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'An intellectual hero ... A superb celebrator of science in all its manifestations' Ian McEwan
'Darwin's great successor' Jeffrey Sachs
The legendary biologist Edward O. Wilson offers his most philosophically probing work to date
'Creativity is the unique and defining trait of our species; and its ultimate goal, self-understanding,' begins Edward Wilson's sweeping examination of the humanities and their relationship to the sciences. By studying fields as diverse as paleontology, evolutionary biology and neuroscience, Wilson demonstrates that human creativity began not 10,000 years ago, as we have long assumed, but over 100,000 years ago in the Paleolithic Age. Chronicling the evolution of creativity from primates to humans, Wilson shows how the humanities, in large part spurred on by the invention of language, have played a previously unexamined role in defining our species. Exploring a surprising range of creative endeavors - the instinct to create gardens; the use of metaphors and irony in speech; or the power of music and song - Wilson proposes a transformational 'Third Enlightenment' in which the blending of science and the humanities will enable us to gain a deeper understanding of the human condition, and how it ultimately originated.
A dazzling tour of evolution in action that sheds light on one of the greatest debates in science
The natural world is full of fascinating instances of convergence: phenomena like eyes and wings and tree-climbing lizards that have evolved independently, multiple times. Convergence suggests that evolution is predictable, and if we could replay the tape of life, we would get the same outcome. But there are also many examples of contingency, cases where the tiniest change - a random mutation or an ancient butterfly sneeze - caused evolution to take a completely different course.
So are we humans, and all the plants and animals in the world today, inevitabilities or evolutionary freaks? What role does chance play in evolution? And what could it tell us about life on other planets?
In Improbable Destinies, renowned researcher Jonathan Losos reveals what the latest breakthroughs in evolutionary biology tell us about one of the greatest ongoing debates in science. Evolution can occur far more rapidly than Darwin expected, which has opened the door to something that was previously thought impossible: experimental studies of evolution in nature. Drawing on his own work with anole lizards on the Caribbean islands, as well as studies of guppies, foxes, field mice and others being conducted around the world, Losos reveals just how rapid and predictable evolution can be.
By charting the discoveries of the scientists who are rewriting our understanding of evolutionary biology, Improbable Destinies will change the way we think and talk about evolution.
Nandan Nilekani (Author) , Viral Shah (Author)
A timely call to reshape government through technology, from Nandan Nilekani and Viral Shah, two leading experts in the field.
For many aspects of how our countries are run - from social security and fair elections to communication, infrastructure and the rule of law - technology can play an increasingly positive, revolutionary role. In India, for example, where many underprivileged citizens are invisible to the state, a unique national identity system is being implemented for the first time, which will help strengthen social security. And throughout the world, technology is essential in the transition to clean energy.
This book, based on the authors' collective experiences working with government, argues that technology can reshape our lives, in both the developing and developed world, and shows how this can be achieved.
Praise for Nandan Nilekani:
'A pioneer . . . one of India's most celebrated technology entrepreneurs' Financial Times
'There is a bracing optimism about Nilekani's analysis . . . which can only be welcome in this age of doom and gloom' Telegraph
'The Bill Gates of Bangalore . . . Nilekani achieves an impressive breadth' Time
Nandan Nilekani is a software entrepreneur, Co-founder of Infosys Technologies, and the head of the Government of India's Technology Committee. He was named one of the '100 Most Influential People in the World' by TIME magazine and Forbes' 'Business Leader of the Year', and he is a member of the World Economic Forum Board.
Viral B. Shah is a software expert who has created various systems for governments and businesses worldwide.
'Pain is bad, right? In this fascinating book, Brock Bastian will convince you otherwise. Drawing on both vivid everyday examples and surprising laboratory findings, he shows how pain, suffering, and struggle give us pleasure, make us kinder, focus our thoughts, and give our life meaning. Bastian is a brilliant researcher and deep thinker and THE OTHER SIDE OF HAPPINESS is a delight to read' Paul Bloom, author of AGAINST EMPATHY
'Brock Bastian skilfully shatters the zeitgeist of positive thinking, showing how struggle and suffering are vital elements of a life well lived'
Adam Grant, author of ORIGINALS and OBTION B with Sheryl Sandberg
'If you're tired of all the simple minded books telling you to just cheer up and be happy, this is the book for you!' Roy F. Baumeister, author of WILLPOWER: REDISCOVERING THEGREATEST HUMAN STRENGTH
'Explains why hardship sometimes yields richer lives that are laden with meaning, deep social connections, and unexpected bliss. A beautifully written and important book that should be required reading for anyone who's ever wondered why well-being so oftenflourishes in unexpected places' Adam Alter, author of DRUNK TANK PINK
In today's culture, happiness has become the new marker of success, while hardships are viewed as personal weaknesses, or problems to be fixed. We increasingly try to eradicate pain through medication and by insulating ourselves from risk and offence, despite being the safest generation to have ever lived. Yet in his research, renowned social psychologist Brock Bastian has found that suffering and sadness are neither antithetical to happiness nor incidental to it: they are a necessary ingredient for emotional well-being.
Drawing on psychology, neuroscience and internationally acclaimed findings from Bastian's own lab, The Other Side of Happiness encourages us to take a more fearless approach to living. The most thrilling moments of our lives are often balanced on a knife edge between pleasure and pain, whether it is finding your true love, holding your new-born for the first time, finishing a marathon or even plunging into an icy sea. This is because pain and the threat of loss quite literally increase our capacity for happiness, as Bastian reveals, making us stronger, more resilient, more connected to other people and more attuned to what truly matters. Pain even makes us more mindful, since in our darkest moments we are especially focused and aware of the world around us.
Our addiction to positivity and the pursuit of pleasure is actually making us miserable. Brock Bastian shows that, without some pain, we have no real way to achieve and appreciate the kind of happiness that is true and transcendent.
GUARDIAN BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2017
'Original and provocative ... likely to have a big impact on our understanding of ourselves' Steven Pinker
'Mercier and Sperber offer a surprising and powerful response to the new orthodoxy propounded by Kahneman and Tversky ... arguing that the supposed flaws of hot, fast, automatic thinking are actually design features which work remarkably well' Julian Baggini
Reason, we are told, is what makes us human, the source of our knowledge and wisdom. But, if reason is so useful, why didn't it also evolve in other animals? If it is that reliable, why do we produce so much thoroughly reasoned nonsense?
In their ground-breaking account of the evolution and workings of reason, Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber set out to solve this double enigma, taking us on a journey from desert ants to modern scientists, and from Aristotle to Daniel Kahneman. Reason, they argue with a compelling mix of real-life and experimental evidence, is not geared to solitary use, to arriving at better beliefs and decisions on our own. What reason does, rather, is help us justify our beliefs and actions to others, convince them through argumentation, and evaluate the justifications and arguments that they address to us.
In other words, reason has evolved to help humans better exploit their uniquely rich social environment. This illuminating interpretation of reason makes sense of strengths and weaknesses that have long puzzled philosophers and psychologists - why reason is biased in favour of what we already believe, why it may lead to terrible ideas and yet is indispensable to spreading good ones. Ambitious, provocative, and entertaining, The Enigma of Reason will spark debate among psychologists and philosophers, and make many reasonable people rethink their own thinking.
A pioneer of artificial intelligence shows how the study of causality revolutionized science and the world
'Correlation does not imply causation.' This mantra was invoked by scientists for decades in order to avoid taking positions as to whether one thing caused another, such as smoking and cancer and carbon dioxide and global warming. But today, that taboo is dead. The causal revolution, sparked by world-renowned computer scientist Judea Pearl and his colleagues, has cut through a century of confusion and placed cause and effect on a firm scientific basis. Now, Pearl and science journalist Dana Mackenzie explain causal thinking to general readers for the first time, showing how it allows us to explore the world that is and the worlds that could have been. It is the essence of human and artificial intelligence. And just as Pearl's discoveries have enabled machines to think better, The Book of Why explains how we can think better.
The bestselling author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics takes us on an enchanting, consoling journey to discover the meaning of time
'We are time. We are this space, this clearing opened by the traces of memory inside the connections between our neurons. We are memory. We are nostalgia. We are longing for a future that will not come.'
Time is a mystery that does not cease to puzzle us. Philosophers, artists and poets have long explored its meaning while scientists have found that its structure is different from the simple intuition we have of it. From Boltzmann to quantum theory, from Einstein to loop quantum gravity, our understanding of time has been undergoing radical transformations. Time flows at a different speed in different places, the past and the future differ far less than we might think, and the very notion of the present evaporates in the vast universe.
With his extraordinary charm and sense of wonder, bringing together science, philosophy and art, Carlo Rovelli unravels this mystery. Enlightening and consoling, The Order of Time shows that to understand ourselves we need to reflect on time -- and to understand time we need to reflect on ourselves.
DAILY MAIL, GUARDIAN AND OBSERVER BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2017
'Gloriously pulsating ... [Fitzharris] has an eye for morbid detail, visceral imagery and comic potential. From out of this hellish vision, Lister emerges as the cool, modern, scientific saviour to whom we should all give thanks' Wendy Moore, Guardian
The story of a visionary British surgeon whose quest to unite science and medicine delivered us into the modern world - the safest time to be alive in human history
In The Butchering Art, historian Lindsey Fitzharris recreates a critical turning point in the history of medicine, when Joseph Lister transformed surgery from a brutal, harrowing practice to the safe, vaunted profession we know today.
Victorian operating theatres were known as 'gateways of death', Fitzharris reminds us, since half of those who underwent surgery didn't survive the experience. This was an era when a broken leg could lead to amputation, when surgeons often lacked university degrees, and were still known to ransack cemeteries to find cadavers. While the discovery of anaesthesia somewhat lessened the misery for patients, ironically it led to more deaths, as surgeons took greater risks. In squalid, overcrowded hospitals, doctors remained baffled by the persistent infections that kept mortality rates stubbornly high.
At a time when surgery couldn't have been more dangerous, an unlikely figure stepped forward: Joseph Lister, a young, melancholy Quaker surgeon. By making the audacious claim that germs were the source of all infection - and could be treated with antiseptics - he changed the history of medicine forever.
With a novelist's eye for detail, Fitzharris brilliantly conjures up the grisly world of Victorian surgery, revealing how one of Britain's greatest medical minds finally brought centuries of savagery, sawing and gangrene to an end.
'Timely and engrossing. . . a fascinating exploration of one of the most important topics: how the human mind deals with change' - Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit
'A book of sparkling intelligence, written with humour and grace. If you read only one book of accessible science this year, let this be the one' - Mark Williams, author of Mindfulness
The bestselling author of The Drunkard's Walk and Subliminal unlocks the secrets of flexible thinking.
What do Pokémon Go and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein have in common?
Why do some businesses survive, and others fail at the first sign of change?
What gives the human brain the edge over computers?
The answer: Elastic Thinking. It's an ability we all possess, and one that we can all learn to hone in order to succeed, at work and in our everyday lives.
Here Leonard Mlodinow, whose own flexible thinking has taken him from physics professor to TV scriptwriter and bestselling author, takes us on a revelatory exploration of how elasticity works. He draws on cutting-edge neuroscience to show how, millennia ago, our brains developed an affinity for novelty, idea generation and exploration. He discovers how flexible thinking enabled some of the greatest artists, writers, musicians and innovators to create paradigm shifts. He investigates the organisations that have demonstrated an elastic ability to adapt to new technologies. And he reveals how you can test your own brain power and increase your capacity for elastic thinking.
By uncovering the secrets of our flexible minds, Elastic explains how to thrive in an endlessly dynamic world, at a time when an ability to adapt is more important than ever before.
'A pioneering study ... richly, empathetically and affectionately respectful of the human-animal bond' Sunday Times
Why do humans love animals? The bestselling author of In Defence of Dogs and Cat Sense gives us the answers.
Keeping pets is expensive, time-consuming, and seemingly irrational - so why do so many of us have an animal in our lives?
Modern-day pet-keeping has been justified for many reasons, from the potential therapeutic role pets can play, to their appealing 'cuteness'. But pet-keeping is much more than just a simple pastime. It is part of the broader history of humanity's relationship with animals - a relationship that comes from deep within our nature. As John Bradshaw reveals in this highly original new work, our connection with animals is one of the very things that makes us human.
In The Animals Among Us, Bradshaw takes us to the heart of Anthrozoology, a new science dedicated to discovering the true nature and depth of the human-animal bond. Following the thread of our affection for animals, from today's pet lovers all the way back to our ancient ancestors, Bradshaw reveals how animals have always been an integral part of our lives: indeed, they have shaped the evolution of our minds and our bodies. The ways in which we relate to animals today stem ultimately from our evolutionary journey from hominid to Homo sapiens.
An affinity for animals drove our evolution as humans. Now, as increasing numbers of species are under threat, John Bradshaw shows us that pet-keeping can act as a bridge between the domestic and the wild, even aiding conservation. If we lose the animals among us, he warns, we risk losing an essential part of ourselves.
DAILY TELEGRAPH AND THE TIMES BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2017
'This is the most important conversation of our time, and Tegmark's thought-provoking book will help you join it' Stephen Hawking
'This is a rich and visionary book and everyone should read it' The Times
We stand at the beginning of a new era. What was once science fiction is fast becoming reality, as AI transforms war, crime, justice, jobs and society-and, even, our very sense of what it means to be human. More than any other technology, AI has the potential to revolutionize our collective future - and there's nobody better situated to explore that future than Max Tegmark, an MIT professor and co-founder of the Future of Life Institute, whose work has helped mainstream research on how to keep AI beneficial.
In this deeply researched and vitally important new book, Tegmark takes us to the heart of thinking about AI and the human condition, bringing us face to face with the essential questions of our time. How can we grow our prosperity through automation, without leaving people lacking income or purpose? How can we ensure that future AI systems do what we want without crashing, malfunctioning or getting hacked? Should we fear an arms race in lethal autonomous weapons? Will AI help life flourish as never before, or will machines eventually outsmart us at all tasks, and even, perhaps, replace us altogether?
Life 3.0 gives us the tools to join what may be the most important conversation of our time, guiding us through the most controversial issues around AI today -- from superintelligence to meaning, consciousness and the ultimate physical limits on life in the cosmos.
What sort of future do you want?
Every time we choose a route to work, decide whether to go on a second date, or set aside money for a rainy day, we are making a prediction about the future. Yet from the global financial crisis to 9/11 to the Fukushima disaster, we often fail to foresee hugely significant events. In The Signal and the Noise, the New York Times' political forecaster and statistics guru Nate Silver explores the art of prediction, revealing how we can all build a better crystal ball.
In his quest to distinguish the true signal from a universe of noisy data, Silver visits hundreds of expert forecasters, in fields ranging from the stock market to the poker table, from earthquakes to terrorism. What lies behind their success? And why do so many predictions still fail? By analysing the rare prescient forecasts, and applying a more quantitative lens to everyday life, Silver distils the essential lessons of prediction.
We live in an increasingly data-driven world, but it is harder than ever to detect the true patterns amid the noise of information. In this dazzling insider's tour of the world of forecasting, Silver reveals how we can all develop better foresight in our everyday lives.
Published: 27 Sep 2012
'The most influential radical political thinker of the moment' - New Yorker
Back in 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes prophesied that by the century's end, technology would see us all working fifteen-hour weeks. But instead, something curious happened. Today, average working hours have not decreased, but increased. And now, across the developed world, three-quarters of all jobs are in services or admin, jobs that don't seem to add anything to society: bullshit jobs. In Bullshit Jobs, David Graeber explores how this phenomenon - one more associated with the 20th-century Soviet Union, but which capitalism was supposed to eliminate - has happened. In doing so, he looks at how we value work, and how, rather than being productive, work has become an end in itself; the way such work maintains the current broken system of finance capital; and, finally, how we can get out of it.
Praise for The Democracy Project: 'Clear, pungent and right ... a compact and incisive account of why capitalism has run with such a smash into the buffers' - Times Higher Education
'Captures the joys and fears of a movement' - Observer
The third volume in Leonard Susskind's one-of-a-kind physics series cracks open Einstein's special relativity and field theory
In the first two books in his wildly popular The Theoretical Minimum series, world-class physicist Leonard Susskind provided a brilliant first course in classical and quantum mechanics, offering readers not an oversimplified introduction, but the real thing - everything you need to start doing physics, and nothing more. Now, thankfully, Susskind and his former student Art Friedman are back, this time to introduce readers to special relativity and classical field theory. At last, waves, forces and particles will be demystified.
Using their typical brand of relatively simple maths, enlightening sketches and the same fictional counterparts, Art and Lenny, Special Relativity and Classical Field Theory takes us on an enlightening journey through a world now governed by the laws of special relativity. Starting in their new watering hole, Hermann's Hideaway, with a lesson on relativity, Art and Lenny walk us through the complexities of Einstein's famous theory.
Combining rigor with humour, Susskind and Friedman guarantee that Special Relativity and Classical Field Theory will become part of the reader's physics toolbox.
How did we get from the Big Bang to today's staggering complexity, in which seven billion humans are connected into networks powerful enough to transform the planet? And why, in comparison, are our closest primate relatives reduced to near-extinction?
Big History creator David Christian gives the answers in a mind-expanding cosmological detective story told on the grandest possible scale. He traces how, during eight key thresholds, the right conditions have allowed new forms of complexity to arise, from stars to galaxies, Earth to homo sapiens, agriculture to fossil fuels. This last mega-innovation gave us an energy bonanza that brought huge benefits to mankind, yet also threatens to shake apart everything we have created.
This global origin story is one that we could only begin to tell recently, thanks to the underlying unity of modern knowledge. Panoramic in scope and thrillingly told, Origin Story reveals what we learn about human existence when we consider it from a universal scale.
Could psychedelic drugs change our worldview? One of America's most admired writers takes us on a mind-altering journey to the frontiers of human consciousness
When LSD was first discovered in the 1940s, it seemed to researchers, scientists and doctors as if the world might be on the cusp of psychological revolution. It promised to shed light on the deep mysteries of consciousness, as well as offer relief to addicts and the mentally ill. But in the 1960s, with the vicious backlash against the counter-culture, all further research was banned. In recent years, however, work has quietly begun again on the amazing potential of LSD, psilocybin and DMT. Could these drugs in fact improve the lives of many people? Diving deep into this extraordinary world and putting himself forwardas a guinea-pig, Michael Pollan has written a remarkable history of psychedelics and a compelling portrait of the new generation of scientists fascinatedby the implications of these drugs. How to Change Your Mind is a report from what could very well be the future of human consciousness.
'His approach is steeped in honesty and self-awareness. His cause is just, his thinking is clear, and his writing is compelling' - Washington Post
'An easy-going humane generosity ... mischievous self-regard ... as if Henry David Thoreau had had an encounter with Woody Allen and never been quite the same since' - Simon Schama
The #1 bestselling author of The Future of the Mind brings us a stunning new vision of our future in space
Human civilization is on the verge of spreading beyond Earth. More than a possibility, it is becoming a necessity: whether our hand is forced by climate change and resource depletion or whether future catastrophes compel us to abandon Earth, one day we will make our homes among the stars.
World-renowned physicist and futurist Michio Kaku explores in rich, accessible detail how humanity might gradually develop a sustainable civilization in outer space. With his trademark storytelling verve, Kaku shows us how science fiction is becoming reality: mind-boggling developments in robotics, nanotechnology, and biotechnology could enable us to build habitable cities on Mars; nearby stars might be reached by microscopic spaceships sailing through space on laser beams; and technology might one day allow us to transcend our physical bodies entirely.
With irrepressible enthusiasm and wonder, Dr. Kaku takes readers on a fascinating journey to a future in which humanity could finally fulfil its long-awaited destiny among the stars - and perhaps even achieve immortality.
'My new favourite book of all time' Bill Gates
Is modernity really failing? Or have we failed to appreciate progress and the ideals that make it possible?
If you follow the headlines, the world in the 21st century appears to be sinking into chaos, hatred, and irrationality. Yet Steven Pinker shows that this is an illusion - a symptom of historical amnesia and statistical fallacies. If you follow the trendlines rather than the headlines, you discover that our lives have become longer, healthier, safer, happier, more peaceful, more stimulating and more prosperous - not just in the West, but worldwide. Such progress is no accident: it's the gift of a coherent and inspiring value system that many of us embrace without even realizing it. These are the values of the Enlightenment: of reason, science, humanism and progress.
The challenges we face today are formidable, including inequality, climate change, Artificial Intelligence and nuclear weapons. But the way to deal with them is not to sink into despair or try to lurch back to a mythical idyllic past; it's to treat them as problems we can solve, as we have solved other problems in the past. In making the case for an Enlightenment newly recharged for the 21st century, Pinker shows how we can use our faculties of reason and sympathy to solve the problems that inevitably come with being products of evolution in an indifferent universe. We will never have a perfect world, but - defying the chorus of fatalism and reaction - we can continue to make it a better one.
'Nothing so fully displays the grandeur of his mind as his immense and rare collections ... perhaps the fullest and most curious in the world', National Gazette, 1753
Hans Sloane (1660-1753) was the greatest collector of his time, and one of the greatest of all time. His name is familiar today through the London streets and squares named after him on land he once owned (Sloane Square, Hans Place), but the man himself, and his achievements, are almost forgotten.
Born in the north of Ireland, Sloane made his fortune as a physician to London's wealthiest residents and through investment in land and slavery. He became one of the eighteenth century's preeminent natural historians, ultimately succeeding his rival Isaac Newton as President of the Royal Society, and assembled an astonishing collection of specimens, artefacts and oddities - the most famous curiosity cabinet of the age.
Sloane's dream of universal knowledge, of a gathering together of every kind of thing in the world, was enabled by Britain's rise to global ascendancy. In 1687 he travelled to Jamaica, then at the heart of Britain's commercial empire, to survey its natural history, and later organised a network of correspondents who sent him curiosities from across the world. Shortly after his death, Sloane's vast collection was then acquired - as he had hoped - by the nation. It became the nucleus of the world's first national public museum, the British Museum, which opened in 1759.
This is the first biography of Sloane in over sixty years and the first based on his surviving collections. Early modern science and collecting are shown to be global endeavours intertwined with imperial enterprise and slavery but which nonetheless gave rise to one of the great public institutions of the Enlightenment, as the cabinet of curiosities gave way to the encyclopaedic museum. Collecting the World describes this pivotal moment in the emergence of modern knowledge, and brings this totemic figure back to life.