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The Ingenuity Gap

Thomas Homer-Dixon

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Description

"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.

Publishers Weekly Review

Oct 02, 2000 – In a virtual tour of the state of ingenuity today, Homer-Dixon reminds us that "the greater complexity, unpredictability and pace of our world, and our rising demands on the human-made and natural systems around us" make it more critical than ever that smart solutions to technical and social problems be ready at a moment's notice. If economists like Harold Barnett and Chandler Morse rely on market forces to keep the supply of ingenuity in line with demand, Homer-Dixon, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto, regards such an attitude as dangerously optimistic. Recounting the details and timing of crises like the October 1987 stock market crash and the July 1989 crash of United Flight 232 in which 111 passengers died but 185 miraculously survived, he argues that only a unique confluence of people and experience lets the supply of ingenuity equal the demand to avert total disaster in each case. Given persistent imperfections in markets, breakdowns in feedback loops and the weakening of social structures that have traditionally facilitated ingenuity, he is dubious that such extraordinary conditions can be met time and again. To scare us into action, he provides hair-raising examples of the effects of collapsing systems in Third World countries he has visited and studied. Marshaling a vast amount of information from such disparate fields as economics, ecology and biology, Homer-Dixon makes his most compelling case arguing for increased efforts to nurture social as well as technical ingenuity.
The Ingenuity Gap
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  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Social Science
  • Published: Oct 17, 2000
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 496 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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