actually arrives. Second, when the problem arrives, the group may fail to perceive the problem. Then, after they perceive the problem, they may fail even to try to solve the problem. Finally, they may try to solve it but may fail in their attempts to do so.”
5.
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Culture is truly a cutting edge book. I have now read it for the third time. The title can be misleading and cause the reader to anticipate a more traditional approach to the concept of culture as a study or appraisal of existing institutions and/or social environments from an historical or empirical perspective. The essayists are the the best in their areas of expertise and offer the reader an analytical (scientific) paradigm to both evaluate and project the impact of state of the art technologies, in particular, and, intellectual revisionist thinking, generally, on the evolution of contemporary man as a phenomena of biological, and past, present and prospective environmental (including institutional) exposures.
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I have many of Brockman's books. They stretch the mind and keep us on the cutting "edge."
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