As humans evolved, we developed technologies to modify our environment, yet these innovations are increasingly affecting our behavior, biology, and society. Now we must figure out how to function in the world we've created.
Over thousands of years, humans have invented ingenious ways to gain mastery over our environment. The ability to communicate, accumulate knowledge collectively, and build on previous innovations has enabled us to change nature. Innovation has allowed us to thrive.
The trouble with innovation is that we can seldom go back and undo it. We invent, embrace, and exploit new technologies to modify our environment. Then we modify those technologies to cope with the resulting impacts. Gluckman and Hanson explore what happens when we innovate in a way that leads nature to bite back. To provide nourishment for a growing population, humans developed methods to process and preserve food; but easy access to these energy-dense foods results in obesity. To protect ourselves from dangerous pathogens we embraced cleanliness and invented antibiotics, which has led to rising rates of autoimmune diseases and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. More recently, our growing dependence on the internet and social media has been linked to mental health concerns and declining social cohesion. And we are only at the beginning of the digital transformation that will influence every part of our existence. Our ingenuity has not only changed our world-it has changed us.
Focusing on immediate benefits, we rarely pause to consider the longer-term costs of innovation. Yet we are now starting to see how our choices affect the way our brains develop and our bodies function. The implications are profound. Ingenious opens our eyes to the dangers we face and offers solutions we cannot ignore.
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Number of pages: 336
Dimensions: 210 x 140 mm
Ingenious is a magisterial, wonderfully entertaining, superbly written overview of the history of our species, its attempts to escape nature, and the price of our success. -- Randolph Nesse, author of Good Reasons for Bad Feelings
Gluckman and Hanson make the compelling argument that creativity and ingenuity are uniquely human traits, ones that shape our course of evolution with potential inadvertent consequences. This is a new and important dimension to our understanding of evolution and its aftermaths. -- Alan I. Leshner, American Association for the Advancement of Science
A fascinating tour of humanity and its capacity for innovation. Part explanation, part users' guide, Ingenious combines knowledge from evolutionary theory, genomics, environmental studies, and science and technology policy to produce compelling insights regarding our past, present, and technology-driven future. -- Eric M. Meslin, Council of Canadian Academies
Together, the authors have published many highly technical articles that challenge received wisdom about how evolution works. In Ingenious they apply these views to argue not only that technological change is best understood as an evolutionary process but also that traditional understandings of evolution fail to capture the role and rate of technological change in society. -- G. Pascal Zachary * Stanford Social Innovation Review *
Usefully critiques the unchecked faith-common in developed nations-in our abilities to create technologies that will save us from any potential harm. -- Steve Elliott * Quarterly Review of Biology *
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