This Idea Must Die

This Idea Must Die

Scientific Theories That Are Blocking Progress

Book - 2015
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The bestselling editor of This Explains Everything brings together 175 of the world's most brilliant minds to tackle's 2014 question: What scientific idea has become a relic blocking human progress?

Each year, John Brockman, publisher of"The world's smartest website" (The Guardian)--challenges some of the world's greatest scientists, artists, and philosophers to answer a provocative question crucial to our time. In 2014 he asked 175 brilliant minds to ponder: What scientific idea needs to be put aside in order to make room for new ideas to advance? The answers are as surprising as they are illuminating. In :

Steven Pinker dismantles the working theory of human behavior Richard Dawkins renounces essentialism Sherry Turkle reevaluates our expectations of artificial intelligence Geoffrey West challenges the concept of a "Theory of Everything" Andrei Linde suggests that our universe and its laws may not be as unique as we think Martin Rees explains why scientific understanding is a limitless goal Nina Jablonski argues to rid ourselves of the concept of race Alan Guth rethinks the origins of the universe Hans Ulrich Obrist warns against glorifying unlimited economic growth and much more.

Profound, engaging, thoughtful, and groundbreaking, This Idea Must Die will change your perceptions and understanding of our world today . . . and tomorrow.

Publisher: New York :, Harper Perennial,, [2015]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9780062374349
Branch Call Number: 500 THI
Characteristics: 568 pages ; 21 cm
Additional Contributors: Brockman, John 1941-- Editor


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Oct 23, 2017

Some excellent discussions of topics of the sciences which research our past and present, drew attention to how the present (and what and how we know today) is built from the past. It helps to have some background in the topic areas to fully understand, and makes the opposing opinions really glare. Also that we know some things a certain way because there are no direct translations from the language where the research originated; That individuals have more than one genome! Generally, starts with physics, then anthropological, biological, computers, social sciences, finally mathematics domains.

SPL_Robyn Apr 15, 2015

reviewed in the Stratford Gazette, April 2015


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SPL_Robyn Apr 15, 2015

The is a website that “promotes inquiry into and discussion of intellectual, philosophical, artistic, and literary issues, and works for the intellectual and social achievement of society.” Each year they pose a question to its contributors, resulting in books such as What Are You Optimistic About, and This Explains Everything. This past year was, “What scientific idea is ready for retirement?”

Contributors answer this question in very short essays written for a wide audience. Roger Schank, an artificial intelligence theorist, cheekily says in nine short paragraphs that the idea of artificial intelligence is the idea that should die because it will never, ever happen – not until humans can figure out our own brains in detail. Two scientists, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore of University College London, and Stephen M. Kosslyn a psychologist, both feel it is time to let go of the left-brain/right-brain phenomenon, and journalist Jay Rosen thinks that the idea of “information overload” should be replaced with “filter failure”. Other contributors include Richard Dawkins arguing against essentialism, Scott Atran on the idea of IQ, actor Alan Alda on ‘truthiness’ and Nina Jablonski, a biological anthropologist and paleobiologist, who affirms that the concept of race may be historically significant but it has no place in science.

These all seem to be very heady subjects but in fact the essays are so short – sometimes less than three paragraphs long – that they are incredibly readable, and quite fascinating (even the three essays on the significance of statistics!). Readers can peruse an essay, mull it over for awhile, discuss it with family or friends, then open the book back up to another topic of interest. This Idea Must Die is a definite must-read for anyone with an inquisitive mind, and who would like to think more deeply on the world.

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