This Idea Must Die

  • by John Brockman
  • Narrated by David Colacci, Susan Ericksen
  • 16 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Each year John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org, challenges some of the world's greatest scientists, artists, and philosophers to answer a provocative question crucial to our time. In 2014 he asked 175 brilliant minds to ponder: What scientific idea needs to be put aside in order to make room for new ideas to advance? The answers are as surprising as they are illuminating.
In This Idea Must Die:


Steven Pinker dismantles the working theory of human behavior
Sherry Turkle reevaluates our expectations of artificial intelligence
Andrei Linde suggests that our universe and its laws may not be as unique as we think
Martin Rees explains why scientific understanding is a limitless goal
Nina Jablonski argues to rid ourselves of the concept of race
And much more.
Profound, engaging, thoughtful, and groundbreaking, This Idea Must Die will change your perceptions and understanding of our world today...and tomorrow.

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What the Critics Say

"Physics, statistics, robotics, linguistics, medicine--all are zestfully scrutinized in this exuberant, mind-blowing gathering of innovative thinkers." (Booklist)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

3% Excellent

This book contains 175 answers to the 2014 Edge question “What scientific idea needs to be put aside in order to make room for new ideas to advance?” Answers vary from about a minute up to less than ten minutes and come from numerous scientific disciplines. There are ground-rules that the answers focus on ideas, not scientific rivals (but there are more than a few sharp yet well hidden personalized barbs). The quality, tone, approachability, and enjoyability of the writing varies over the 175 different writers. The essays vary from unbearably arrogant to lightheartedly humorous.

There are many different ideas considered but most fall into a few themes; over simplifications, over generalizations, arbitrary categorizations, arcane ideas, & human exceptionalisms. Some essays are diametric opposites. The vast majority did not seem critical hindrances to scientific progress. A few that I felt were right on topic and among my favorites were Freeman Dyson’s on Collapse of the Wave Function and Max Tegmark’s on Infinity.

There were a few essays that were, on their own, well worth my time, but most I found rather uninteresting. Yet many of the ideas that were proposed to die were various arbitrary categorizations, and although none of these alone would seem to hinder science in general, the apparently natural and ubiquitous predilection of the human mind to create such categories does seem to be responsible for much of the inertia in science. Academic debates can rage between experts for years about categorizations that later turn out to have been arbitrarily based. Categorization almost always hide details, yet real scientific advancement is almost always stimulated by a reexamination of the details. Overall this book got me thinking about the general concept of categorization in science and how such categorizations seem to give the illusion of knowledge while categorizations seem to actually stifle scientific progress.

The narration is very clear. One humorous repeated narration mistake was pronouncing F=MA (Force equal Mass time Acceleration) as eff equals Ma (as in mother).

Although I ended up appreciating experiencing this book, I hesitate to recommend it highly. It will not be for everyone and I am certain I will not listen to this book again.
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- Michael

Excellent - "science" is not a monoculture

This is a great listen, especially if you or anyone you discuss science with is caught up in the false dichotomy of "mainstream" vs fringe scientific communities and models.

The only real spoilers were one of the narrator's - David Colacci - persistent ignorant misreads - for instance, changing F=ma (mass * acceleration) into "f equals 'ma'" (as in "mom") [yes, really!], and pronouncing Tycho Brahe's name "tee-koe bra" every time. .. but definitely something anyone interested in science will benefit from listening to.
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- Jared

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-17-2015
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio