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Even geniuses change their minds sometimes. Edge (www.edge.org), the influential online intellectual salon, recently asked 150 high-powered thinkers to discuss their most telling missteps and reconsiderations: What have you changed your mind about? The answers are brilliant, eye-opening, fascinating, sometimes shocking, and certain to kick-start countless passionate debates Even geniuses change their minds sometimes. Edge (www.edge.org), the influential online intellectual salon, recently asked 150 high-powered thinkers to discuss their most telling missteps and reconsiderations: What have you changed your mind about? The answers are brilliant, eye-opening, fascinating, sometimes shocking, and certain to kick-start countless passionate debates. Steven Pinker on the future of human evolution • Richard Dawkins on the mysteries of courtship • SAM HARRIS on the indifference of Mother Nature • Nassim Nicholas Taleb on the irrelevance of probability • Chris Anderson on the reality of global warming • Alan Alda on the existence of God • Ray Kurzweil on the possibility of extraterrestrial life • Brian Eno on what it means to be a "revolutionary" • Helen Fisher on love, fidelity, and the viability of marriage • Irene Pepperberg on learning from parrots . . . and many others.


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Even geniuses change their minds sometimes. Edge (www.edge.org), the influential online intellectual salon, recently asked 150 high-powered thinkers to discuss their most telling missteps and reconsiderations: What have you changed your mind about? The answers are brilliant, eye-opening, fascinating, sometimes shocking, and certain to kick-start countless passionate debates Even geniuses change their minds sometimes. Edge (www.edge.org), the influential online intellectual salon, recently asked 150 high-powered thinkers to discuss their most telling missteps and reconsiderations: What have you changed your mind about? The answers are brilliant, eye-opening, fascinating, sometimes shocking, and certain to kick-start countless passionate debates. Steven Pinker on the future of human evolution • Richard Dawkins on the mysteries of courtship • SAM HARRIS on the indifference of Mother Nature • Nassim Nicholas Taleb on the irrelevance of probability • Chris Anderson on the reality of global warming • Alan Alda on the existence of God • Ray Kurzweil on the possibility of extraterrestrial life • Brian Eno on what it means to be a "revolutionary" • Helen Fisher on love, fidelity, and the viability of marriage • Irene Pepperberg on learning from parrots . . . and many others.

30 review for What Have You Changed Your Mind About?: Today's Leading Minds Rethink Everything

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jill Carroll

    Some interesting ideas, but if your "leading minds" are still more than 80% male and white then I can tell you what you really need to change your mind about! DNF Some interesting ideas, but if your "leading minds" are still more than 80% male and white then I can tell you what you really need to change your mind about! DNF

  2. 4 out of 5

    Abner Rosenweig

    I keep reading reviews of how provocative these essays are, and my only response to these people is: you need to get out more--or maybe stay inside and read more books. While there are some good reads in the collection, the vast majority of these essays retread familiar themes from the choir of new-Atheist intellectuals (there is no god; yea, science!; beware, climate change). Before a new-atheist jumps out of a laboratory and assaults me: I am not claiming that the ideas in the book are inferio I keep reading reviews of how provocative these essays are, and my only response to these people is: you need to get out more--or maybe stay inside and read more books. While there are some good reads in the collection, the vast majority of these essays retread familiar themes from the choir of new-Atheist intellectuals (there is no god; yea, science!; beware, climate change). Before a new-atheist jumps out of a laboratory and assaults me: I am not claiming that the ideas in the book are inferior or wrong, only that there is very little here that is suprising, provocative, or different from anything I've read from these folks before. One would think these qualities would be especially apparent in a book titled, "What Have You Changed Your Mind About?" Anthologies like this are a great introduction to some wonderful contemporary thinkers for the uninitiated, and I particularly enjoyed the essays from Joseph Ledoux, Nicholas Carr, Ray Kurzweil, Nick Bostrom, Donald Hoffman, Timothy Taylor, Robert Sapolsky, Tor Norretranders, Helen Fisher, Linda Stone, Alison Gopnik, and Jamsheed Bharucha. But be warned--even for those who are unfamiliar with these thinkers, there is an irritating rhythm of self-righteousness and in-group thinking that beats through this book, and it quickly becomes tiresome.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Hollowman

    The Edge.org has been putting out their Single-Question book since 2006. If I could only buy ONE book/year, the Edge's Single-Question book would EASILY be my first choice... and first by a long shot. The Edge.org has been putting out their Single-Question book since 2006. If I could only buy ONE book/year, the Edge's Single-Question book would EASILY be my first choice... and first by a long shot.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Littrell

    "Well, I was wrong…" This is the fourth of John Brockman's books that I have read and reviewed. Previously Brockman asked scientists, What do you believe but cannot prove?, What's your dangerous idea?, and What are you optimistic about? Here he asks scientists the title question, What have you changed your mind about? I think this question energized the 150 respondents and made the responses most interesting. What Princeton Professor Lee M. Silver has changed his mind about is the effectiveness of "Well, I was wrong…" This is the fourth of John Brockman's books that I have read and reviewed. Previously Brockman asked scientists, What do you believe but cannot prove?, What's your dangerous idea?, and What are you optimistic about? Here he asks scientists the title question, What have you changed your mind about? I think this question energized the 150 respondents and made the responses most interesting. What Princeton Professor Lee M. Silver has changed his mind about is the effectiveness of modern education to get humans to reject supernatural beliefs or "to accept scientific implications of rational argumentation." What he has discovered over the years is that "irrationality and mysticism seem to be an integral part of normal human nature." (pp. 144-146) Well, I've noticed the same thing and so have a lot of other people. The question is why should our minds be in such a sorry state? The broad answer is evolution made them that way because that was what worked. Irrationality works? Strange to say, but sometimes it does--or has. Since even the most rational of our prehistoric ancestors could not know when the tsunami was coming or how to avoid drought and disease, rational thinking had a limited applicability. In some cases more value was to be found in certain rituals and mumbled words that gave our ancestors heart and allowed them to avoid despair. The problem with this is that in the modern world, with the power of science and our knowledge of history to guide us, we would be much better off if we were able to throw off the irrationality and work together toward logical and informed solutions to our problems. Cosmologist and President of the Royal Society, Sir Martin Rees used to believe that the fairly distant future ought to be "best left to speculative academics and cosmologists." Now, with rapid acceleration in cultural evolution that we are experiencing, he feels that "We are custodians of a 'posthuman future'--here on Earth and perhaps beyond--that cannot just be left to writers of science fiction." (pp. 29-31) Laurence C. Smith, Professor of Geology at UCLA used to think that the effects of global warming would be gradual, but now he believes that such effects, both positive and negative" may already be upon us." He cites the rapidity with which the Arctic Ocean is becoming ice-free for changing his mind. He notes that "Over the past three years, experts have shifted from 2050 to 2035 to 2013 as plausible dates for an ice-free Arctic Ocean…" "Reality," it appears, is revising the models. (pp. 141-143) J. Craig Venter, human genome decoder, used to believe that "solving the carbon-fuel problem was for future generations and that the big concern was the limited supply of oil, not the rate of adding carbon to the atmosphere." Now he believes greenhouse gas emissions could result in "catastrophic changes" more quickly that previously imagined, and that "we are conducting a dangerous experiment with our planet. One that we need to stop." (pp. 139-140) Physicist Lee Smolin has changed his mind about time. Originally he believed that (quantum) reality is timeless. Then he came to believe that "time, as causality, is real." Now he writes, "Rather than being an illusion, time may be the only aspect of our present understanding of nature that is not temporary and emergent." (pp. 148-149) I am not sure what kind of distinction Smolin is making between a reality that is timeless and one in which time is causality. I think that in both instances time does not exist and is, as Smolin reports," an illusion" that some philosophers and physicists believe "is just an 'emergent quantity' that is helpful in organizing our observations…" (p. 147) What I think would be helpful is to realize that causality is the ordering of events with no concept of "time" needed. We say that event A occurred "before" event B as though having reference to "time," but this is just a verbalism. Notice that we also say that the numeral 2 appears "before" the numeral 3 or "after" the numeral 1 in an ordering. Again time is not involved. Physicist Lawrence Krauss used to believe that the universe was flat. Now he thinks it will go on expanding forever. (pp. 159-161) Richard Wrangham, author of the excellent Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (1996), now believes it was cooking that transformed us from Homo habilis through Homo erectus to Homo sapiens and not meat-eating. He now believes that erectus used fire although clear proof is still lacking. (pp. 242-244) Steve Connor, Science Editor of The Independent, now sees the 21st century bringing horrors worse than the Holocaust and nuclear proliferation. The culprits? "[G]lobal warming and the inexorable growth in the human population" leading to a stampede by the four horsemen of the apocalypse. He believes that the IPCC is underestimating the pace and extent of global warming. (pp. 327-330) Richard Dawkins has changed his mind about Amotz Zahavi's "handicap principle" in evolutionary biology. (pp. 335-338) Dawkins's change of heart seems somewhat reluctant however and is, judging by the entry in this book, applicable to only the sexual selection aspect of the handicap principle. Dawkins allows that yes, superior male animals like the peacock may take on the handicap of appendages or behaviors that put them in increased danger just so they can "say" to the opposite sex: "See how fit I am. I can carry around his otherwise useless and heavy tail and still make a good living. Reproduce with me!" But Dawkins does not mention the predator-prey aspect of Zahavi's handicap principle, such as the springbok pronking (jumping up and down conspicuously) to demonstrate to predators its fitness, "saying,": "Don't waste your energy chasing me. I am too fit for you to catch." What I would like to see Dawkins change his mind about is group selection. He has allowed that group selection may be a (small) factor in evolution in some instances. What he needs to acknowledge is that selection occurs at various levels from the gene on up. There is much, much more in this fascinating book. Don't miss it. --Dennis Littrell, author of “The World Is Not as We Think It Is”

  5. 4 out of 5

    Greg Linster

    A nice collection of essays by the intellectual impresario, John Brockman, which all attempt to answer the following question: What have you changed your mind about?

  6. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Have you ever changed your mind about anything? Anything important? I think it's extremely hard. This book has quick anecdotes about things that really smart people changed their minds about. Some of it is really extremely interesting. Not all - some people really don't seem to have understood the question in the same way I did, and talked about how evidence led them to somewhat adjust a theory they had. The really interesting ones made ME think about what I take for granted in life, and maybe I Have you ever changed your mind about anything? Anything important? I think it's extremely hard. This book has quick anecdotes about things that really smart people changed their minds about. Some of it is really extremely interesting. Not all - some people really don't seem to have understood the question in the same way I did, and talked about how evidence led them to somewhat adjust a theory they had. The really interesting ones made ME think about what I take for granted in life, and maybe I ought to adjust how I think. Religion. Science. Thinking itself. People I was already familiar with, like Taleb, Daniel Kahneman, Stewart Brand, Gregory Benford, Richard Dawkins, but also tons of people from very respectable backgrounds who I otherwise would never have read. This was a "question of the year" at Edge (edge.org), and they apparently had one of these every year (or, used to). I am interested in reading about their other questions and their answers! But, if your mind is open to the possibility of change, this is a great book to explore.

  7. 5 out of 5

    The Book Grocer

    Purchase What Have You Changed Your Mind About here for just $10! Change of heart moments - we've all had them, and sometimes it takes guts to backtrack on a position or opinion. But what about genius-level scientists who spend their days examining, researching, and formulating well-thought-out theories - what happens when they have a change of heart? This fascinating book takes us through the thought process involved when some of the world's most respected minds rethink their ideas, Purchase What Have You Changed Your Mind About here for just $10! Change of heart moments - we've all had them, and sometimes it takes guts to backtrack on a position or opinion. But what about genius-level scientists who spend their days examining, researching, and formulating well-thought-out theories - what happens when they have a change of heart? This fascinating book takes us through the thought process involved when some of the world's most respected minds rethink their ideas, at the same time encouraging the reader to expolore their own erroneous and outdated notions. Paul - The Book Grocer

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    How long has it been since you changed your mind about something really important to you? Here, eminent thinkers describe how they came to discard long-held beliefs. (Spoiler alert: they found new ones that better explained how the world really works.) Their stories demonstrate - and validate - the process of scientific inquiry. They teach us that it’s OK (indeed preferable) to change our minds when the facts are not on our side. And they encourage us to keep an our minds open to (in the words o How long has it been since you changed your mind about something really important to you? Here, eminent thinkers describe how they came to discard long-held beliefs. (Spoiler alert: they found new ones that better explained how the world really works.) Their stories demonstrate - and validate - the process of scientific inquiry. They teach us that it’s OK (indeed preferable) to change our minds when the facts are not on our side. And they encourage us to keep an our minds open to (in the words of Jamshed Bharucha) "different ways of parsing the world.”

  9. 5 out of 5

    Leah Lucci

    This is a compendium of science writers talking about how they reframed some of their theories. I obviously didn't understand all of it, especially the superstring theory and high-end physics chapters. But I got a lot from the psychology, evolutionary, technological, and sociological chapters. I found this book weirdly un-put-down-able. Each entry is like 2-5 pages along, so even if you don't get one, you can wander on to the next. It's like bite-sized science. There's a big world out there and This is a compendium of science writers talking about how they reframed some of their theories. I obviously didn't understand all of it, especially the superstring theory and high-end physics chapters. But I got a lot from the psychology, evolutionary, technological, and sociological chapters. I found this book weirdly un-put-down-able. Each entry is like 2-5 pages along, so even if you don't get one, you can wander on to the next. It's like bite-sized science. There's a big world out there and plenty to learn.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Did not finish this one. some decent stuff in it but overall, boring. The submissions are primarily academic types. And it is fairly dated at this point. Nothing against it, but moving on to something else.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    This is the perfect book format for the time-crunched, curious academic. Each essay is only a few pages long and provides the author's credentials, which can serve as a springboard into other books if you find their writing or field interesting. This is the perfect book format for the time-crunched, curious academic. Each essay is only a few pages long and provides the author's credentials, which can serve as a springboard into other books if you find their writing or field interesting.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    A mix of serious discussions and funny anecdotes. Really had to skip entries that were too technical. But there are a few things here that either confirmed by beliefs or changed it. Insightful book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Adam Lewis

    In another book of essays that are extraordinarily thought-provoking and interesting, Brockman brings together 150 of the clearest and cutting edge minds on the planet. There seems to be no subject left uncovered in the book. Although heavy on cognitive psychology (a very good thing in my opinion), statistics, history, sociology, and theology are covered as well (among many others). These Edge.org series books have become one of my favorites of recent. Necessarily eclectic by their very nature, t In another book of essays that are extraordinarily thought-provoking and interesting, Brockman brings together 150 of the clearest and cutting edge minds on the planet. There seems to be no subject left uncovered in the book. Although heavy on cognitive psychology (a very good thing in my opinion), statistics, history, sociology, and theology are covered as well (among many others). These Edge.org series books have become one of my favorites of recent. Necessarily eclectic by their very nature, they still manage to cohere quite well since they are all tied together by the title questions. And almost all of the contributions are worthwhile (although there always seems to be one or two in each collection that manages to force an eye roll from me). Although I’d be hesitant to rank these four books (“What You Believe but Cannot Prove?”/ “What is You Dangerous Idea?”/ “What Are You Optimistic About?” / “What Have You Changed Your Mind About?”), I’d certainly put this as the best or next to best in the series.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Fantastic question with essay answers from remarkable individuals. Would be 5 stars if Edge had cut out the answers from people trying to push propaganda or change the readers' minds or boast about their intelligence. Some of them were answering different questions such as "What have you learned recently?" or "What are you trying to change others' minds about?" or even "Tell me how your initially incorrect idea on a topic does not compromise your genius status." You can read the entire collection Fantastic question with essay answers from remarkable individuals. Would be 5 stars if Edge had cut out the answers from people trying to push propaganda or change the readers' minds or boast about their intelligence. Some of them were answering different questions such as "What have you learned recently?" or "What are you trying to change others' minds about?" or even "Tell me how your initially incorrect idea on a topic does not compromise your genius status." You can read the entire collection of essays online for free at edge.org. This question was from 2008. I plan to go back and read the books from previous questions.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Kelsey

    A collection of ~150 essays covering the topic of minds changing, and specifically what the essayists themselves have changed their mind about in their own lives or field of study. There is a lot of terrific, thought provoking writing on display here. Of course, some of the authors chose to sidestep the question entirely and instead got preachy on some specific idea or another. Those few subpar essays aside, it's a killer collection covering a massive range of topics from Astrophysics to Neurolo A collection of ~150 essays covering the topic of minds changing, and specifically what the essayists themselves have changed their mind about in their own lives or field of study. There is a lot of terrific, thought provoking writing on display here. Of course, some of the authors chose to sidestep the question entirely and instead got preachy on some specific idea or another. Those few subpar essays aside, it's a killer collection covering a massive range of topics from Astrophysics to Neurology, Statistics to Biology, Theology to Physiology. It's been a fascinating read, and I found that I specifically enjoyed the essays which covered topics that I had little prior knowledge in.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I tried reading this on the subway but my commute is too long for this book. I'd read one mini-article followed by the next, usually someone in a similar field with a slightly different point of view and by the end of the train ride, I couldn't tell one idea from another and found I couldn't take it in at all. Once I started reading it in shorter bursts, one entry at a time rather than a whole lot at once, I enjoyed it a lot more. So if you're looking for short bits of interesting reading about I tried reading this on the subway but my commute is too long for this book. I'd read one mini-article followed by the next, usually someone in a similar field with a slightly different point of view and by the end of the train ride, I couldn't tell one idea from another and found I couldn't take it in at all. Once I started reading it in shorter bursts, one entry at a time rather than a whole lot at once, I enjoyed it a lot more. So if you're looking for short bits of interesting reading about all sorts of subjects, I'd recommend it. Just don't try to read it all at once.

  17. 4 out of 5

    -uht!

    This was a fun book but I enjoyed it less than I thought I would. Lots of neat ideas but because of the shortness of the essays there wasn't a lot of meat in it and it started to feel pretty repetitive. Not the book's fault, of course. Many of the essays were brilliant. I think my favorite was the one written by the founder of O'Reilly press. Hopefully I'll come back and fill out some details on why, but... well... I don't seem to be getting back to my reviews lately. :) This was a fun book but I enjoyed it less than I thought I would. Lots of neat ideas but because of the shortness of the essays there wasn't a lot of meat in it and it started to feel pretty repetitive. Not the book's fault, of course. Many of the essays were brilliant. I think my favorite was the one written by the founder of O'Reilly press. Hopefully I'll come back and fill out some details on why, but... well... I don't seem to be getting back to my reviews lately. :)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lloyd

    Thinking's optional in this world. Most of the ordinary problems of life have been solved in the past 50 years ("I wonder what my cousing in Australia had for breakfast today?" "Oh, eggs..." When I can be bothered to think, I usually decide what I think then stick to my position as if I were defending Stalingrad. I learned this in business school. This book represents the best of a better kind of intelligence. Thinking's optional in this world. Most of the ordinary problems of life have been solved in the past 50 years ("I wonder what my cousing in Australia had for breakfast today?" "Oh, eggs..." When I can be bothered to think, I usually decide what I think then stick to my position as if I were defending Stalingrad. I learned this in business school. This book represents the best of a better kind of intelligence.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    I love John Brockman (Edge.org). He asks provocative questions to many of the smartest people in the world. This book asks them what they've changed their minds about, and the answers are far reaching, from the existence of God to esoteric (for me, at least) scientific theories. The answers are generally three pages or less but fascinating. My one criticism is that the book could benefit greatly from an index and a bibliography. I love John Brockman (Edge.org). He asks provocative questions to many of the smartest people in the world. This book asks them what they've changed their minds about, and the answers are far reaching, from the existence of God to esoteric (for me, at least) scientific theories. The answers are generally three pages or less but fascinating. My one criticism is that the book could benefit greatly from an index and a bibliography.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Justin Hughes

    "What have you changed your mind about?" provides exactly what it says it will provide, a bunch of different people describing what they changed their minds about. While I found it though provoking, (especially Roger Highfields' response), this really isn't a book, so I can't get it any more than 3 stars. "What have you changed your mind about?" provides exactly what it says it will provide, a bunch of different people describing what they changed their minds about. While I found it though provoking, (especially Roger Highfields' response), this really isn't a book, so I can't get it any more than 3 stars.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Knemlich

    This should become part of nearly everything high school science class. It is critical for students to recognize that scientists follow the evidence, even if it means that their theories must be cast aside. Great read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alexia

    Wonderful. Some essays weren't, but most were. It makes me wish I knew more about physics, some of the cosmology ideas were way over my head. Still, I was able to get the gist of most of them. Very thought provoking, I marked some to re-read and consider more fully. Wonderful. Some essays weren't, but most were. It makes me wish I knew more about physics, some of the cosmology ideas were way over my head. Still, I was able to get the gist of most of them. Very thought provoking, I marked some to re-read and consider more fully.

  23. 4 out of 5

    marcali

    so many interesting people-- their ideas & important works referenced-- worth owning if only to avoid writing down that many titles to investigate.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    Many of the essays were written for someone with a science background. Many of them were written by people who do not write for journals and those seemed to be my favorites.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    Interesting to read what really smart people have to say about science/social science topics.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Matt Goodman

    Fascinating responses from a wide ranging slice of the world thought leaders

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bill Stepien

    Lots of short, interesting pieces by really smart people. Ok, mind-bogglingly smart people. I've always felt that the ability to thoughtfully change one's mind is an admirable quality. Lots of short, interesting pieces by really smart people. Ok, mind-bogglingly smart people. I've always felt that the ability to thoughtfully change one's mind is an admirable quality.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Wai Yip Tung

    This book fails to engage me. There a few interesting gem. But most authors are to focus on expounding their new believe and little on what they have changed. Abandoned after reading 1/3 of the book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jedediah

    Some interesting stuff but I was unable to get through it. Maybe more of a book to pick up now and then.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ruby

    Full of revelations and inspiration.

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