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The Fate of the Species: Why the Human Race May Cause Its Own Extinction and How We Can Stop Itby Fred Guterl
Synopses & Reviews
In the history of planet earth, mass species extinctions have occurred five times, about once every 100 million years. A "sixth extinction" is known to be underway now, with over 200 species dying off every day. Not only that, but the cause of the sixth extinction is also the source of single biggest threat to human life: our own inventions.
What this bleak future will truly hold, though, is much in dispute. Will our immune systems be attacked by so-called super bugs, always evolving, and now more easily spread than ever? Will the disappearance of so many species cripple the biosphere? Will global warming transform itself into a runaway effect, destroying ecosystems across the planet? In this provocative book, Fred Guterl examines each of these scenarios, laying out the existing threats, and proffering the means to avoid them.
This book is more than a tour of an apocalyptic future; it is a political salvo, an antidote to well-intentioned but ultimately ineffectual thinking. Though it's honorable enough to switch light bulbs and eat home-grown food, the scope of our problems, and the size of our population, is too great. And so, Guterl argues, we find ourselves in a trap: Technology got us into this mess, and it's also the only thing that can help us survive it. Guterl vividly shows where our future is heading, and ultimately lights the route to safe harbor.
"Thanks to the sheer size of the human population and our increasing reliance upon technology, there are now more opportunities than ever for the human race to inadvertently cause its own extinction. Guterl, executive editor of Scientific American, offers a tour of 'what-ifs': a civilization-dooming supervirus, a disastrous paradigm shift caused by climate change, a catastrophic failure of the computer systems that regulate infrastructure and the world economy. There have been at least five mass extinctions in Earth's history, and Guterl warns that there could be another. Grounding his speculation firmly in cutting-edge science, Guterl details the lives and work of a number of scientists who have developed computer systems for NASA, engineered lethal viruses using easily accessible lab equipment, or created security software to detect and neutralize increasingly sophisticated computer viruses. Despite its engaging prose, the book suffers from uneven content, occasionally falling into Hollywood fear factory clichÃ©s. However, with its enormous scope, the book functions as an introduction to contemporary immunology, computer science, climatology, and more. While Guterl's pessimism is not for the faint of heart, it turns out to be remarkably entertaining to ponder the ways that the human race might wipe itself out. Agent: Sydelle Kramer, Susan Rabiner Agency. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The revelatory account of the biggest threats we face as a species--and what we can do to save ourselves.
"A beautifully written book that will make you think and worry."--Fareed Zakaria
For all the pessimistic talk about the apocalypse, we still really don't know what humanity's future will ultimately look like. Where will our sea levels be? Will avian flu wipe us off the planet? Will computer viruses throw us into darkness and chaos? In this imaginative, gripping book, Fred Guterl, the executive editor of Scientific American, explores six looming scenarios in vivid detail--the way they might really happen. And along the way produces a portrait of where we are today, where we can be with the right effort, and where we might wind up if we're not careful.We find ourselves in a trap: Technology got us into this mess, and it's also the only thing that can help us survive it. Guterl's riveting book is a grand and necessary thought experiment, not merely a scary story, but a fresh perspective on the world we're remaking, which rings a note of optimism about what we're capable of.
About the Author
Fred Guterl is an award-winning journalist and executive editor of Scientific American. He worked for ten years at Newsweek, most recently as deputy editor, covering the most important trends in science, technology, and international affairs. He has also appeared on CNN, Charlie Rose, the Today Show, and on other television programs to discuss popular issues in science. Guterl holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Rochester, and has taught science writing at Princeton University. He lives in the New York City area with his wife and two children.
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