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What Is Your Dangerous Idea?: Today's Leading Thinkers on the Unthinkable

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  691 ratings  ·  73 reviews
The follow-up to 'What We Believe But Cannot Prove', this is a collection of thought-experiments by some of the most eminent thinkers and scientists alive, including Richard Dawkins, Jared Diamond and Steven Pinker.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 1st 2007 by Pocket Books (first published November 6th 2006)
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Whitney Woltman
There were a total of 119 contributors to this book of essays. Only 11 were women. That's 13%, a pathetically low amount. I stopped reading this book and tossed it into a pile of junk at the bottom of my basement stairs after adding that up.

Yes, I'm aware that much of the intellectual scene is dominated by men...but not 87%! There ARE accomplished women in these fields. Did Brockman intentionally or unintentionally exclude them? Both scenarios suggest a level of ignorance that depressed me enou
From Copernicus to Darwin, to current-day thinkers, scientists have always promoted theories and unveiled discoveries that challenge everything society holds dear; ideas with both positive and dire consequences. Many thoughts that resonate today are dangerous not because they are assumed to be false, but because they might turn out to be true.

What do the world's leading scientists and thinkers consider to be their most dangerous idea? Through the leading online forum Edge (, the cal
This volume reprints material from, one of the most consistently stimulating sites on the Web. Tasty, bite-sized, and challenging essays that are pretty much guaranteed to get any reader annoyed...and thinking.
Turns out today's leading thinkers are all scientists and all their dangerous ideas are only dangerous in the sense that other scientists might snub them at university cocktail parties.
Graham Polando
Very hit or miss, but more hits than misses. Some authors didn't really seem to get the question, which, at least as Steven Pinker introduced it, was about ideas thought to be disruptive, but which the moral order can, at least in theory, accommodate: Pinker cites heliocentrism as a historical example.

A disconcerting number of the essays even focus on what to do about those rubes in the Midwest who maintain a semblance of theology; no one seems to appreciate that the apparent universal agreemen
Matt Heavner
A really good collection to enjoy the "dangerous ideas" from 108 leading thinkers. It is a wide range, roughly and well grouped. It is definitely a good "meta-thinking" exercise - exploring the ideas themselves, then thinking about "What makes an idea dangerous" and even "If an idea is dangerous, is there some responsibility to do something about/with that idea?" (and is that a dangerous idea?) I found some of them very compelling, a few boring/tautological, and some off-the-mark or boring. But ...more
from the library

I was mostly bored. I read with great anticipation because I was wating for something dangerous or at least really new. I only got to p192 out of 301pages so maybe there is still something there.

from the library computer:
Book News

This provocative compilation includes responses to the annual question on the Edge Web site regarding ideas that might be considered dangerous. Contributors include the human genome's decoder, a physicist on reducing global climate change via engineerin
Despite the lame name, this book is pretty rad. A bunch of scientists/"thinkers" talking about the things they think about that society is not prepared to think about because they are too politically or morally charged, or because the ramifications (or perceived ramifications) of accepting the theories are too scary. For example, the idea that women in general are innately less adept at maths and sciences might be true, but people would rather reject it for fear that acceptance might lead to ear ...more
One hundred eight writers, most of them scientists and academics, contributed to this book. There are well-known people like Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins, Helen Fisher, and Jared Diamond and lesser-know people. As can be expected, the short essays, ranging from one to five pages each, vary in interest. But many of the essays examine fascinating ideas that may challenge our beliefs and the status quo (hence, their danger).
Daniel Golman, for instance, notes the difference between having a disc
Si Barron
A great toilet-side tome to dip into as you defecate. Each pundit has about 2 pages to get their 'dangerous idea' out. Some are dull some are striking- most you have heard before; some regurgitate ancient philosophical conundrums.

The ones that are most enjoyable are generally by the best writers; who may not be the most original thinkers. As a Sam Harris fan I place his contribution higher than most of the others simply on the merit of his prose; he is always interesting even when going over fam
A mixed bag, but well worth reading. This is a collection of over 100 short-to-very-short essays by leading thinkers in a variety of fields, about both their interpretations of what would constitute a dangerous idea and what specific ideas they think qualify.
Quite a few were intriguing and seemed dead on as far as their potential impact on society in general or on subsets such as scientific disciplines, politics, or industries. There were a number that I thought didn't deserve inclusion because
Taede Smedes
John Brockman is uitgever en oprichter van de website Edge ( Op deze site verschijnen regelmatig bijdragen van wetenschappers die de rol op zich nemen van intellectuelen, die zich niet alleen beperken tot hun eigen vakgebied, maar ook de sociaal-culturele relevantie van wetenschap voor het voetlicht brengen. Jaarlijks organiseert Brockman het “World Question Center” op Edge, waarbij een bepaalde vraag centraal staat. In 2006 werd de vraag gesteld door de psycholoog Steven Pinker: W ...more
James Ottaway
This book is an amazing collection of 108 responses to the question "What is your dangerous idea?". The question was posed to a collection of very impressive names, and the goal I had in reading the book of being mentally stimulated and challenged was certainly met.

There are some incredibly interesting excerpts from responses touching on topics such as whether the concept of the soul is a valid one, and whether the notion of free will even exists.

Of course the science vs. religion debate makes i
If you want thought-provoking ideas, this book surely delivers them magnificently; in fact, some ideas can be downright mind-boggling and even incomprehensible. Some do not seem dangerous at all, and some will certainly raise a lot of eyebrows. Some are explained almost in scientific rigour, and some are dispensed in just a short paragraph.

All in all, this book is a very good one to get you thinking about ideas that you did not realize are even able to be imagined - provided that you are an ope
Kirsty Darbyshire
A collection of short essays about the next "dangerous idea". Copernicus's idea that the earth went round the moon and Darwin's idea of evolution are given as the stock examples of ideas that were dangerous in the past. What will be proved true in the future that we would find difficult to believe today?

I found the articles to be very hit and miss. They variously seemed too obvious, too esoteric or barely worth mentioning. And too many were of the navel gazing "the idea of a dangerous idea is da
I'd like to go back to this book later, pick out the essays I find most interesting, and delve more deeply into them.

I couldn't understand why some of the authors thought of their ideas as "dangerous".

All in all an interesting enough read.
A “dangerous” idea is not meant to be dangerous literally. Dangerous meaning that the idea is not self-evidently wrong, but by being proven right, or even just by being discussed, it may upset the accepted norms or the current way of thinking or the existing moral order. An example (Steven Pinker’s dangerous idea): What if different groups of people differ genetically in their average talents and temperaments?

The question was put to a bunch of “leading thinkers and scientists.” The result is no
By and large, these short essays (a few only half a page) are thought provoking and enjoyable to read. It would be fun to read the essays one by one with a friend and then discuss the issues each raised.
I am quite happy to have recently discovered the online forum, Edge, and then the printed collection of responses to the annual question from this forum. This edition/collection gave me a lot to think about -- some of which was predictable in terms of subject matter(lots of discussion about physics, creation, and human consciousness), but unpredictable in terms of what these "scientists and thinkers" consider the idea connected to these topics. One of my favorites came from David Lykken, whose i ...more
Every year the thinkers of Edge write a short essay in response to an annual question, which has resulted in a series of thought provoking collections. But this one question may be the most important to push the edge of human knowledge; ideas that were once deemed provocative, immoral, even dangerous, have since been accepted by society at large. In our time, they have been supplanted by other ideas we might deem dangerous, some of which could possibly be harmful to mankind. Should such ideas be ...more
Der Gesamteindruck der Artikel ist eher deprimierend, die Autoren lassen eher selten ein optimistisches Weltbild erkennen, auch diejenigen, die einen meiner Meinung nach guten Gedanken vertreten. Am deprimierndsten allerdings fand ich, dass so viele Ideen quasi hinter vorgehaltener Hand diskutiert werden müssen, was mein Weltbild etwas verschoben hat, so dass ich mir gar nicht mehr so sicher bin, ob wir wirklich in einer "freien" Welt leben. Wenn man sich dann aber z.B. mit den Artikeln zum frei ...more
Nick H
Couldn't finish it, as I lost interest in the way it was edited. Like-minded essays are grouped together, giving an "overkill" feeling towards each category (i.e. technology, religion, life on other planets, etc.) What I read, some of these essays are very interesting and fun to ponder. Others, you get the feeling that the participant was either indifferent or didn't "understand the assignment." So, given a little more direction by the editor and a little more creative work, this might have gell ...more
Adam Lewis
This book brings some of today’s heavy weights in the intellectual realm and asks them “What is your dangerous idea?” It is a feast. From religion to psychology, economics to politics, physics to literature, and from biology to anthropology, some of these short essays taken singly have as much substance as some entire books. Besides Rudy Rucker’s silliness, there isn’t an essay in here that doesn’t have something that is worth chewing over and there are some that will really make you put the boo ...more
Neat concept. Brockman asked several academics and notable personalities to write about what their most dangerous ideas were. This results in often dystopic world views based on extrapolations of the current social and technological phase we are in. But truth be told there is also a decent amount of positivity mixed in. The idea that struck me the most is the realization that there is evil lurking in all of us. That for some reason tomorrow a sane person can begin to undergo the mental processes ...more
John Brockman y su pregunta anual de Edge ¿Cuál es tu idea peligrosa? es una gran colección de ensayos sobre la ciencia y su camino actual, sobre su impacto su pasado, presente y futuro.

Este libro es extraordinario por lo que hace respecto a la divulgación científica y por que estimula el pensamiento critico y creativo en un mundo que necesita cada vez mas de esto; tal vez cuando enfrentamos tanto retos deberíamos sujetarnos con más fuerza a una de las mejores partes de nosotros, una de las mas
I've been dipping in and out of this collection of essays written by Today's Leading Thinkers who are, apparently, people like Daniel C Dennett, Susan Blackmore and Stephen Pinker. It's not bad, but I've heard most of these arguments before. The authors agonise over stuff like the non-existence of the soul, human inequality, eugenics, free will, consciousness, and the general pointlessnes of the universe. Actually it was quite depressing. Today's Leading Thinkers seem to do a lot of worrying and ...more
This was a fifty cent Goodwill find for me and I couldn't resist. I enjoy critical thinking and thinking differently and this book was an obvious choice.

Not all the ideas are equally dangerous in my opinion, but most are minimally thought provoking.

I'm about a quarter of the way through the book, but already several of these ideas have been things that I've thought about or have been thinking about. I'm not sure that this is a good thing or a bad thing, but the I'm-not-crazy validation has been
Herman Sanchez
Jun 25, 2007 Herman Sanchez rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like big name intellectuals
Shelves: science
Some of the ideas were indeed interesting, but they all read like the back of the book the intellectual was currently writing. The people in the book were indeed interesting, but I doubt if there was any more information than could be found on Amazon. At the very most it might be a springboard for those looking for something else interesting to read.

It's like going to a wedding having a few so-so appetizers and then realizing that there is no meal to be served.

This is a brief introduction to dangerous ideas of quite a few contemporary intellectuals. I appreciated that a few artists were included alongside the physicists and mathematicians. This book is a great jumping off point for discussion and an opportunity to find new books to read. Many of the authors of the (sometimes very) short essays have written books about their dangerous ideas.

All in all a fun read, if you like entertaining dangerous ideas.
Sam Reaves
An eclectic collection of essays on topics at the interface between science and philosophy. "Dangerous" here means "threatening to the way we currently think." Evil is an evolutionary adaptation, free will is going away, the self is a conceptual chimera, government is the problem not the solution, we would be better off without schools, there is no such thing as the soul, science will never silence God... Plenty here to get us all cogitating.
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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 edit ...more
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