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Do Humankind’s Best Days Lie Ahead?: The Munk Debates

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Progress. It is one of the animating concepts of the modern era. From the Enlightenment onwards, the West has had an enduring belief that through the evolution of institutions, innovations, and ideas, the human condition is improving. This process is supposedly accelerating as new technologies, individual freedoms, and the spread of global norms empower individuals and societies around the world. But is progress inevitable? Its critics argue that human civilization has become different, not better, over the last two and a half centuries. What is seen as a breakthrough or innovation in one period becomes a setback or limitation in another. In short, progress is an ideology not a fact; a way of thinking about the world as opposed to a description of reality.

In the seventeenth semi-annual Munk Debates, which was held in Toronto on November 6, 2015, pioneering cognitive scientist Steven Pinker and best-selling author Matt Ridley squared off against noted philosopher Alain de Botton and best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell to debate whether humankind’s best days lie ahead.

128 pages, Paperback

First published June 7, 2016

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About the author

Steven Pinker

64 books9,337 followers
Steven Arthur Pinker is a prominent Canadian-American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and author of popular science. Pinker is known for his wide-ranging explorations of human nature and its relevance to language, history, morality, politics, and everyday life. He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for publications such as the New York Times, Time, and The New Republic, and is the author of numerous books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, Words and Rules, The Blank Slate, The Stuff of Thought, The Better Angels of Our Nature, The Sense of Style, and most recently, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.

He was born in Canada and graduated from Montreal's Dawson College in 1973. He received a bachelor's degree in experimental psychology from McGill University in 1976, and then went on to earn his doctorate in the same discipline at Harvard in 1979. He did research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for a year, then became an assistant professor at Harvard and then Stanford University. From 1982 until 2003, Pinker taught at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, and eventually became the director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. (Except for a one-year sabbatical at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1995-6.) As of 2008, he is the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard.

Pinker was named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in the world in 2004 and one of Prospect and Foreign Policy's 100 top public intellectuals in 2005. He has also received honorary doctorates from the universities of Newcastle, Surrey, Tel Aviv, McGill, and the University of Tromsø, Norway. He was twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, in 1998 and in 2003. In January 2005, Pinker defended Lawrence Summers, President of Harvard University, whose comments about the gender gap in mathematics and science angered much of the faculty. On May 13th 2006, Pinker received the American Humanist Association's Humanist of the Year award for his contributions to public understanding of human evolution.

In 2007, he was invited on The Colbert Report and asked under pressure to sum up how the brain works in five words – Pinker answered "Brain cells fire in patterns."

Pinker was born into the English-speaking Jewish community of Montreal. He has said, "I was never religious in the theological sense... I never outgrew my conversion to atheism at 13, but at various times was a serious cultural Jew." As a teenager, he says he considered himself an anarchist until he witnessed civil unrest following a police strike in 1969. His father, a trained lawyer, first worked as a traveling salesman, while his mother was first a home-maker then a guidance counselor and high-school vice-principal. He has two younger siblings. His brother is a policy analyst for the Canadian government. His sister, Susan Pinker, is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal and the author of The Sexual Paradox and The Village Effect.

Pinker married Nancy Etcoff in 1980 and they divorced 1992; he married Ilavenil Subbiah in 1995 and they too divorced. He is married to the novelist and philosopher Rebecca Goldstein, the author of 10 books and winner of the National Medal of the Humanities. He has no children.

His next book will take off from his research on "common knowledge" (knowing that everyone knows something). Its tentative title is: Don't Go There: Common Knowledge and the Science of Civility, Hypocrisy, Outrage, and Taboo.

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Profile Image for عبدالرحمن عقاب.
666 reviews731 followers
October 23, 2020
هذا الكتاب هو تفريغ لمناظرة أقيمت في كندا عام 2015، برعاية مؤسسة "مَنْك". بالإضافة إلى لقاءات قصيرة مع المتناظرين. وهم فريقان:
1- "ستيفن بِنْكر" و"مات ريدلي" المؤمنان بأن القادم أفضل. اعتمادًا على البيانات والمنحنيات، بالنسبة للأول، واعتمادًا على منجزات العلم ووعوده بالنسبة للثاني.
2- "آلان دو بوتون" و"مالكوم جلادويل" المتشككان. تثير الأول المخاوف من الحماسة المفرطة اتجاه التقدم، طارحًا الفلسفة الواقعية بديلاً. ومتسائلاً عن هموم الإنسان الوجودية التي تغيب وراء الاحتفاليات الشكلية بمنجزات التكنولوجيا والعلم. والإنسان بـ"جوزته الخطّاءة" كما يسمّي العقل؛ لا يكفّ عن الانتباه لمشاكله أو اختلاقها.
وتثير الثاني المخاطرُ التي تستجدّ يومًا إثر يوم. فتغيّر المخاطر لا تقليلها هو ما يشغله. وما نتوقعه خطير، فكيف بما لا يمكننا توقعه؟ والماضي
–برأيه- ليس مرآة المستقبل.
تدور المناظرة في جوّ رائع ومشحون لا يخلو من الطرافة والسخرية، والأخذ والرد. ينقلها الكتاب بجمال ودقة. والترجمة رائعة وجميلة، ومقدمة المترجم (نصير فليح) مقدمة بديعة ومفيدة. فله الشكر!
كتاب مفيد وممتع، ونموذج لنقاش ثقافي راقٍ، يستحق القراءة.
يُذكر أنّ غالب الجمهور كان في صفّ الفريق الأول، ولم يتأثر إلا قليلاً بطرح الفريق الثاني الذي أتبنّى رأيه. ولـ"آلان دو بوتون"تفسير ذكي لميلنا إلى التفاؤل في مستقبل أفضل.
Profile Image for Daniel.
173 reviews36 followers
February 7, 2017
The book transcribes a debate between two teams of two men each, on the proposition: "Do Humankind's Best Days Lie Ahead?". The question is not well-posed - the answer could literally be "Yes" despite an apocalyptic scenario. Suppose the coming year is the best in humankind's history, and then, say, an asteroid impact causes total human extinction. The answer to the question is still "yes." All you really need is a minimum of two really good future days to satisfy the premise (two days qualifies as "days") - humanity enjoys its best days, and then kaboom. A wordier but better formulation would be: "Humans have made a lot of progress over the past several centuries. How long might that progress continue, and what must we do to improve our odds?" Or how about: "Will your great-great-grandchildren be pissing on your grave in the year 2100?" That is, will they appreciate living in the world you inserted them into?

The second peculiarity is the choice of debate participants. On the "Pro" team we have a pair of erudite techno-optimists (Pinker and Ridley), who arrive bristling with credentials and carefully selected facts and figures combined with gaping blind spots and internal contradictions (both internally, and between the two of them). On the "Con" team we have a distinguished philospher (de Botton) and a journalist (Gladwell) who are doubtless among the best on the planet at what they do, but what they do apparently hasn't involved closely examining the claims of techno-optimists. Thus we watch the dramatic irony unfold. (For those whose understanding of "irony" comes from Alanis Morissette, irony in the dramatic sense refers to a narrative in which at least one of the characters lacks information known - or in this case, knowable - to the audience, thus placing the spectators a step ahead - in this case a step ahead of the "Con" team.) The best-qualified character in the drama to represent the "Con" position might have been the book's editor Rudyard Griffiths, who interviews the debate participants separately and does a little probing on rather important issues such as climate change. (More on this below.)

To broadly summarize the debate: the Pro team cites reams of statistics that show steady improvement in human well-being by several important measures; Pinker lists ten. Ridley tags in with some additional fire support. This improvement in human welfare seems indisputable. Ridley's claims about improvement in Earth's natural environment are easily refuted by anyone with even minimal expertise, but the Con team didn't have it. From this the Pro team concludes future progress in all ten measures is inevitable. That is, the Pro team believes the past predicts the future when it comes to making people healthier, wealthier, safer, and so on. There is no mention of our continuous exponential increase in fossil fuel combustion over the past two centuries which has been instrumental to this progress. If the past predicts the future, then it also predicts humans will go on burning fossil fuels at the same exponentially increasing rate until we have burned all that exist for us to extract from the Earth. That would leave Earth's atmosphere stifling under around 2000 parts per million of carbon dioxide, a level not seen since dinosaurs lumbered through what were then the steaming jungles of Antarctica - on land which lies under two miles of ice today. Atmospheric carbon dioxide was around 280 ppm before the start of the Industrial Revolution in 1750, and has reached 400 ppm now with no end to the increase in sight. Humans are currently working hard to reverse millions of years of natural climate cooling in just a few centuries. As of early 2017, there are no qualified climate scientists who can produce any evidence to suggest such a rapid increase would be less than an existential catastrophe for humans and Earth's biosphere.

To their credit, the overmatched and woefully unprepared "Con" team manages to land some glancing blows from the back foot, but they appear not to have read even the Wikipedia biographical articles about the Pro team, let alone their collected works and their critics. (Bit of advice for participants in future high-profile debates: everybody who has written large-selling controversial books has also attracted critics like remoras to a shark: read them. Better yet, contact them.)

For example, George Monbiot eviscerated Matt Ridley's claims that Earth's environment is improving. On climate change, Ridley is evidently a "luke-warmist" - while conceding climate change is real and human-caused, he doubts it is serious enough to require any troubling new regulations on industry or individuals. During the debate he even makes the risible claim that climate change will not kill more people than the number who died in France during a single famine in the 1600s.

Ridley's teammate Pinker, in contrast, accepts that climate change is real, is human-caused, and is an existential threat if humans do not act decisively against it. (Why didn't Pinker correct his wayward partner Ridley for vastly understating the risk from climate change, then? Does loyalty to team trump the facts?) Pinker honestly accepts that acting sufficiently against climate change may be the hardest problem humans have ever faced, and he cites The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World. That's a well-regarded and oft-cited book the Con team should have read - and has Ridley read it? The Con team should have jumped on that, given that Ridley apparently rejects environmental economics and believes the unfettered free market automatically saves the environment - a view that amounts to a vastly naive over-application of the environmental Kuznets curve.

Yet Pinker, being an optimist, believes we can ignore the past 200 years of exponentially increasing fossil fuel use, and feels confident humans will impose whatever wrenching policies are necessary to destroy the multi-trillion-dollar fossil fuel industry before it destroys everyone else. This is one of those gaping blind spots I referred to above. Pinker believes progress in his ten measures of human welfare is inevitable because he has studied the underlying drivers and concluded they are robust. Has he studied the underlying drivers of our exponentially increasing fossil fuel combustion? Apparently not. But then again, neither did the "Con" team. They should have read: The Burning Question: We Can't Burn Half the World's Oil, Coal, and Gas. So How Do We Quit?. That book lays out a question we have to answer if we want humanity to have a future at all. So far, we aren't answering it, and that was already true before Trump got elected to spend the next four years nailing our coffin shut by appointing science deniers to key Administration posts.

Speaking of Trump, I took until now to mention him because at the time of the debate way back in 2015 (such an innocent bygone era), few intellectuals were taking him seriously. We can't fault the debate participants for lacking our perspective at the grim dawn of 2017. But now that Pinker's nightmare scenario has come true (he tweeted that Ezra Klein article), I wonder if his faith in unerring human progress has developed any cracks. In particular, given that we are already years behind schedule for fixing climate change, how many more Presidential terms does Pinker think we have left to delay action? His Twitter page shows him putting on a brave face interspersed with gasps of horror at the reality of Trump.

Another large and troubling threat to our future well-being is the rise of the robots. Pinker and Ridley confidently declare that the impact of Moore's law will be positive: either uniformly so, or overwhelmingly so on balance. I'm as big a fan as anyone, given that I love computers and they've rewarded me back, but plenty of smart people are advising caution. Pinker's hand-waving dismissal is unhelpful:
"What about the science fiction dystopias? Most of them, like rampaging cyborgs and engulfment by nanobots, are entirely fanciful and will go the way of the Y2K bug and other silly techno-panics."

For starters, it's not enough to avoid "most of" these existential threats - we must avoid all of them. By definition, any single existential threat ends the party. If you avoid lung cancer, heart disease, and malaria, but fall off a tall building, you're still dead.

We can probably rule out rampaging cyborgs for the moment (robots must first learn to avoid falling over), but there are more immediate threats. For example, to your job. Few people can be unaware that recent technological progress has destabilized labor markets. Serious research indicates 47% of jobs in America are at risk for automation. China is even more vulnerable, since a much larger proportion of Chinese work in manufacturing, the most easily automated sector. Unlike previous rounds of technological progress and worker displacement, it's not clear that such huge numbers of human workers can be retrained for new jobs before further technological progress automates those jobs too. We're entering a new era of general-purpose machines that learn. When they learn new jobs faster than humans, humans lose. See the YouTube video Humans Need Not Apply and the book Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future. (And the slew of similar books.) No government on the planet has even acknowledged this problem, let alone proposed a solution - and it's about to crash down on our heads.

Alain de Botton put in a word for "First World problems." He acknowledges this is a pejorative label to ridicule the downsides that come along with our modern wealth and progress. No one seriously puts them in the same league as dying from smallpox, but we shouldn't dismiss them either. If certain problems tag along with progress as inherent features, they knock some of the shine from the gleaming world of the techno-optimist. For example, a third of American adults are obese and another third are overweight. Overweight and obesity might be our second-largest cause of preventable death now, after tobacco and ahead of alcohol, and ahead further still of gun violence. Obesity is clearly a product of technological progress: our brains evolved in an environment chronically short of food, so we are easy pickings for the modern food industry that hooks us with abundant fat, salt, sugar, and calories - the very tastes our brains evolved to pursue when obtaining as much calorie-dense food as possible was necessary for survival. We are also suckers for sloth. In the ancestral environment, everyone had to be physically active to survive, but activity cost precious calories, so we were always looking to economize. The modern environment lets everyone live like Jabba the Hut, with the result that the more you drive, the fatter you probably are.

Another First World problem is the remarkable propensity of modern people to get financially overstretched. 47% of Americans cannot come up with $400 in an emergency. This phenomenon nearly brought down our economy in 2008; see Financially Stupid People Are Everywhere: Don't Be One of Them. No one would argue that an American struggling with credit card debt and a house underwater suffers like a Third Worlder who lives on $1 per day and picks through trash dumps for food. But at the same time, we see that as Americans get richer, the advertising industry gets smarter in lockstep, continually creating new ways to persuade us to spend beyond our means. This is not a problem that a rise in income can correct - we've already multiplied real incomes since WWII without increasing financial security for a terrifying fraction of Americans. Perhaps Pinker and Ridley are not squandering their wealth like M.C. Hammer, but plenty of their friends are probably experiencing the secret shame of money problems. While Pinker is writing or retweeting articles analyzing the causes for Donald Trump (which by the way he indirectly attributes to the democratization of information exchange - that product of Moore's law which was supposed to usher in a golden age), he might also consider the victory of the advertising industry over mere consumers. When people are living paycheck to paycheck, they are living in fear, making them less likely to feel generous to outsiders or inclined to protect the environment, and more vulnerable to demagogues. Ad companies easily hire the best psychologists to study and target our greatest weaknesses, and they target us thousands of times per year - it's not a fair fight. Imagine a perverse germ warfare industry hiring the best physicians and microbiologists to target our physical weaknesses - it would be a slaughter.

The Con team failed to mention perhaps the strongest argument for pessimism about our long-term prospects: the Fermi paradox. A summary: reasonable extrapolations of current human progress suggest that if all goes well for us, in just a few centuries we should become a spacefaring species, capable of expanding through the galaxy at up to a tenth of lightspeed. At that pace we should easily overrun the entire galaxy in a million years. That's less than a thousandth of the age of the Milky Way galaxy (which is at least 12 billion years old). The galaxy contains at least a hundred billion stars, many of which apparently have planets in orbit around them. The galaxy may teem with life. It seems unlikely we can be the first to develop technology. So, why aren't the aliens already here? Something must have stopped them, perhaps a Great Filter. Either the conditions for intelligent life are extremely rare (most life doesn't get past microbial stage), or there is something inherent in intelligence that causes it to self-destruct before escaping its home planet.

The one example of intelligent life we know about is consuming its home unsustainably and at exponential rates. The civilization we have now cannot possibly continue in its present form for another century. We are on pace to run out of fossil fuels, fresh water, arable soil, a hospitable climate, and fertilizers - we will have to rebuild everything we do for sustainability but we haven't yet shown we can. The brains we have now are not yet spacefaring brains, and they don't have much time left to evolve. It's very hard to see us moving our civilization off the Earth before we cook it out of existence here. And we have the brute fact that no previous civilization in our galaxy seems to have gotten farther than where we are right now.

This review went well past the TL;DR limit, but even so it fails to address all the selection bias and disinformation from the Pro team, Ridley in particular. A full critique would require a book. It's a pity the Con team hadn't read that book, or couldn't have whipped it up on the spot.
Profile Image for Hossein.
219 reviews81 followers
September 3, 2021
موضوع این مناظره، اینکه آیا جهان مدرن در مسیر درستی قرار دارد و اینکه اگر این گونه نیست، چه مسیری را باید در پیش بگیریم، مدت‌هاست که برایم یک مساله شده است. از آنجایی که ویدیوی این مناظره را قبلا در یوتیوب پیدا کرده بودم، تصمیم گرفتم همزمان با تماشای مناظره کتاب را هم بخوانم که یک مقایسه‌ی ترجمه‌ای کرده باشم. ترجمه واقعا بد بود و پیشنهاد میکنم که مناظره را در یوتیوب ببینید. علاوه بر این، در ویدیو مناظره می‌توانید به بامزه‌بازی‌هایی بخندید که در کتاب حس نمی‌شود. با این حال چند مصاحبه‌ی اضافی پایان کتاب آمده بود که برای من جذاب بود.
لینک مصاحبه
مناظره بین استیون پینکر و مت ریدلی به عنوان موافقان پیشرفت، و مالکوم گلدول و آلن دوباتن به عنوان منتقدان پیشرفت بود. به نظر من، بیشتر حرف‌های درست و حسابی بین پینکر و دوباتن رد و بدل شد. مشکل اصلی من این بود که طرفین ذره‌ای حرف همدیگر را نمی‌فهمیدند و فقط حرف‌های خودشان را می‌زدند! با این حال چیزهای زیادی یاد گرفتم و لذت بردم.
یک کمی از حرف‌ها می‌نویسم.
اول از همه استیون پینکر به ده مورد اشاره می‌کند که نسبت به ادوار گذشته در آن‌ها پیشرفت داشته‌ایم: افزایش میانگین طول عمر بشر، بهبود سلامتی و مواجهه با بیماری‌ها، رفاه بیشتر، صلح، امنیت، آزادی، دانش، حقوق بشر، عدالت جنسیتی و در نهایت افزایش هوش میانگین افراد در جامعه. هیچ‌گونه شکی نیست که تک‌تک این موارد نسبت به سده‌های گذشته به‌شدت بهبود یافته‌اند و با در نظر گرفتن همین نرخ پیشرفت، جهان آینده مکان بهتری برای زندگی خواهد بود.
بعد از این دوباتن نقدهای خود را ایراد می‌کند. اول از همه کشور سوییس را مثال می‌زند و می‌گوید با وجود پیشرفت در موارد بالا، مردم در آنجا هنوز خوشبخت نیستند. دلایلش را هم می‌گوید که به‌نظرم واقعا سطحی و خام است. جلوتر پینکر در رد حرف‌های دوباتن می‌گوید:
آیا می‌خواهید با دهقانی در کامبوج ، سودان، بنگلادش یا افغانستان تماس بگیرید و بگویید: «گوش کن، به خاطر مرگ همسر یا فرزندت هنگام تولد نگران هستی؟ درست است که تو پر از آفت و انگلی، چیز زیادی برای خوردن نداری، اما به من اعتماد کن. زندگی در کشوری مثل سوئیس هم تحفه‌ای نیست. این درست است که [در سوئیس برخلاف بنگلادش] ممکن است فرزند اولت ممکن است از سال اول زندگی جان سالم به در ببرد اما وقتی نوجوان شد با خیره‌سری در چشم‌هایت چشم می‌دوزد. ممکن است در [در سوئیس برخلاف افغانستان] مجبور نباشی در سایه جنگ و نسل‌کشی زندگی کنی اما مردم نظرات مزخرف خود را ابراز می‌کنند! ممکن است [در سوئیس برخلاف آفریقا] در معرض گرسنگی نباشی اما گاهی که شراب می‌نوشی ممکن است که کمی بوی میوه پوسیده مشام‌ت را بیازارد!

اما تمام داستان همین نیست. چیزی که به‌نظر می‌آید پینکر در مقابل دوباتن آن را در نظر نمی‌گیرد، کمی به مساله اخلاق و ارزیابی آدم‌ها از میزان خوشبختی‌شان برمی‌گردد. دوباتن روی این تاکید می‌کند که پیشرفت‌های علمی، زندگی آدم‌های دوران مدرن را پرمعنی‌تر نکرده. او آنا کارنینا را مثال می‌زند و می‌گوید که آنا از هیچ‌یک از موارد ده‌گانه‌ای که پینکر اشاره کرده در رنج نبوده، با این حال این موضوع رمان تولستوی را اثری مفرح نکرده است. دوباتن اشاره می‌کند که با وجود همه درخشش‌های علمی، آزمایشگاه‌های دانشمندان از پس مسائلی که ادبیات به آن‌ها اشاره کرده برنیامده است. او می‌گوید:
اگر هملت پا به آزمایشگاه شما می‌گذاشت چه می‌کردید؟ چگونه می‌توانید معضلاتی را که ائوریپیدس مطرح کرده بود را ببینید؟ یا این‌که سطوحی از ناخرسندی‌های بشری را که کافکا اشاره کرده بود را ارزیابی کنید؟

در اینجا پینکر، متکبرانه همه این‌ها را قصه می‌خواند و شخصیت‌های ادبی را تخیلی می‌داند. این به نظرم نقطه ضعف اوست. دوباتن اشاره می‌کند که دانشمندان رادیکال خود را پیروز ماجرا و بی‌نیاز از معنویات می‌دانند. از دید علم کنونی ما دیگر به اساطیر، ادیان و یا ادبیات نیاز نداریم.
بگذارید نظر خودم را بگویم. به نظر من، دوره‌ای که در آن زندگی می‌کنیم بهترین دوران برای زندگی‌کردن است. (به طور میانگین) پیش از این در تاریخ هیچ‌گاه اینقدر زندگی بی‌نیاز از جان‌کندن نبوده. در دورانی هستیم که امکان زندگی مناسب و انتخاب‌کردن تقریبا برای درصد خوبی از آدم‌ها مهیاست. همین صد سال پیش در ایران و طی یکی-دو سال، نیمی از مردم به خاطر بیماری و قحطی بزرگ تلف شدند. اما در حال حاضر کافیست همین زندگی روزمره و مسائل عادی را در نظر بگیریم: کتاب‌هایی که می‌خوانیم را خودمان انتخاب می‌کنیم، تقریبا امکان دیدن تمام فیلم‌ها و سریال‌هایی که در ذهن داریم، مهیاست. هرجایی که باشیم با دسترسی به اینترنت می‌توانیم هرچه را که بخواهیم یاد بگیریم و علایقمان را دنبال کنیم. امکان اینکه از گرسنگی و یا قحطی بمیریم، تقریبا صفر است و پیشرفت پزشکی، امکان جان‌به‌دربردن‌مان را به شدت افزایش داده. همه این‌ها با گذشت زمان در حال بهبود یافتن هستند. بیشتر این‌ها را هم مدیون علم و تکنولوژی هستیم.
اما نباید نقص‌هایمان را فراموش کنیم. خرد عظیم مسیحیت در این است که همه ما ناتوان، شکننده و درهم‌شکسته هستیم. کانت می‌گوید که از الوار خمیده انسان، هرگز هیچ چیز صافی ساخته نشده است. به قول دوباتن ما مخلوقات ناقصی هستیم و نیازمندیم که نقاط ضعفمان را به یاد داشته باشیم تا انسان خوبی باشیم. مهربانی، گذشت، تواضع و همدلی، تمام این فضایل انسانی، از نقص‌هایمان می‌آیند.
در نهایت برخلاف نظر شرکت‌کنندگان مناظره، به نظرم این دو موضوع به راحتی قابل جمعند. بنظرم ما باید در جستجوی علم باشیم. سعی کنیم جهان‌بینی‌مان را با کمک دانش بهبود ببخشیم و سعی در پیشرفت داشته باشیم. اما در این بین نباید خود را بی‌نیاز از حکمتِ علوم انسانی بدانیم. ما نیازمندیم که انسان‌هایی علم‌گرا باشیم که معنویت (چه معنویت دینی و چه معنویت سکولار) را در جز به جز زندگی‌شان از یاد نمی‌برند.
Profile Image for Danielle.
36 reviews11 followers
November 8, 2016
This book was underwhelming in a major way. First, I don't think the question "Do humankind's best days lie ahead?" was a fair way to parse the question at hand. Since there are so many measurable variables that suggest that human life is improving, it's hard to argue against this proposition. I would have thought that the 'con' representatives would have brought stronger points. Instead, the whole debate seemed to be a back and forth of low shots and slight insults. Furthermore, when thinking of this topic, I immediately thought of C.S. Lewis' concept of "chronological snobbery;" the concept that things in the past are inherently inferior to the present simply because of our temporal position.
A quick read but probably would have been more entertaining to listen to.
Profile Image for asih simanis.
160 reviews97 followers
January 4, 2017
It's surprising how intellectuals at the level of these 4 gentlemen debate so childlike when it comes to this issue of human progress.
Profile Image for Alan.
378 reviews149 followers
July 20, 2018
This book is the transcript of the Munk debate that took place in 2015, and it comes with pre-debate interviews and post-debate commentary. Holy hell were the teams mismatched. I mean you have a Harvard professor and a member of the House of Lords debating a journalist and an (admittedly mesmerizing) "intellectual" and philosopher.

The debate plays out exactly as you would expect it to. The teams begin with opening remarks, misunderstand the question, and then gung-ho, here we go. Honestly felt a little bad for de Botton and Gladwell. They were made to look like fools, while in reality, they are respectable professionals. The problem arose, as per usual, with the framing of issue. Pinker and Ridley approached human progress on a micro level, choosing to focus on poverty and war, while de Botton and Gladwell came about through a, shall we say, literature/humanities lens?

Still a decent read. Worth your attention if only to see Steven Pinker say "I think Alain de Botton has shown up to the wrong debate." This is countered with de Botton saying "You constantly shift and give ground." Beef!
Profile Image for Jjpoor.
37 reviews2 followers
February 13, 2020
خوندن نظرات هر گروه به صورت مجزا جالبه‌. اما مناظره شکل نگرفت. دلیلش اینه که گروه موافق و مخالف از دو جنس متفاوت بودن و دیالوگ برقرار نمیتونستم بکنن. یک گروه ساینتیست و با اعداد و ارقام و گروه دیگه فیلسوف و با نظریات کیفی. یکی فکت علمی رو نمیفهمید و مسخره میکرد و گروه دیگه مثال‌های ادبی آلن دو باتن رو متوجه نمیشد.
اما بازهم میگم که خوندن نظرات هر گروه به صورت مجزا خواندنی بود.
Profile Image for Narges.
79 reviews95 followers
June 1, 2021
This debate should be repeated in post pandemic 2022. Just time has made some of the Pro team's arguments obsolete
Profile Image for Ahmed Hussein Shaheen.
Author 4 books158 followers
February 18, 2022
بشكل عام، أنا لا أحب المناظرات. أو على الأقل المناظرات في منطقتنا العربية
طريقة إدارة المناظرة لافتة للنظر

الكتاب جيد ولكن يختزل الكثير من الحقيقة
Profile Image for Stamen Stoev.
175 reviews10 followers
November 15, 2020
Темата ми е изключително интересна и имах големи очаквания, предвид участието на изтъкнати умове на нашето съвремие. Уви, останах леко разочарован. Дебатът в същността си беше твърде кратък и сякаш двата отбора не успяха достатъчно убедително да аргументират позициите си. Разбира се, високото ниво на изказване е налице. Не липсваше и чувство за хумор от срана на всички участници.

Предстоят ли най-добрите дни на човечеството? Интригуващ въпрос с още по-интригуващи отговори. Впечатление ми направи, че твърде много се придаваше значение на българският тийнейджър, който е заплаха за света със своите хакерски умения. Може и да не е повод за гордост (зависи от гледната точка), но поне може да ни вдигне малко самочувствието като нация. Ние сме на картата на света и може би държим в ръцете си ключа към мира и благополучието на планетата.
Profile Image for Mishi_msv.
67 reviews15 followers
December 26, 2019

بسيارى از بدترين جنبش‌های تاریخ، زاییده‌ی ذهن آنهایی است که به کمال‌گرایی اعتقاد داشتند؛ دانشمندان، سیاستمداران و دیگرانی که فکر می‌کردند می‌توانند همه‌چیز را یک‌بار و برای همیشه درست کنند. این فلسفه‌ای است که به طرزی باورنکردنی برای زندگی خطرناک است. کمال‌گرایان در میان ما آنهایی هستند که همیشه جهان را ویران و ویران‌تر می‌کنند. پیشرفت واقعی بشر همیشه حاصل فعالیت افرادی است که تواضع بیشتری به خرج داده‌اند و بر عیب‌های خود و دیگران واقف بوده و سعی در ایجاد بهشتی بر زمین نکرده‌اند.

آلن دوباتن
Profile Image for حسام.
411 reviews15 followers
June 23, 2021
مناظرة جيدة كل فريق فيها قدم حجه وادلته ونظرياته لما هو ات ....كتاب جيد يطرح افكار مهمة من كٍلا الجانبين وكل قاراء سيقف الي ما يميل له ...
Profile Image for Snezhina.
79 reviews
April 13, 2019
Прогресът и бъдещето на човечеството са въпроси, които вълнуват мнозина в последно време и тези теми се обсъждат публично от много известни хора - от учени и философи до писатели и музиканти (дори Take That имат албум, озаглавен Progress). Съответно мненията по въпроса са различни колкото и хората в света, но тази малка книжка представя един от най-важните дебати по темата, проведен през 2015 г. Преди да прочета книгата бях чувала бегло за дебатите на Мунк, но едва сега се запознах по-отблизо с тяхната същност и цел. Въпреки че смятам, че час и половина не е достатъчно време за обсъждане на такава обширна тема и за стигане до някакъв консенсус, останах доволна от прочетеното. Хубаво е и че дебатът излиза в писмена форма, за да може да достигне до повече хора.
Накратко дебатът представлява дискусия между два отбора по двама души - двама подкрепят тезата "за", а другите двама - "против". В този случай "за" са Стивън Пинкър и Мат Ридли, несъмнено големи имена, а "против" са Малкълм Гладуел и Ален де Ботон, за които не бях чувала, но честно казано, след прочетеното не искам и да научавам повече. Не искам да и��давам много от същността на дебата, но има няколко неща, които трябва да спомена. Лично аз подкрепях тезата "за" преди да прочета книгата и всъщност изчитането на този дебат още повече ме убеди в нея и трите неща, на които ще обърна внимание, помогнаха за това:
1. Фактът, че Ален де Ботон беше получил някакъв факс от някъде и си беше втълпил, че Пинкър и Ридли, тъй като смятат, че имаме шанс за добро бъдеще, смятат и че ще станем безсмъртни и ще направим идеален свят, според мен развали донякъде интересната дискусия, понеже се изгуби страшно много от и без това ограниченото време в изясняването на този казус.
2. Съгласна съм, че литературата е важна в живота и може да ни научи на много, но примерът на Гладуел с Ана Каренина беше меко казано абсурден. Но пък показваше този тип мислене - Де Ботон и Гладуел създадоха впечатлението на хора, които намират за по-лесно да се оплакват какво ни чака, вместо да поемат отговорност и да се включат в опитите да се създаде едно по-добро бъдеще. Литературата е пълна с произведения, които ни предупреждават какво би могло да се случи, ако не внимаваме, но те не са гаранция, че това ЩЕ се случи - напротив, те помагат да се осъзнаем и да предприемем действия навреме. Гладуел и де Ботон обаче се опитваха да извъртят нещата да звучат така, сякаш за човечеството няма абсолютно никаква надежда. Вярно е, хората са способни на ужасни неща, но също така са способни и на чутовни постижения, стига да поемат отговорност за живота и бъдещето си. Човешката същност не може да се сведе само до черно или бяло, много по-сложна е от това и това е било доказвано неведнъж.
3. Оптимизмът не бива да се бърка с наивност, както направиха де Ботон и Гладуел - да бъдеш оптимист за бъдещето и да смяташ, че предстоят по-добри дни не означава, че отричаш напълно възможността да се случват лоши неща - трудности, конфликти и проблеми ще има винаги, но също така ще се намират и начини те да бъдат разрешавани. Неслучайно Нютон е открил, че всяко действие има еднакво по сила и обратно по посока противодействие - ако в бъдеще възникне проблем, неговото въздействие може да бъде неутрализирано чрез упорит труд и усилия от страна на човечеството. Колкото и време да отнеме, действието ще има противодействие. Също така вяра в по-доброто бъдеще не означава вяра, че смъртта ще бъде победена и че хората ще живеем вечно - смъртта е нещо, което няма как да бъде избегнато и Пинкър и Ридли са достатъчно здравомислещи, за да го осъзнават и изобщо не претендират, че това е основата на тяхната теза.
Още много неща могат да се изговорят по този дебат, но тези трите ми направиха най-силно впечатление. Най-добре е всеки да прочете и да реши за себе си коя теза би подкрепил и защо. Аз съм си вечният оптимист и въпреки че съм наясно с потенциалните заплахи, които бъдещето готви, също вярвам, че човечеството може да се справи с всичко и да докаже още принципа на механиката в живота, точно както Нютон е утвърдил своите принципи на механиката в природата.
Profile Image for Mehrdad M..
67 reviews9 followers
February 22, 2021
مناظره‌ی جذابی بود. من که به‌شخصه طرفدار اندیشه‌های پینکر و ریدلی هستم، بعضی از نظرات گلدول رو هم پسندیدم اما به‌نظرم دوبوتون احساساتی عمل می‌کرد و استدلال‌های بی‌جایی می‌آورد. طنز جالبی هم بین سخنگوها جریان داشت که از سنگینی بحث کم می‌کرد:)
فیلم مناظره رو هم می‌تونید از لینک زیر تماشا کنید:
Profile Image for Hozifa Taher.
9 reviews20 followers
September 28, 2020
هل أفضل أيام البشر قادمة ؟

السؤال الذي تتناوله المناظرة في هذا الكتاب سؤالٌ كبير جداً بالطبع، وككّل الأسئلة الكبيرة جداً. فإنه يمدّ تفرعات كبيرة جداً في مختلف المجالات الفكرية والروحية والمادية. فالتساؤل عن المستقبل، وما إذا كان سيأتي بأيامٍ أفضل للبشر أم لا يرتبط بالعلم والدين والتنوير والعقل والعقلانية والتكنولوجيا والفلسفة والأخلاق والسياسة والفرد والمجتمع والبيئة، وبالتالي يعتمد على المنظور العام الذي يُنظر من خلاله لهذه المواضيع مجتمعة. وكما يقول رئيس مناظرات منك روديارد غرفتس في مقدمته فإن هذه المناظرة، مقارنةً بما سبقها، تتضمن «منعطفاً فلسفياً قوياً».. وكان هذا دافعاً مهما ل��ر��مة هذا الكتاب، وكتابة المقدمة أيضاً، التي أردنا لها تبيان الأرضية النظرية العامة لما يجري في المناظرة من محاججات، مع اعتبار الشواغل والانهمامات الفكرية والمعرفية للقارئ العربي الكريم.

الترجمة أكثر من رائعة المترجم ابدع في ترجمة هذه المناظرة واضح جدا أنه مطلع ولديه معرفة واسعة عن الموضوع.
مقدمة المترجم عظيمة الهوامش مليئة بالمعلومات والاحداث والتواريخ.

---نبذة عن المتناظرين---

فريق المتفائلين
اي المؤيدين للقول بأنٌ أَفضَل أيام البشر قادمة.

ستيفن بنكر : عالمُ إدراكٍ ريادي كتب عدداً من الكتب الأفضل مبيعاً، بما في ذلك (حسُّ الأسلوب : دليل الشخص المفكَّر إلى الكتابة في القرن الحادي والعشرين)، بالإضافة إلى دراسة بارزة جداً عن التقدم البشري، (الملائكة الأفضل في طبيعتنا)، الذي ربح جائزة صحيفة نيويورك تايمز للكتاب البارز في العام وتم اختياره لنادي كتاب (مارك زكربيرغ). كتاباه (THE BLANK SLATE) و (كيف يعمل الذهن؟) كانا في القوائم النهائية لجائزة بوليتزر. وهو استاذ (JOHNSTONE FAMILY) للسايكلولوجيا في جامعة هارفرد وسُمّي من مجلة التايمز واحداً من الاشخاص المئة الأكثر تأثيراً في العالم.

ماتْ رِدْلي: وصلتْ كتب كتب مات ردلي إلى القوائم النهائية لتسعة جوائز أدبية رئيسية، وربحت عدة جوائز، وتُرجمتْ إلى ثلاثين لغة، وبيعَ منها أكثر من مليون نسخة. حالياً يكتب في عمود (الذهن والمادة) في صحيفة وولستريت ويساهم بانتظام في صحيفة التايمز. تم تعيينه في بيت اللوردات في عام 2013 وهو زميل (الجماعة المَلَكية للأدب) و (أكاديمية العلوم الطبية)
وعضو فخري في (الأكاديمية الأمريكية للفنون والعلوم).

فريق المتحفظين أو المتشككين بأن أَفضَل أيام البشر قادمة.

آلان دو بوتون: فيلسوف ومؤلف ومذيع سويسري مقيم بالمملكة المتحدة يكتب بوتون كتباً تتضمن مقالاتٍ وُصفتْ بأنها "فلسفة الحياة اليومية". كتبَ عن الحُب، السفر، العمارة، والأدب. كتبه كانت الأفضل مبيعاً في ثلاثين بلداً. وقد أنشأ وساعد في اطلاق مدرسة مقرها في لندن باسم (مدرسة الحياة)، تعملُ على رؤية جديدة للتعليم. آخرُ كتبه هو (الأخبار: دليل المستخدم).

مالكولم غلادويل: صحفي كندي ومؤلف خمسة كتب من أفضل مبيعاً حسب (نيويورك تايمز)، وهي: (THE TIPPING POINT)، (BLINK)، (WHAT THE DOG SAW)، وآخر كتبه هو (DAVID AND GOLIATH: UNDERDOGS MISFITS AND THE ART OF BATTLING GIANTS). سُمّي واحداً من المئة شخص الأكثر تأثيراً في العالم من مجلة التايم وواحداً من أبرز مئة مفكر عالمي حسب مجلة السياسة الخارجية. وهو كاتب في فريق (نيويوركر) منذ عام 1996.
نال جائزة المجلة الوطنية، وتم تكريمه من (جمعية علم النفس الأمريكية) و(جمعية علم الإجتماع الأمريكية).

المناظرة متوفرة على يوتيوب مدتها ساعة ونصف للاسف غير مترجمة للعربية سأضع الرابط في التعليقات

#هل_أفضل_أيام_البشر_قادمة ؟
Profile Image for Laala Kashef Alghata.
Author 2 books65 followers
June 18, 2021
Where do I even start with this book?! From the first few pages I was already in a rage. So much so that I actually stopped reading for MONTHS, then picked it up again this week to see if I could get through it. The rage tripled.

This is a transcript of a “debate”, but I use that term very loosely because this wouldn’t pass the standard of most university debating societies. The balatant and continued tones of racism and whiteness, and a focus on the West being “good”/affluent, and that poor countries should be pitied — infuriated me, because it had fuck all context.

No mention of wars — they actually claimed that this was the biggest time of peace at one point?! — or conflicts, or genocide.

These are meant to be some of the worlds best thinkers — LOL. It’s three white guys and one mixed race man talking around themselves in circles.

No one won. Everyone’s time was wasted.
Profile Image for Христо Блажев.
2,170 reviews1,416 followers
April 21, 2019
Предстоят ли най-добрите дни за човечеството – или идва упадък?: http://knigolandia.info/book-review/p...

Дебатите на Мунк са големи публични събития, на които се канят световноизвестни личности, за да дебатират ключови събития. Освен гореспоменатите имена в дебатите са участвали хора като Ан Епълбаум, Тони Блеър, Кристофър Хичънс (!!!), Гари Каспаров, Пол Кругман, Дейвид Кисинджър и др. Но точно този конкретен дебат за мен бе най-интересен, защото сблъсква не само автори, на които се възхищавам, но и засяга за мен най-важната тема: бъдещето на човечеството и посоката, в която сме поели.

April 4, 2020
كتاب مميز وشيق عبارة عن محاورات وتناظر فلسفي علموي، امتزجت بالطابع التهكمي بين المتناظرين في مناطق ومحاور كثيرة اثناء سجالاتهم، وقد تم تناول مواضيع شتى وأسئلة مهمة ومبهمة حول مستقبل الكائنات البشرية على كوكبنا حيث اتخذ السجال اسلوب الأضداد والانقسام الى فريقين : المتفائل والذي يرجح وفق معطيات شتى من وجهة نظره بأن مستقبلنا آيل ويسير نحو الأفضل ومقبل على فضاءات مشرقة، اما الطرف المتشائم من طرفي المقابلة فيرى بأن نظرة الفريق الخصم تتسم بنوع من السذاجة الطفولية وتفاؤل لا عقلاني مبالغ به.
استمتعت كثيرا بالكتاب.
Profile Image for Anastasiia Mozghova.
354 reviews559 followers
May 8, 2021
a short book that consists of valid points that also seem to be extremely obvious. i definitely expected more. however, it could be of great use in an argument about the future of humanity.
Profile Image for John.
221 reviews42 followers
March 23, 2017
This short book transcribes a debate on the question 'Do Humankind's Best Days Lie Ahead?' Arguing for the proposition are Steven Pinker and Matt Ridley, against are Alain de Botton and Malcolm Gladwell.

Pinker and Ridley have much the better of the debate. They avoid Whiggish determinism for the most part and, looking progress on a range of issues in recent decades, look at what a continuation of these trends might mean for the future and the likelihood of them continuing.

De Botton puts in a very poor performance, arguing that even if these trends continue they will not lead to perfection - an argument neither Pinker nor Ridley actually make - as evidenced by the fact that people in even rich countries get sad sometimes. Gladwell does rather better, highlighting risks to the rosy scenario, though his needlessly abrasive style does him little credit. However, given that Pinker and Ridley concede that progress is not guaranteed but only (highly) likely, Gladwell has little to work with and, like de Botton, ends up simply saying 'We are just highlighting possible pitfalls'.

So, Do Humankind's Best Days Lie Ahead? They could do, but there are risks in the meantime. As always.

Profile Image for The Laughing Man.
275 reviews49 followers
November 1, 2018
Çok önemli bir debate idi bu, fakat bunun böyle kitap haline getirilmesi bana çok mantıklı gelmedi, bir nevi oradaki konuşmaların en önemli kısımlarından editörlerin seçmiş olduğu yerlerin transkriptini okumuş oluyorsunuz, onun yerine Munk Debates'den girip gerçek olayı öncesi ve sonrasıyla izlemek daha mantıklı... Herhalde yine dil bilmeyenlere bir şeyler katmak için hazırlanmış bir çalışma ama dil bilmeden bu kadar önemli meseleler hakkında ucundan kırıntı kadar bilgi sahibi olsan ne yazar olmasan ne yazar.

Matt Ridley ve Steven Pinker ama mutlak surette okunması hatmedilmesi gereken adamlar, Alain ve Malcolm'un kıyamet senaryolarının aslı astarı yok zaten TV'yi açınca onların sayıkladıkları öldük bittik sonumuz geldi retoriğini görebilirsiniz hiç okumaya gerek olmadan.

Alain'in argümanına bakın mesela, bugüne kadar [bilmem kaç bin yıldır yani] insanlık devamlı ileri gitti ve gelişti demek yarın da gelişecek demek değildir, açıklamaları da hep klişe güncel kıyamet algıları üzerinden. 70'lerde nüfus patlayacaktı, 80'lerde asit yağmurları, 90'larda ise ozon deliği, ne oldu? Hepsi boş çıktı, şimdi geldik iklim değişimine, sabahtan akşama kadar 10 sene içinde nasıl öleceğimizi dinliyoruz, bunları da rahatça aşacağımız ortada herhalde.
April 23, 2021
It is ironic reading this debate that took place in 2015, whereby both Pinker & Ridley are on the positive side of things. I wonder what they think 6 years later as we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic that has affected both the rate of poverty, economic progression, and women's rights. I am amply curious about what De Botton & Gladwell on the con side are thinking; is there a smug look upon their face, if that is too sadistic an image? But they were right in withholding their support for the idea that humankind's best days lie ahead of them: one only has to think prior to 2019/2020 when COVID-19 struck of Yemen, of the many refugees drowning mere miles away from Europe's shores, the impact that Hungary & Poland have had on the LGBTQ+ & women, the Uighurs & the inhabitants of Hong Kong, and a trove of other hot-topic, but unfortunate, issues that have arisen since the closure of 2015.

The ending paragraph of Ali Wyne's Post-Debate Commentary is still applicable when reading today: 'we should conclude - or at least hope - that the wisdom of our minds and the passion of our hearts scale with the magnitude of our calling.'
90 reviews15 followers
May 10, 2021
Malcolm Gladwell'in ad hominemlerine, Alain de Botton'un yerli yersiz edebi karakterlerden örnek vermesine tahammül edebilirseniz okuyun. Bence okumayın, şuradan takip edin daha iyi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUmBW...

2015 yılında bu virüs belası ortalarda yoktu; aslında zaman, Botton ve Gladwell'in kötümser tahminlerinde nispeten haklı olabileceğini gösterdi ama insan fikrini savunurken bu kadar da saldırgan ve alaycı olmamalı. İki tarafın (ağırlıklı olarak Botton ve Gladwell cephesinin) birbirine isimler takıp laf sokması dışında bir yere de varılamamış gibi. Kitap haline getirilmesine gerek yokmuş.
Profile Image for Yamen.
72 reviews3 followers
February 20, 2022
The debate in its totality was enjoyable, however I can't say it was as informative.
The second half was basically insults (real funny and witty ones) going back and forth between these lovely authors..
I lean towards Pinker-Ridley team, humanity as a collective is going forward. However, It personally saddens me that my country's civil war is an example; How the causalities of war only pushed back to the 2000s numbers. (I admire how Pinker addressed it gently)
I also understand Gladwell and de Botton cause, they wanted to enforce that healthy dose of realistic pessimism.. it's just that I think Gladwell shouldn't have been such a total bully about it xD.
Profile Image for Lana Elsafadi.
132 reviews5 followers
February 28, 2021
عنوان المناظرة جدير بالبحث و التفكير العميق جدا ، هل يمكن تفسير أغنى ، أكبر، أكثر صحة ، أكثر مالا أكثرسلام ،أكثر حرية، أقل حروب ،أقل أمراض ،والأهم أسررررررررع،،وغيرها من تفضيلات احصائايات الأرقام المذهلة المذكورة في المناظرة ، فبلغة الأرقام نعم و بكل تأكيد البشر الان يعيشون أفضل مراحل البشرية على الاطلاق! و لكن هل هذه المعايير تعني فعلا أنهم أكثر سعادة أو رضا أو فخرا بما آلو اليه؟؟؟!!
وماذا عن المستقبل هل يعني ذلك أن القادم أجمل بالفعل أم اننا وصلنا القمة وليس أمامنا سوى الانحدار؟؟!
يبدو أن سؤال هذه المناظرة سيظل مفتوحا الى الأبد و سيجيب كل جيل عليه بشكل مختلف!
Profile Image for mahesh.
212 reviews8 followers
February 18, 2021
It's a collection of a transcript of the Munk debate and pre-interview conducted on the topic " Do humankind best days lie ahead?".
Expected at least either rationale or reasonable answer since bright minds involved in the debate but ended up with utter disappointment when the entire debate was carried away by the childish behavior of the panelist.
The invited panelists are sailors of different seas so debate became disastrous. A war between the scientific approach and the humanist approach corrupted the objective and lead to a defensive and offensive tantrum. Both sides have shared mindboggling views which have nothing to do with the topic.

The answer is still unclear. Maybe because there is no definitive answer to a simple question tackled by the complex minds of humans.
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