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The Ingenuity Gap

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"The most persuasive forecast of the 21st century I have seen." -- E.O. Wilson, author of Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge and twice winner of a Pulitzer prize

“Human beings have been smart enough to turn nature to their ends, generate vast wealth for themselves, and double their average life span. But are they smart enough to solve the problems of the 21st century?” -- Thomas Homer-Dixon

Can we create ideas fast enough to solve the very problems -- environmental, social, and technological -- we’ve created? Homer-Dixon pinpoints the “ingenuity gap” as the critical problem we face today, and tackles it in a riveting, groundbreaking examination of a world that is rapidly exceeding our intellectual grasp.

In The Ingenuity Gap, Thomas Homer-Dixon, "global guru" (the Toronto Star), "genuine academic celebrity" (Saturday Night) and "one of Canada's most talked about and controversial scholars" (Maclean's) asks: is our world becoming too complex, too fast-paced to manage? The challenges facing us -- ranging from international financial crises and global climate change to pandemics of tuberculosis and AIDS- converge, intertwine, and remain largely beyond our ken. Most of suspect the "experts don't really know what's going on; that as a species we've released forces that are neither managed nor manageable. We are fast approaching a time when we may no longer be able to control a world that increasingly exceeds our grasp. This is "the ingenuity gap" -- the term coined by Thomas Homer-Dixon, political scientist and advisor to the White House -- the critical gap between our need for practical, innovative ideas to solve complex problems and our actual supply of those ideas.

Through gripping narrative stories and incidents that exemplify his arguments, he takes us on a world tour that begins with a heartstopping description of the tragic crash of United Airlines Flight 232 from Denver to Chicago and includes Las Vegas in its desert, a wilderness beach in British Columbia, and his solitary search for a little girl in Patna, India. He shows how, in our complex world, while poor countries are particularly vulnerable to ingenuity gaps, our own rich countries are not immune, and we are caught dangerously between a soaring requirement for ingenuity and an increasingly uncertain supply. When the gap widens, political disintegration and violent upheaval can result, reaching into our own economies and daily lives in subtle ways. In compelling, lucid, prose, he makes real the problems we face and suggests how we might overcome them -- in our own lives, our thing, our business and our societies.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Show less
"The most persuasive forecast of the 21st century I have seen." -- E.O. Wilson, author of Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge and twice winner of a Pulitzer prize

“Human beings have been smart enough to turn nature to their ends, generate vast wealth for themselves, and double their average life span. But are they smart enough to solve the problems of the 21st century?” -- Thomas Homer-Dixon

Can we create ideas fast enough to solve the very problems -- environmental, social, and technological -- we’ve created? Homer-Dixon pinpoints the “ingenuity gap” as the critical problem we face today, and tackles it in a riveting, groundbreaking examination of a world that is rapidly exceeding our intellectual grasp.

In The Ingenuity Gap, Thomas Homer-Dixon, "global guru" (the Toronto Star), "genuine academic celebrity" (Saturday Night) and "one of Canada's most talked about and controversial scholars" (Maclean's) asks: is our world becoming too complex, too fast-paced to manage? The challenges facing us -- ranging from international financial crises and global climate change to pandemics of tuberculosis and AIDS- converge, intertwine, and remain largely beyond our ken. Most of suspect the "experts don't really know what's going on; that as a species we've released forces that are neither managed nor manageable. We are fast approaching a time when we may no longer be able to control a world that increasingly exceeds our grasp. This is "the ingenuity gap" -- the term coined by Thomas Homer-Dixon, political scientist and advisor to the White House -- the critical gap between our need for practical, innovative ideas to solve complex problems and our actual supply of those ideas.

Through gripping narrative stories and incidents that exemplify his arguments, he takes us on a world tour that begins with a heartstopping description of the tragic crash of United Airlines Flight 232 from Denver to Chicago and includes Las Vegas in its desert, a wilderness beach in British Columbia, and his solitary search for a little girl in Patna, India. He shows how, in our complex world, while poor countries are particularly vulnerable to ingenuity gaps, our own rich countries are not immune, and we are caught dangerously between a soaring requirement for ingenuity and an increasingly uncertain supply. When the gap widens, political disintegration and violent upheaval can result, reaching into our own economies and daily lives in subtle ways. In compelling, lucid, prose, he makes real the problems we face and suggests how we might overcome them -- in our own lives, our thing, our business and our societies.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Product Details
eBook
Published: May 15, 2001
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Vintage
ISBN: 9780375412714
Other books byThomas Homer-Dixon
  • The Upside of Down

    The Upside of Down
    Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of...
    Environmental disasters. Terrorist wars. Energy scarcity. Economic failure. Is this the world's inevitable fate, a downward spiral that ultimately spells the collapse of societies? Perhaps, says acclaimed author Thomas Homer-Dixon - or perhaps these crises can actually lead to renewal for ourselves and planet earth. The Upside of Down takes the reader on a mind-stretching tour of societies' management, or mismanagement, of disasters over time. From the demise of ancient Rome to contemporary climate change, this spellbinding book analyzes what happens when multiple crises compound to cause what the author calls "synchronous failure." But, crisis doesn't have to mean total global calamity. Through catagenesis, or creative, bold reform in the wake of breakdown, it is possible to reinvent our future. Drawing on the worlds of archeology, poetry, politics, science, and economics, The Upside of Down is certain to provoke controversy and stir imaginations across the globe. The author's wide-ranging expertise makes his insights and proposals particularly acute, as people of all nations try to grapple with how we can survive tomorrow's inevitable shocks to our global system. There is no guarantee of success, but there are ways to begin thinking about a better world, and The Upside of Down is the ideal place to start thinking.

    Carbon Shift

    Carbon Shift
    How Peak Oil and the Climate Crisis Will Change...
    "We are now so abusing the Earth that it may rise and move back to the hot state it was in fifty-five million years ago, and if it does, most of us, and our descendants, will die." -James Lovelock, leading climate expert and author of The Revenge of Gaia "I don't see why people are so worried about global warming destroying the planet - peak oil will take care of that." -Matthew Simmons, energy investment banker and author of Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy The twin crises of climate change and peaking oil production are converging on us. If they are not to cook the planet and topple our civilization, we will need informed and decisive policies, clear-sighted innovation, and a lucid understanding of what is at stake. We will need to know where we stand, and which direction we should start out in. These are the questions Carbon Shift addresses. Thomas Homer-Dixon, author of The Ingenuity Gap and The Upside of Down, argues that the two problems are really one: a carbon problem. We depend on carbon energy to fuel our complex economies and societies, and at the same time this very carbon is fatally contaminating our atmosphere. To solve one of these problems will require solving the other at the same time. In other words, we still have a chance to tackle two monumental challenges with one innovative solution: clean, low-carbon energy. Carbon Shift brings together six of Canada's world-class experts to explore the question of where we stand now, and where we might be headed. It explores the economics, the geology, the politics, and the science of the predicament we find ourselves in. And it gives each expert the chance to address what they think are the most important facets of the complex problem before us. There are no experts in Canada better positioned to explain the world that awaits us just beyond the horizon, and no better guide to that future than this collection of their thoughts. Densely packed with information, but accessibly written and powerfully timely, Carbon Shift will be an indispensable handbook to the difficult choices that lie ahead. David Hughes is a former senior geoscientist with the Geological Survey of Canada David Keith is Canada Research Chair in Energy and the Environment, University of Calgary Jeff Rubin is Chief Economist, Chief Strategist and Managing Director, CIBC World Markets Mark Jaccard is professor of environmental economics in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) William Marsden is an investigative reporter and author of Stupid to the Last Drop: How Alberta Is Bringing Environmental Armageddon to Canada (And Doesn't Seem to Care) Jeffrey Simpson is a Globe and Mail national columnist and author, with Mark Jaccard, of Hot Air: Meeting Canada's Climate Change Challenge With a foreword by Ronald Wright, author of A Short History of Progress and What is America? From the Hardcover edition.

    Environmental Scarcity and Global Security

    Environmental Scarcity and Global Security

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