Thirty years ago Bill McKibben offered one of the earliest warnings about climate change. Now he broadens the warning: the entire human game, he suggests, has begun to play itself out.
Bill McKibben’s groundbreaking book The End of Nature -- issued in dozens of languages and long regarded as a classic -- was the first book to alert us to global warming. But the danger is broader than that: even as climate change shrinks the space where our civilization can exist, new technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics threaten to bleach away the variety of human experience.
Falter tells the story of these converging trends and of the ideological fervor that keeps us from bringing them under control. And then, drawing on McKibben’s experience in building 350.org, the first truly global citizens movement to combat climate change, it offers some possible ways out of the trap. We’re at a bleak moment in human history -- and we’ll either confront that bleakness or watch the civilization our forebears built slip away.
Falter is a powerful and sobering call to arms, to save not only our planet but also our humanity.
Three decades after bringing news of climate change to a broad audience with the book The End of Nature, environmental scholar McKibben once again examines the impact of global warming in unsettling look at the prospects for human survival. He notes at the outset that, as a writer, he owes his readers honesty, not hope, of which there's little to be found. McKibben does find cause for optimism in two human "technologies" or innovations nonviolent protests and solar panels "that could prove decisive if fully employed." But he suspects that humanity won't do so. He also examines how Ayn Rand's outsize influence prevented American government from effectively responding to global warming and how Exxon concealed its own researchers' findings about the threat. His analysis factors in two other developments, in addition to global warming, as causes for worry. Unregulated artificial intelligence could lead to self-improving AI which would "soon outstrip our ability to control it," and which might eventually deem human life unnecessary. Meanwhile, advances in bioengineering have brought new plausibility to seemingly fantastic concepts such as designer children and even immortality; McKibben makes clear that such "progress" would radically change what it means to be human. Readers open to inconvenient and sobering truths will find much to digest in McKibben's eloquently unsparing treatise.