Sunday, June 2, 2019

Books: "The Last Unknowns" On The Questions Of Our Time

The Last Unknowns: Deep, Elegant, Profound Unanswered Questions About the Universe, the Mind, the Future of Civilization, and the Meaning of Life
Edited by John Brockman
William Morrow; trade paperback; $16.99; available June 4

John Brockman is the founder and publisher of the online salon Edge (, which is called "the world's smartest website by the Guardian. He also founded the powerhouse international literary and software agency Brockman, Inc., where he works with top science authors from around the world.

For over a decade, the "Edge Question" books have become one of the bestselling science series with more than 600,000 copies sold. These books have sought out the most complex thinkers in the world to pose on paper to one another the questions they have always asked themselves.

In this exciting and long-awaited series conclusion, The Last Unknowns, Brockman shares the deep questions that are fascinating and haunting many of the great thinkers of our time, including more than 250 leading scientists, philosophers, artists, economists, theorists, novelists, Nobel laureates, and more.

John Brockman.

Brockman inquires, "What is The Last Question," your last question, the ultimate question for which you will be remembered and which, if answered, could potentially unlock the secrets of our world or even, the meaning of life?

This incredible collection features an introduction by Nobel Prize-winning behavioral economist and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman.

Ashvin Chhabra, an investor, physicist, and the author of The Aspirational Investor, asks "Is there a fundamental difference between the biological world and the physical world?"

David Christian, the Director of the Big History Institute, a Distinguished Professor in History at Macquarie University, and the author of Origin Story, posits the question, "Will we pass our audition as planetary managers?"

Andy Clark, a professor of logic and metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh and the author of Surfing Uncertainty, asks, "Will we soon cease to care whether we are experiencing normal, augmented, or virtual reality?"

These are just a few of the many thought-provoking questions in this book that you won't be able to put down. Other leading thinkers featured include: Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel; Nobel Prize-winning economist Richard Thaler, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, religion scholar Elaine Pagels, author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics Carlo Rovelli, Booker Prize-winning novelist Ian McEwan, neuroscientist Sam Harris, philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, MIT theorist Sherry Turkle, decoder of the human genome J. Craig Venter, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek, Berkeley psychologist Alison Gopnik, Whole Earth founfer Stewart Brand, MIT physicist Freeman Dyson, NYU environmental scientist Jennifer Jacquet, musician Brian Eno, Duke economist Dan Ariely, Harvard cosmologist Lisa Randall.

These questions are thought-provoking and intriguing, perfect for curious thinkers of all ages, a perfect gift for graduates. It is a journey to the very edge of human knowledge itself.

John Brockman also edited Possible Minds: 25 Ways of Looking at AI (Penguin Press; hardcover, 320 pages; $28.00).

Artificial intelligence has grown so rapidly in our everyday lives, from Alexa in our homes to autonomous vehicles to artificial recognition technology, we may not fully comprehend how it has altered our lives forever.

AI is poised to define the coming decades, with tech giants engaged in a virtual arms race, while thought leaders such as Elon Musk and the late Stephen Hawking have warned that unsupervised, self-improving machine learning can pose a major threat to society.

In the new book, Possible Minds: 25 Ways of Looking at AI, leading scientific thinkers to discuss the groundbreaking opportunities and potential dangers that AI presents.

Brockman writes an introduction about each thinker, including how he knows them and biographical information, before their essays.

The broad range of perspectives and what feels like debate between opposing viewpoints offers a truly panoramic view of the future of artificial intelligence. Computer scientist Stuart Russell, Skype co-founder John Tallinn,, and physicist Max Tegmark, are deeply concerned about the threats from AI, including the existential one.

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