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What Should We Be Worried About? Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night
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What Should We Be Worried About? Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night

3.43  ·  Rating Details ·  723 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
Drawing from the horizons of science, today's leading thinkers reveal the hidden threats nobody is talking about—and expose the false fears everyone else is distracted by.

What should we be worried about? That is the question John Brockman, publisher of ("The world's smartest website"—The Guardian), posed to the planet's most influential minds. He asked them to dis
Paperback, 478 pages
Published February 11th 2014 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2014)
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Feb 26, 2014 Mysteryfan rated it liked it
Shelves: science, nonfiction
150 short essays on issues scientists think should be of concern. After the first 100 pages, I thought I would never sleep again. By the time I finished it, I was a devoted follower of Alfred E. Neumann. I picked five things I'm never worrying about again and five legitimate concerns. I did enjoy the metaworry essays - we have nothing to worry about but worry itself.

Worry about a world where no one is paying attention.
Worry about whether the Internet is devaluing words.
Worry that people who can
Eric Goebelbecker
Mar 10, 2014 Eric Goebelbecker rated it did not like it
"This is my navel. There are many other navels like it, but this one is mine."
Emma Sea
Mar 24, 2014 Emma Sea rated it did not like it
Oh, I completely misunderstood the concept for the book. Read blurbs more carefully, ems!!

The format is 150 very short sections, almost always written by someone who has a book to flog, each raising a concern e.g. "living without the internet for a couple of weeks," (yes, this scares me, too), kids not learning about hardship and overcoming obstacles, the singularity, the eradication of human biological death, are we becoming too connected etc.

The sections are once over, lightly. They don't dis
Apr 16, 2014 Lenny rated it really liked it
I loved the idea of this book. It took the opinions of over 120 scientists, educators, and journalists who discussed where we should point our attention towards in fields like neuroscience, economics, computer science, politics, philosophy, physics, social media, psychology, biology, etc. Who better else to ask "What should we be worried about" than some of the most influential minds of today? Almost every entry was interesting and caught my attention; so much so that I wanted more from each ...more
Nov 08, 2014 Jimmy added it
Shelves: non-fiction
One of the things I liked about this book is what was NOT in it. No right wing crackpots complaining about Obama taking away their guns or the UN taking over the world. No left wing crackpots complaining about America taking over the world or the evils of the NSA. Each commentator used logic and reason. Intelligence ruled. There were 153 brief essays from one to five pages each. I actually found it difficult to disagree with any of them, even those that expressed opposite viewpoints. Here are ...more
Mostly excellent with some notes out of tune. This is a compilation of short essays by leading thinkers in a wide range of fields, all in response to the editor's asking them the titular question.

Their responses were mostly quite thoughtful and covered a range from potential wars, to the impacts on civil liberties of new technologies, to the growing crisis of access to drinkable water for the more than seven billion of us now living on Earth, and a slew of others that are cogently thought out an
Peter Mcloughlin
What happens when you get a couple hundred scientists together to write a page or two on what worries them? You get a laundry list of nightmare scenarios and seven ways to Sunday for the destruction of civilization and humanity. Here are few of the selections, nuclear war, climate change, a crashing internet, Massive solar flare knocking out the grid, hackers knocking out the grid, dwindling food supply, dwindling water, overpopulation, the end of science, the end of mathematics, declining ...more
Sep 28, 2014 Eve rated it liked it
The problem with such anthologies is their lack of consistency. I think the topic in general is terrific and found quite a few of the short essays very interesting. Some were very hard to get through because they were scientifically-based, which I am not, and so very theoretical. However, all in all it was worth the work. It was hard work. It took me nearly a month to read because I could only read for short sittings. If you decide to tackle it, you're in for a very intellectually-challenging ...more
Feb 26, 2015 Beth rated it really liked it
Shelves: theory-opinions
This is a collection of very brief essays by a wide variety of thinkers, all responding to the question-of-the-year posed by It makes for highly stimulating reading.

I especially appreciated the brevity of the pieces. Good writers are capable of making very cogent arguments in just a few pages. (And in the case of the ridiculous pieces, I was grateful to be done with them quickly.)

Now I'm quite curious to read more of the volumes in this series.
Dk Kawamoto
Mar 26, 2014 Dk Kawamoto rated it liked it
Hard to give a star rating to this one. Some of the essays are extremely thought provoking, others seem to be circling around the same themes and in ways that are not unique. Worth a look.
Mar 12, 2014 Book rated it really liked it
What Should We Be Worried About?: Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night by John Brockman

“What Should We Be Worried About?" is a thought-provoking book of scientific essays brought to you by The Edge. The Edge is an organization that presents original ideas by today's leading thinkers from a wide spectrum of scientific fields. The 2014 Edge question is, “What should we be worried about?” This interesting 531-page book provides 153 short essays that address the question. The quality of
Oct 16, 2016 Phan rated it it was ok
I wish i had accepted Jimmy's review and moved on to other books.

It's hard to disagree with most of the essays, very few new ideas can be learned.
Charlene Lewis- Estornell
Edge should be renamed "The Edge of Physics but the Dark Ages of Biology"

Brockman cannot keep claiming to be on the edge of anything if he continues to prioritize fossils like the technophobes, old gene jocks, and the like, while limiting actual progressive scientists from contributing. It's one thing to have 2 sides of a debate. It's another to clearly showcase the old guard who is increasing becoming obsolete, signaling to your younger audience that you, John Brockman, do not know how to keep
Jim Razinha
Aug 04, 2014 Jim Razinha rated it liked it
A few years ago I decided I didn't have as much time to live on like I'd like to so I stopped reading the site every day. I pretty much stopped altogether and try to fit into my too long reading list John Brockman's annual collections of answers to, annual questions.

Now that the Edge Question is a pageant, I get the impression reading this one that quite a few contributors think to themselves, "Crap! Another question. Well, I have to submit something or I won't be viable anymo
Apr 28, 2015 Michael rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction-read
As an editorial assistant in graduate school, I was sometimes asked to put together symposium papers in a logical way that made them seem as if they were planned to go together in a published volume. That is not an easy task, even when the papers are supposedly about the same topic. Brockman has done an admirable job of thematic sequencing in this compendium of brief essays in which a variety of "experts" attempt to answer the titular question. The essays are uneven in quality, as is to be ...more
Apr 21, 2014 TheSaint rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, adult
With over one hundred scientist/thinkers represented in these pages, a reader can't be blamed for picking and choosing among the potential disasters for mankind. Should I worry about some sub-atomic disaster -- or should I worry that scientists aren't studying (and governments aren't funding) sub-atomics more? Maybe I should worry about psycho-social issues. May I should just worry about worry in general.

Each of these authors is highly specialized in their various fields of expertise, so natural
Jul 19, 2014 Dave rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This is actually a very interesting book, and I'm only knocking off a star for me personally. Quite honestly, some of the essays were just a bit over my head, either mathematically or philosophically. Still, I would rate many of the individual essays as A or A+.

John Brockman runs a website called, which is loaded with thought-provoking writings by some pretty impressive minds in a wide range of disciplines. Once a year, he invites these minds to answer a question, and he combines their
Aug 23, 2015 G rated it it was amazing
Shelves: edge-j-brockman
This is an EdgeBook comprising essays from prominent scientists from 3rd Culture, I'm usually defining as the Leading edge of civilisation in conducting endeavour in responding the 2013 Edge question:

As state in Brockman's preface:
"We worry because we are built to anticipate the future. Nothing can stop us from worrying, but science can teach us how to worry better, and when to stop worrying. The respondents to this year’s question were asked to tell us something
Troy Blackford
Oct 07, 2015 Troy Blackford rated it really liked it
While I found this very good, it was less satisfying than most Brockman-curated efforts. The theme necessitated a lot of hand-wringing from the contributors, and some of them sounded far more crotchety than others. Still very interesting, but my least favorite Brockman collection out of all those I have read thus far.
Nov 22, 2016 Pierre rated it it was ok
Interesting for the furst 50 pages, but the charm quickly wears off as it gets repetitive. The articles are really unequal and I ended up skimming through the book to avoid the worst bits.
A book to forget.
Robert Miller
Jul 02, 2016 Robert Miller rated it liked it
The editor of this volume founded an organization called "Edge" which is now online. Each year a selected group is given the opportunity to provide speculative answers to an annual question thought to touch upon ideas perceived to be on the border of various issues we all face in life; in this regard, many of the contributors have tons of letters following their names. This year the question was "What Should We Be Worried About?" The book compiles approximately 151 responses- some a mere page in ...more
Todd Allen
Oct 09, 2014 Todd Allen rated it it was amazing
This years Edge question, What Should We Be Worried About, was answered in the form of short essays by approximately 175 authors, plus or minus I don’t know how many, covering 478 pages (not including the notes and index sections). Each essay is informed by the latest in the fields of evolutionary biology, cosmology, physics, computer science, genetics, neurophysiology, psychology, and other topics, mostly scientific.
Typical for the other Edge question books I’ve read so far---and more so with
Mar 16, 2015 Rin rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
For those who aren't familiar with, annually they ask their very smart members a profound question and prompt them to write essays with their answers. Every year there is a one to two page response to the answer. Some better than others, some related to one another, some completely left field. Some you might agree with, some you may've never even heard of. All about the same in profundity or mundane babble annually. Some years they are published on Edge's website and others they are ...more
Raluca Popescu
Give the chronic worrier a book about worries, see what happens.
I'm starting to get mixed feelings about these... anthologies? Does the term work? Anyway.
On the plus side, the variety of authors and topics keeps me on my toes and I need plenty of time to stare into the distance and process each subject. The book is also well organized, with some interesting transitions between topics. My favorites are the sets of opposing views which are places one after the next. For example, one essay says we
Pete Welter
Apr 01, 2016 Pete Welter rated it really liked it
Like the other books in the Edge series, this is a compendium of short essays (2-3 pages long) by a variety of scientists, authors, and other thinkers. Although the "What Should We Be Worried About?" was not my favorite of this series, any time you have 150 really smart people talking about something, there is always something to be gained Yes, there are some percentage you won't care about, and a few that you'll just scratch your head over. But the beauty of such a collection is that you get ...more
Josh Dubs
Dec 27, 2014 Josh Dubs rated it it was ok
Rather than being a single book of an overarching theme, this is the publication of over a hundred different abstracts. I didn't realize this when I picked up the book, but it was actually the publication of answers to a question posed by the editors of The call went out for submissions, and these, I guess, were the cream of the crop.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed some of the pieces. Some of them were thought provoking, leaving me wishing I could read more. And that, in fact, is the mai
Nov 28, 2014 Suren rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An interesting topic that has been bastardised by "experts" who are at gripe with progress in their fields or their own personal progress.

At least half the essays can be summarised like this - "My worry is that not enough attention is being given to , therefore society will stagnate." It feels that many of the authors are out of touch because are working within the confines of their own fields; without taking a macro view of other fields or considering the change in other aspects of society. Th
Madhuran Thiagarajah
Jul 27, 2014 Madhuran Thiagarajah rated it it was amazing
Like many other reviewers have stated this book is a mixed bag. That being said the wide range to experts from different disciplines likely means there will be articles that will appeal to just about everyone. I was hesitant in giving a five star rating as much of the articles were unconvincing and reading through them brought up images of a grumpy old grandparent reminiscing about the past and criticizing progress by starting off with 'Back in the old days...".

However, the book is packed with m
Jul 01, 2016 Nick rated it did not like it

The publisher of a website asked a bunch of smart folks what they're worrying about that's not on the popular radar yet. He then published all their answers with no editing, so you end up with ridiculous essays expressing such concerns as the following:
-that the presence of too many words on the internet will devalue written communication
-that human beings will lack the will to survive (I mean, after tens of thousands of years of boring ol' survival, maybe sheer boredom will dri
Joe Thacker
Jun 21, 2014 Joe Thacker rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It is a collection of 50 or some worldwide thinkers and scientists, some of which are extremely thought provoking. Definitely worth a read.

My scoring system:

5: Totally changed how I think of a topic, how in hindsight the book's core insights are so obvious, but beforehand we are so blind, that before the book all we see is a Forrest, and only after reading can we look back and see the previously hidden path that is now so easy to follow. That kind of book I give a fi
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With a broad career spanning the fields of art, science, books, software and the Internet. In 1960 he established the bases for "intermedia kinetic environments" in art, theatre and commerce, while consulting for clients such as General Electric, Columbia Pictures, The Pentagon, The White House... In 1973 he formed his own literary and software agency. He is founder of the Edge Foundation and ...more
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“Children need practice dealing with other people. With people, practice never leads to perfect. But perfect isn’t the goal. Perfect is the goal only in a simulation. Children become fearful of not being in control in a domain where control is not the point. Beyond this, children use conversations with one another to learn how to have conversations with themselves. For children growing up, the capacity for self-reflection is the bedrock of development. I worry that the holding power of the screen does not encourage this. It jams that inner voice by offering continual interactivity or continual connection. Unlike time with a book, where one’s mind can wander and there is no constraint on time out for self-reflection, “apps” bring children back to the task at hand just when a child’s mind should be allowed to wander. So in addition to taking children away from conversation with other children, too much time with screens can take children away from themselves. It is one thing for adults to choose distraction over self-reflection. But children need to learn to hear their own voices.” 2 likes
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