Mark's Reviews > Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium

Billions & Billions by Carl Sagan
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really liked it
bookshelves: science

Sagan is eloquent as always. It helps even more to read it out loud to yourself, (muttering lest someone observe) and make up a Sagan accent as you go. He takes a gentle hand, which I think bespeaks desperation in his last years, his last chance to nudge the ball forward amidst tangible fear that forceful will be deemed strident, erudite will sound preachy, and warning the bitter rantings of an old Cassandra. Carl knows he's on the losing team, he loves humanity, and deeply fears our suicide by institutional stupidity, the tragedy of the commons, and Tainter's unwindable commitment to technological complexity beyond the point of diminishing returns.

Stale stuff, understood by all in my echo chamber, thus barely worth repeating, maybe. But still, he is gone now, the gentle Lorax of our times, replaced by a stronger, similarly poetic champion (Neil) who has taken up the lance, but the windmill doesn't look worried.

I am. I am in arguments I can't win. I lose faith. Like Carl, I fear I cannot push on the rudder enough to effect any change in course. Do you know the thing about Cassandra? ...about all her whining doom-laden prognoses?

She was right. That's the punch line.

Sagan used that and the similar story of Croesus (rich as...) who asked the Oracle at Delphi what would happen if he invaded Persia. He got back the answer: "you will destroy a great empire." He did, but it was his own empire that got destroyed. As leaders with an agenda are wont to do, he listened carefully with an ear tuned to hear what he wanted, and he heard it. That's you, Mr. Cruz, unless you subscribe to the yet more devlish code of knowing the truth and nevertheless perverting it to your will. For your sake I hope you're just stupid, not flatly evil.

I'm afraid I don't think you're stupid.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
December 26, 2015 – Shelved
December 26, 2015 – Shelved as: science

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