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978-0-375-71328-6 / 037571328X

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About the book:

As the world becomes more complex, so do its problems--and the solutions to these problems become tougher to grasp, writes University of Toronto professor Thomas Homer-Dixon in The Ingenuity Gap. "As we strive to maintain or increase our prosperity and improve the quality of our lives, we must make far more sophisticated decisions, and in less time, than ever before," he writes. Is the day coming in which our ingenuity can't keep up? Homer-Dixon fears that it is: "the hour is late," and we're blindly "careening into the future." What we face, he says, is a "very real chasm that sometimes looms between our ever more difficult problems and our lagging ability to solve them." There are moments when Homer-Dixon comes close to sounding like a modern-day Malthus, with his never-ending worries about population growth, the environment, the strength of international financial institutions, civil wars, and so on. Yet parts of this book are downright fascinating; at its best, The Ingenuity Gap reads like one of Malcolm Gladwell's stories for The New Yorker (or his book The Tipping Point).

Homer-Dixon is very good when he tackles particular problems, and his interests are wide-ranging, moving from the psychology of an airplane cockpit during a crisis to the depletion of the world's fisheries to differences between the minds of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. He also dredges up fine details. Did you know that "the largest human-made structure on the planet is not an Egyptian pyramid or a hydroelectric dam but the Staten Island Fresh Kills landfill near New York City, which has a depth of one hundred meters and an area of nine square kilometers"? There's plenty to argue with on these pages, and some readers will find Homer-Dixon's tendency to write in the first person a bit self-indulgent. Yet fans of big-think books like Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, David Landes's The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, and Robert Wright's The Moral Animal will find The Ingenuity Gap riveting. --John J. Miller

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