Thursday, September 8, 2011

Big Questions Tackled By Big Thinkers

John Brockman, editor of, is a man who has made a habit of asking intriguing questions, and in Culture: Leading Scientists Explore Societies, Art, Power, and Technology, John Brockman is true to form:
  • Why do civilizations rise and fall?
  • What are the origins and purpose of art?
  • How does technology shape society?
  • Did culture direct human evolution?
  • Is the Internet an agent of democracy or dictatorships?

As usual, John Brockman gets answers from some of the world’s leading thinkers and scientists:

Jared Diamond on why societies collapse and how we can make better decisions to protect our own future • Denis Dutton on the origins of art • Daniel C. Dennett on the evolution of cultures • Jaron Lanier on the ominous impact of the Internet • Nicholas Christakis on the structure and rules of social networks, both “real” and online • Clay Shirky and Evgeny Morozov on the new political reality of the digital era • Brian Eno on what cultures value • Stewart Brand on the responsibilities of human power • Douglas Rushkoff on the next Renaissance • W. Daniel Hillis on the Net as a global “knowledge web”

John Brockman still isn’t satisfied. He wants to know:
  • Who am “I”?
  • How is happiness achieved?
  • What is the key to memory?
  • How do babies become adults?
  • Is personality determined?
  • What function do emotions serve?
  • Are we hardwired to be moral?

And, the result is Mind: Leading Scientists Explore the Brain, Memory, Personality, and Happiness, a collection of accessible essays from influential scientists and thinkers about the essential aspects of human consciousness and the complex workings of the brain:

Steven Pinker on how the human brain works • Martin Seligman on happiness and what it means to live a good life • Philip Zimbardo on the impact of environment on personality • V. S. Ramachandran on the question of self—who “you” are • Simon Baron-Cohen on the innate differences between boys and girls • George Lakoff on the role of the body and brain on different types of reasoning • Alison Gopnik on why human children are the best learning machines in the universe • Jonathan Haidt on the connection between emotions, morality, and religious belief

Interested in considering Mind (Harper Perennial: 978-0-06-202584-5, paperback, $14.99) or Culture (Harper Perennial: 978-0-06-202313-1, paperback, $14.99) ? Let us know by filling out our desk copy form.

And, don’t forget that this isn’t the first time that John Brockman has asked questions and gotten answers from leading thinkers:

Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?
This Will Change Everything
What We Believe But Cannot Prove
What Are You Optimistic About?
What Is Your Dangerous Idea?

What will
John Brockman ask next?

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