Discover the universe's last unknowns—here are the unanswered questions that obsess "the world's finest minds" (The Guardian)
Featuring a foreword by DANIEL KAHNEMAN, Nobel Prize-winning author of Thinking, Fast and Slow
This is a little book of profound questions (only questions!)—unknowns that address the secrets of our world, our civilization, the meaning of life. Here are the deepest riddles that have fascinated, obsessed, and haunted the greatest thinkers of our time, including Nobel laureates, cosmologists, philosophers, economists, prize-winning novelists, religious scholars, and more than 250 leading scientists, artists, and theorists. In The Last Unknowns, John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org, asks "a mind-blowing gathering of innovative thinkers" (Booklist): "What is ‘The Last Question,’ your last question, the question for which you will be remembered?"
Featuring the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel JARED DIAMOND • Nobel Prize-winning University of Chicago economist RICHARD THALER • Harvard psychologist STEVEN PINKER • religion scholar ELAINE PAGELS • author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics CARLO ROVELLI • Booker Prize–winning novelist IAN McEWAN • neuroscientist SAM HARRIS • philosopher DANIEL C. DENNETT • MIT theorist SHERRY TURKLE • decoder of the human genome J. CRAIG VENTER • The Coddling of the American Mind author JONATHAN HAIDT • Nobel Prize-winning physicist FRANK WILCZEK • UC Berkeley psychologist ALISON GOPNICK • philosopher REBECCA NEWBERGER GOLDSTEIN • New York Times columnist CARL ZIMMER • MIT cosmologist MAX TEGMARK • Whole Earth founder STEWART BRAND • "Marginal Revolution" economist TYLER COWEN • Anatomy of Love author HELEN FISHER • Noble Prize-winning NASA physicist JOHN C. MATHER • psychologist JUDITH RICH HARRIS • Princeton physicist FREEMAN DYSON • musician BRIAN ENO • environmental scientist JENNIFER JACQUET • Duke economist DAN ARIELY • Oxford philosopher A. C. GRAYLING • Harvard cosmologist LISA RANDALL • anthropologist MARY CATHERINE BATESON • Emotional Intelligence author DANIEL GOLEMAN • Harvard genticist GEORGE CHURCH • Blueprint author NICHOLAS A. CHRISTAKIS • Stanford political scientist MARGARET LEVI • economist ALAN S. BLINDER • publisher TIM O'REILLY • theoretical cosmologist JANNA LEVIN • Serpentine Gallery owner HANS ULRICH OBRIST • Wired founding editor KEVIN KELLY • Cambridge astrophysicist MARTIN REES, and more than 200 others.
In a fitfully intriguing but ultimately disappointing collection, Brockman (Possible Minds), CEO of the Brockman Inc. literary agency, assembles far-reaching questions unaccompanied by answers from 284 people. Each person was prompted, he explains, to "ask the last question,' your last question, the question for which you will be remembered." Some participants are well-known, such as Jared Diamond, Freeman Dyson, Ian McEwan, and Steven Pinker, but most, while well-respected in their fields, will likely be new to general readers. Though eclectic in composition, those included are predominantly scientists (approximately 60%) and overwhelmingly male (76%). Some deal with epistemology (philosopher Ren Scheu asks, "Is a human brain capable of understanding a human brain?") or with the future of humanity (astrophysicist Martin Rees wonders, "Will post-humans be organic or electronic?"), while others are more philosophical (artist James Croak asks, "Why do we experience feelings of meaning in a universe without purpose?") Some are genuinely provocative, but others are too technical or abstract for nonspecialists. Despite the tidbits of insight strewn throughout, this loosely organized compendium is unlikely, on the whole, to spark the kind of engagement and intellectual excitement for which Brockman presumably hoped.