A reading club with a view to the future

296 John Brockman: This Idea Is Brilliant

A collection of scientific concepts and ideas that are overlooked or underappreciated but have the potential to change the world.

John Brockman: This Idea Is Brilliant


This book brings together some of the most brilliant scientific minds of our time to share their insights on overlooked or underappreciated scientific concepts. From the nature of consciousness to the power of artificial intelligence, the book covers a wide range of topics that have the potential to transform our world. With contributions from scientists, philosophers, and other thought leaders, This Idea Is Brilliant is a must-read for anyone interested in cutting-edge science and the ideas that will shape our future.


Title: This Idea Is Brilliant: Lost, Overlooked, and Underappreciated Scientific Concepts Everyone Should Know

Author: John Brockman

Publishing year: 2018

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Length in hours: 16 hours and 11 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. The concept of "deep time" and its implications for understanding the history of our planet and the universe.
  2. The idea that the mind is a kind of computer, and the implications of this for understanding human consciousness.
  3. The power of artificial intelligence and the potential benefits and risks associated with this technology.
  4. The concept of the "extended mind," which suggests that our minds are not limited to our brains but are distributed throughout our environment and social networks.
  5. The concept of "strange loops" in mathematics and logic, which can lead to paradoxical and mind-bending ideas.
John Brockman: This Idea Is Brilliant

5 funny quotes

  1. "Gravity is a force to be reckoned with, and not just by dropping your toast." - Margaret Levi
  2. "If you want to keep your head, don't get too far ahead of your neck." - Bob Holtz-Eakin
  3. "Being alive is like being hit by a truck every day, and then getting up and going about your business as if nothing happened." - Daniel C. Dennett
  4. "The best way to predict the future is to invent it. And the best way to invent it is to have a lot of imagination and not be afraid to fail." - Martin Rees
  5. "If science is the pursuit of knowledge, then scientists are the ultimate seekers, and the search is their bliss." - Jennifer Jacquet

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "The capacity for change and growth is built into our brains and bodies, but we need to consciously harness it to realize our potential." - Michael Gazzaniga
  2. "The future of AI is not to create a mind that is smarter than ours, but one that is different from ours." - David Krakauer
  3. "We don't see the world as it is, we see it as we are." - Anil Ananthaswamy
  4. "A paradox is a call to reexamine our assumptions and the categories we use to understand the world." - Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
  5. "We must be careful when we automate aspects of our lives, because we run the risk of losing our humanity in the process." - Susan Blackmore

5 dilemmas

  1. How do we balance the potential benefits of artificial intelligence with the risks associated with creating machines that could be more intelligent than humans?
  2. How do we ensure that our scientific knowledge and technological innovations are used for the benefit of humanity, rather than being used to create new forms of inequality or harm?
  3. How do we reconcile our subjective experiences of consciousness with the objective, scientific study of the brain and mind?
  4. How do we navigate the tension between the desire for individual autonomy and the need for social cooperation and responsibility?
  5. How do we address the challenges of climate change and other global threats while still maintaining the benefits of economic and technological progress?

5 examples

  1. The Turing Test, named after Alan Turing, is a way to test whether a machine can exhibit human-like intelligence.
  2. The Gaia hypothesis, developed by James Lovelock, proposes that the Earth is a self-regulating system that maintains a habitable environment for life.
  3. The human microbiome, studied by the Human Microbiome Project, is the collection of microorganisms that live in and on the human body and play a crucial role in our health.
  4. The Many-Worlds Interpretation, developed by Hugh Everett, suggests that there are multiple parallel universes that exist alongside our own.
  5. The Higgs boson, named after Peter Higgs, is a subatomic particle that gives other particles mass and was discovered by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

Referenced books

  1. "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman
  2. "The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail" by Clayton M. Christensen
  3. "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by Thomas S. Kuhn
  4. "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by Yuval Noah Harari
  5. "The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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"If you're not confused, you're not paying attention."

John Brockman: Know This
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