What Should We Be Worried About?

What Should We Be Worried About?

Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists up at Night

Book - 2014
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Posing the question "What should we be worried about?" to one hundred fifty of the world's greatest minds, this collection of responses reveals what about the present or the future worries each of them the most.


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ksoles Jul 07, 2014

Every year, Edge.org founder, John Brockman, poses a thought provoking question to an array of intellectuals, scientists and academics, then publishes the results. Past queries have included, "how is the Internet changing the way you think?" and "what will change everything?" This year, Brockman wondered, "what should we be worried about?" His newest book compiles the answers, which range from the concrete and immediate to the nebulous and unclear.

Scientist Nicholas G. Carr worries that our constant use of "instant" gadgets will make us impatient in our off-line lives. Astronomer Seth Shostak fears that "malevolent extraterrestrial beings” will be drawn to Earth by transmissions sent to other star systems. Journalist and cancer survivor Xeni Jardin frets about how we still have no cure, no better methods of treatment, and no clear sense of causes or prevention of the disease.

"What Should We Be Worried About?" lacks neither detail nor variety but each of the short essays falls into one of two categories: the fascinating or the eminently skimmable. Indeed, some responses bring up grand questions of existence and read too abstractly, at least for a general audience. Psychologist Susan Blackmore argues that we're losing "our role in this world," whatever that means. Managing director of Digital Science, Timo Hannay, delves into the mystery of consciousness, asking whether we live alone in the universe as “fleeting specks of awareness” or whether sentience surrounds us. Apparently, both possibilities lay grounds for worry.

At 500 pages, Brockman's collection provides more fodder for anxiety than the average reader can stomach. Besides, in the end, perhaps all this worry proves pointless. Journalist Virginia Heffernan asserts that “we have nothing to worry about but worry itself...mindful acceptance of present reality” is everything. In that case, the greatest danger lies in going down the rabbit hole of concern, exactly where this book inevitably leads.

Apr 09, 2014

This is not a book to read cover to cover. Many of the short one-four page essays were not of interest to me, others I skimmed, and a few I found memorable with new ideas. I also enjoyed practicing reading in a different way. I also read "This Explains Everything" edited by John Brockman which I recommend.

Apr 02, 2014

What me worry? Science's Alfred E. Newman. My goal in reading this was to see if there was anything I didn't know about that I should be worried about. I know we have plenty to worry about already, but I don't want to miss out on anything. In truth there wasn't anything I hadn't heard about before, (just the usual global warming, AI destruction, loss of human connection) or if there was it seemed like something rather trivial (economies not growing) or unlikely. Of course that could just be my confirmation bias taking over, but if presented with compelling information, I think I have an open enough mind to listen. So really not much new or anything that will change you mind. Which is one less thing to worry about.


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