- Series: Edge Question Series
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial (July 29, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061214957
- ISBN-13: 978-0061214950
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
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- Average Customer Review: 39 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,074,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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What Is Your Dangerous Idea?: Today's Leading Thinkers on the Unthinkable (Edge Question Series) Paperback – March 13, 2007
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About the Author
The publisher of the online science salon Edge.org, John Brockman is the editor of Know This, This Idea Must Die, This Explains Everything, This Will Make You Smarter, and other volumes.
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But, Brockman felt that it WAS important to include some jaw-dropping crap from male thinkers. One guy said single women with children should not be allowed to be single. They should be required to marry. His rationale? There's a 0.7 correlation between single parenthood and criminality. He never heard that correlation is not causation, apparently. On top of that, it never occurred to him that the correlation was actually between poverty and criminality. Because he is apparently so stupid, that he doesn't know that female single parents are exceedingly poor.
Another gem that Brockman felt it important to include was the idea of ending schools for children. This would be great for the Libertarian dream - an illiterate peon class!
Yet another article sang the praises of unfettered capitalism. Even though the idea has been amply and exhaustively proven to be a very bad idea. Even though Adam Smith warned against it. Even though trickle down is a pipe dream.
Oh, and both an introduction and an entry by Steven Pinker - a real gem of a sexist thinker.
There were a few decent articles, of course. You can't fill an entire book with propaganda and bad ideas. Personally, I will avoid anything edited by Brockman in the future.
There were 155 contributors and 154 responses to the 2006 Edge Question, suggested by the psychologist Steven Pinker:
"The history of science is replete with discoveries that were considered morally, or emotionally dangerous in their time; the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions are the most obvious. What is your dangerous idea? 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?" What was Pinker's choice? "The year 2005 saw several public appearances of what I predict will be the most dangerous idea of the next decade: that groups of people may differ genetically in their average talents and temperaments." (Page 13)
Here are some of the others, each of which is discussed further in context:
o John Horgan: "The dangerous (probably true) idea I'd like to dwell on is that we humans have no souls." (Page 1)
o Paul Bloom: The idea that "mental life has a purely material basis. The dangerous idea, then, is that Cartesian dualism is false. If what you mean by `soul' is something immaterial and immortal, something that exists independently of the brain, the souls do not exist." (4)
o David Buss: "The idea that evil has evolved is dangerous on several counts...The danger comes from people who refuse to recognize that there are dark sides of human nature that cannot be wished away by attributing them to the modern ills of culture, poverty, pathology, or exposure to media violence. The danger comes from failing to gaze into the mirror and come to grips with the capacity for evil in all of us.7 & 9)
o V.S. Ramachandran: "An idea that would be `dangerous if true' is what Francis Crick referred to as the `astonishing hypothesis' - that notion that our conscious experience and sense of self consists entirely of the activity of 100 billion bits of jelly, the neurons that constitute the brain." (22)
o Daniel Goleman: "The dangerous thought: The Internet may harbor social perils that our inhibitory circuitry was not evolutionarily designed to handle." (75)
o Kevin Kelly thinks that "more anonymity is good; that's a dangerous idea." (82)
o Ray Kurzweil: "My dangerous idea is the near-term inevitability of radical life extension and expansion. The idea is dangerous, however, only when contemplated from current linear perspectives." (215)
o Freeman J. Dyson: "There are two severe and obvious dangers: First, smart kids and malicious grown-ups will find ways to convert biotech tools to the manufacture of lethal microbes; ambitious parents will find ways to apply the biotech tools to the genetic modification of their babies. The great unanswered question is whether we can regulate domesticated biotechnology so that it can be applied freely to animals and vegetables but not to microbes and humans." (218)
o Howard Gardner: Although sustaining two hopeful assumptions about the prospects for human survival, "Yet I lie awake at night with the dangerous thought that pessimists might be right. For the first time in history (as far as we know), we humans live in a world we could completely destroy." (290)
o Richard Dawkins: "Dangerous ideas are what has driven humanity onward, usually to the consternation of the majority in any particular age who thrive on familiarity and fear change. Yesterday's dangerous idea is today's orthodoxy and tomorrow's cliché." (297)
Although taken out of context, these brief excerpts do suggest the thrust and flavor as well as the diversity of perspective of the contributions by these and other cutting-edge thinkers. If asked to answer the given question, what would your response be?