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Life: The Leading Edge of Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, Anthropology, and Environmental Science

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  251 ratings  ·  33 reviews
The newest addition to John Brockman's series explores life itself, bringing together the world's leading biologists, geneticists, and evolutionary theorists--including Richard Dawkins, Edward O. Wilson, J. Craig Venter, and Freeman Dyson.

Scientists' understanding of life is progressing more rapidly than at any point in human history, from the extraordinary decodi
Paperback, 384 pages
Published February 23rd 2016 by Harper Perennial (first published October 11th 2012)
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A lot of this was over my head unsurprisingly. These are the top people in their fields arguing the leading edges of their fields, after all. Still, I found a lot of interest & wound up getting the ebook so I could look at some points more closely. I found something of interest in almost every chapter. One thing I kept waiting for was a definition of life. When it finally came at the end of the book, it was from only one POV & I didn't find it very satisfying. Interesting, though.

Of particular i
Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C
It Takes A Village To Boycott A Pop Science Book

If scientists wish to boycott a book, religious scriptures could be their priority. The holy books are the foundation of the anti-evolution movement worldwide; the anti climate change rhetoric over the belief that a Protector will shield his disciples from human-induced global pollution; the source of pray healing and its conjoined meme that vaccines are heinous; the primeval justification to bigotry, homophobia and misogyny; the validation of both
Peter Gelfan
Jul 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Like many of the books Brockman edits, this one is a collection of interviews, essays, and discussions from, which, in its own words, assembles the thinkers—scientists, artists, philosophers, technologists, and entrepreneurs—at the center of today’s intellectual, scientific, and technological landscape. The ideas discussed in these books are emerging concepts at the forefront of their fields. They may not pan out, and if they do, like anything that evolves, perhaps in not in the same fo ...more
May 26, 2016 marked it as nope
Not only are all 23 writers males, they're all white males. It's hard for me to believe there hasn't been a single person of color or woman who wrote a meaningful article about evolutionary biology.

Probably the editor wasn't even aware that he had a bias, but just picked those authors that came most readily to mind as prominent writers in the field. But I think that prominence is probably because these white male authors inadvertently benefited from cultural bias in the first place. A better ed
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
This book was overall very interesting and I'm glad that I finally took the time to read it. However, I find it hard to believe that John Brockman was unable to find any women doing worthwhile research in any of the fields that were covered in this book... ...more
Marc Faoite
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
John Brockmann is a colourful character, known to share photos of himself rubbing shoulders with the likes of Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, or John Cage. That popular culture should include intelligent conversations about science is a given for him., sometimes dubbed ‘the world's smartest website,’ was born out of an idea from Brockmann’s late friend, performance artist James Lee Byars, who suggested that rather than trying to assimilate the information contained in the six million books house
Jul 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-general
John Brockman has collected 18 interviews, commissioned essays, and transcribed talks from the online science salon that deal with biology, genetics, anthropology and environmental science. The majority of the articles were well written, self-contained, covered interesting topics and will provide food for thought and extra research. Some of the articles were a bit vague, but the rest were interesting enough to make up for this defect.

The book includes articles/interviews/discussions by:
Zi Ying
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Overall it's a great book that compiles what and how biologists knew about living organisms on this planet, I feel excited thinking that more people could gain pleasure in contemplating life by exploring scientific data and definitive arguments. However, I feel a bit disappointed as most of the chapters are written at least 5 years back. Technology in molecular, genome, synthetic biology field has advanced way too fast that this book may not be that updated in the year of publication. Still, it' ...more
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: edge-j-brockman
This is an EDGE book and Mr. Brockman brought some old and some new as well. Repeating old and already obvious matter is not that bad. There are always some new aspects we can discover.
But let alone those old things! What I appreciate in "Life" is the story about TOXO! My first ecounter with this very dangerous parazite was in "Evoulutionary psychology-political background...". Believe me, you want to know about it!
We can slam the author for any of reasons I saw in reviews, but EDGE books alway
Jun 13, 2016 rated it liked it
A large collection of thoughts and essays from scientists and engineers on the nature of life, it's origins, evolution and genetic basis. Much of the material is from Richard Dawkins and Craig Venter which is the best of the collection. Some of the other is not very good, however, and I had to skim it.
Recommended for those very interested in the science of life and how we got here.
Dec 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Book of essays on an array of topics in evolutionary biology. Hard to rate this book... some were 2-star, some were 5-star, it varied a lot (as many books of essays d0).

The best ones were mildly mind-blowing descriptions of where we are in biotech in various fields, in which the progress advances in leaps and bounds. The less scientific of us are not paying attention in general our daily lives, and so there were some pretty fascinating revelations in some of these essays. Topics about advanced D
Nov 07, 2017 rated it liked it
What I most liked about this book is its format. Instead of writing eighteen books on eighteen different facets of the science of life (and requiring the readers to find time to plod through them all), put together one single book with a chapter devoted to each facet written by an expert in that area. But the execution of the format is less than perfect, with too much space given to scientists to talk about their favorite though unproven and undigested theories. In any case, some of the chapters ...more
Anton Hammarstedt
Importance (how important is the subject matter? How important is the thesis? How grave are the consequences if the thesis is wrong?): 2
Interestingness (How interesting is the subject matter? Does the book make an uninteresting subject interesting? Does the book provide a fresh perspective?): 3
Credibility (How well does the book defend its thesis? How well-researched are evidence and anecdotes?): 4
Clarity (How good is the disposition? Is information presented in a way that makes it easy to absor
Sep 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
>"Race isn't real", "genetics shows we're all identical, and pigmentation differs because genes, but we're all the same but we're not but we are", additionally: "what is it about pigmentation that brains?"

Lots of goofy politically correct nonsense. A number of terrible people are endorsed as well. Lewontin, Gould, Jared Diamond etc. Usual suspects. Fortunately, they kinda make up for it by trashing "evolutionary" psychology.

Never mind. I actually finished it, now. A contributor near the end lied
Bekah Simon
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. Reading about the different viewpoints in genetics and evolution by leading scientists from multiple backgrounds was extremely fascinating. Even if some of it is outdated now, I still learned a lot and got a better understanding of evolution and where genetics is heading. I would recommend this book for anyone that knows the basics of genetics and evolution, as these are experts speaking about their field so there is a bit of technical terminology.
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
Really boring. I gave up in the 4th chapter. I was hoping to have a better insight in evolution but the first 4 chapters were a brief skim on the idea of evolution. The content were mainly transcripts edited from talks, I believe. Most of the content does not seem appealing in written form, unfortunately.
Aug 27, 2017 rated it liked it
The first few essays helped clarify areas of confusion in the area of evolution, but the latter essays often seemed like an intellectual pissing show rather than actual elucidation of this critical topic.
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
I enjoyed the lectures and discussions included in this volume (some more than others).
The variety of views (often differing) expressed made the book feel like it gave a very balanced of the state of biology a few years ago.
Mark Fallon
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Edge series makes me wish that I paid better attention in physics and biology (and that I took at least one chemistry course)
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting articles/essays. It makes you think. A worthy read.
Dan Carey
Lots of interesting science in the articles. But that also means some of them are a bit opaque. (And from my own personal biases, there wasn't enough botany.) ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Among all the Brickman's book of collecting the brains into his books with specific topics, this one is by far the best, and more information for me. ...more
Rasika Mahabal
Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
(5/5)Another ultra amazing book by John Brockman. Each chapter is an article by different scientists on genetics, biology and evolutionary biology. Some chapters just blew my mind.
May 04, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: natural-science, dnf
Collection of essays on different topics, written by emeriti.
N.A. Fedorak
Feb 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting, but not spectacular.
Teo 2050


Brockman J (ed.) (2016) (12:38) Life - The Leading Edge of Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, Anthropology, and Environmental Science

Introduction by John Brockman

01. Evolvability :: Richard Dawkins
02. Genomic Imprinting :: David Haig
03. A Full-Force Storm with Gale Winds Blowing :: Robert Trivers
04. What Evolution Is :: Ernst Mayr (with an introduction by Jared Diamond)
05. Genetics Plus Time :: Steve Jones (in conversation with Edge)
06. A United Biology :
Francesc Mesquita-Joanes
I enjoyed reading the book, but I found it too heterogeneous, with some chapters too long, others too short. Some chapters with an old flavour (particularly the selfish gene view of Dawkins), others almost futurist. It all comes from the fact that it is an assemblage of different talks, interviews and conversations with leading or famous scientists, from different years and events. It is worth reading, but maybe you better look for the videos, as most of them are online. And most of the texts ar ...more
Chris Keeve
I expected a lot from this and it was mostly vaguely underwhelming, with a few high points scattered throughout. The essays tended to focus on presenting cool ideas without much depth or substance, and heavily and uncritically prioritized the more established "figureheads" of the Biological Sciences ...more
Elizabeth Emanuel
Dec 29, 2016 rated it liked it
An interesting book with some interesting ideas. I enjoyed some of the essays (such as Edward O. Wilson's), but others not so much. Might've rated this book a 4 instead, but most of the essays didn't seem as cutting edge as the book might have suggested. I read this a couple months ago, but while some were fairly recent, I think one or two of the essays were originally written back in the '90s. ...more
Apr 28, 2019 added it
This may no have made me smarter, but at least I looked smarter while carrying it around. Had some good points that mostly sailed over my head. Got soooooome of them.
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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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