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Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

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Thirty years ago Bill McKibben offered one of the earliest warnings about climate change. Now he broadens the warning: the entire human game, he suggests, has begun to play itself out. Bill McKibben’s groundbreaking book The End of Nature -- issued in dozens of languages and long regarded as a classic -- was the first book to alert us to global warming. But the danger Thirty years ago Bill McKibben offered one of the earliest warnings about climate change. Now he broadens the warning: the entire human game, he suggests, has begun to play itself out. Bill McKibben’s groundbreaking book The End of Nature -- issued in dozens of languages and long regarded as a classic -- was the first book to alert us to global warming. But the danger is broader than that: even as climate change shrinks the space where our civilization can exist, new technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics threaten to bleach away the variety of human experience. Falter tells the story of these converging trends and of the ideological fervor that keeps us from bringing them under control. And then, drawing on McKibben’s experience in building 350.org, the first truly global citizens movement to combat climate change, it offers some possible ways out of the trap. We’re at a bleak moment in human history -- and we’ll either confront that bleakness or watch the civilization our forebears built slip away. Falter is a powerful and sobering call to arms, to save not only our planet but also our humanity.


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Thirty years ago Bill McKibben offered one of the earliest warnings about climate change. Now he broadens the warning: the entire human game, he suggests, has begun to play itself out. Bill McKibben’s groundbreaking book The End of Nature -- issued in dozens of languages and long regarded as a classic -- was the first book to alert us to global warming. But the danger Thirty years ago Bill McKibben offered one of the earliest warnings about climate change. Now he broadens the warning: the entire human game, he suggests, has begun to play itself out. Bill McKibben’s groundbreaking book The End of Nature -- issued in dozens of languages and long regarded as a classic -- was the first book to alert us to global warming. But the danger is broader than that: even as climate change shrinks the space where our civilization can exist, new technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics threaten to bleach away the variety of human experience. Falter tells the story of these converging trends and of the ideological fervor that keeps us from bringing them under control. And then, drawing on McKibben’s experience in building 350.org, the first truly global citizens movement to combat climate change, it offers some possible ways out of the trap. We’re at a bleak moment in human history -- and we’ll either confront that bleakness or watch the civilization our forebears built slip away. Falter is a powerful and sobering call to arms, to save not only our planet but also our humanity.

30 review for Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Sprawling and messy, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? haphazardly examines two of the biggest threats to civilization today: climate change and technological overreach. Author Bill McKibben first surveys the (ever-worsening) ecological catastrophe wrought by climate change across the globe and then considers the threats posed by rapidly developing, unregulated forms of technology, from artificial intelligence to human genetic modification; finally, he considers how humans might r Sprawling and messy, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? haphazardly examines two of the biggest threats to civilization today: climate change and technological overreach. Author Bill McKibben first surveys the (ever-worsening) ecological catastrophe wrought by climate change across the globe and then considers the threats posed by rapidly developing, unregulated forms of technology, from artificial intelligence to human genetic modification; finally, he considers how humans might resist and reverse these troubling trends, though he worries that we might already be out of time to save "the human game" (i.e. global society) from ending in ruin. The writer's aims are well intentioned, his climate activism over the past thirty years admirable, but this book lacks anything approaching an argument and often reads as a jumbled set of alarmist claims, quotes, and statistics. While McKibben rightly critiques Republicans' brazen assault on the working class and environment over the past half-century, as well as Silicon Valley's amoralism, he refuses to consider structural political or social change. Most already know the world's faltering, and this book doesn't offer a comprehensive vision for the future.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    America is being held hostage by a curmudgeonly few who insist there is no man-made climate change. Meanwhile, the vast majority of both citizens and scientists seethes. To that, Bill McKibben’s Falter proposes two solutions: solar panels everywhere, and forcing a cultural shift using nonviolent organizing. He doesn’t tackle the huge overpopulation issue, forcing gas and diesel vehicles off the road, mass extinctions, or even what to be aware of in the coming years. It is rather odd for an envir America is being held hostage by a curmudgeonly few who insist there is no man-made climate change. Meanwhile, the vast majority of both citizens and scientists seethes. To that, Bill McKibben’s Falter proposes two solutions: solar panels everywhere, and forcing a cultural shift using nonviolent organizing. He doesn’t tackle the huge overpopulation issue, forcing gas and diesel vehicles off the road, mass extinctions, or even what to be aware of in the coming years. It is rather odd for an environmentalist’s book. The first 200 pages all seem to be tangents. He talks at length about the invention of gene splicing, Ray Kurtzweil’s drugs, gene editing, inequality, artificial intelligence and libertarianism. And Ayn Rand. Lots of Ayn Rand. She keeps coming back, again and again, because of her religion of selfishness. It has spread to the political and commercial leadership of the country, and is a main cause for the country turning its back on climate change and pollution, he thinks. There is a special emphasis on Silicon Valley’s obsession with beating death. McKibben finds all kinds of tech billionaires putting investment dollars and purchases in having themselves frozen, or their heads frozen, or just plain planning to be around forever. That Google’s investment arm is focusing on such efforts should rightly infuriate the world. The “Don’t Be Evil” gang is wasting its resources on inhuman self-preservation, not exactly improving the planet. Not that it can possibly succeed anyway, if the human race is decimated by climate change, which seems all but a sure bet. Much surer, at any rate, than finding a way to live forever on Earth. Pulling salient environmental points out of Falter is not easy, but I’ve collected these: -Everyone should slow down, take stock and make repairs. Consider where we want to be. -Past history no longer applies to our future. We’re entering unknown territory, with no way out. The future is far from bright; it is totally uncertain. -Business is so anti-government it had to dismiss climate change, because it would require strong action by government. -A team of economists says there’s a 35% chance the UN’s worst case scenario is too optimistic -The amount of heat prevented from leaving the Earth by all the CO2 is the equivalent of four Hiroshima atomic bombs - every second. -Just 100 firms account for 70% of the world’s emissions -We are now able to put some real numbers to climate change. There are several surprises, all of them negative. Oceans are heating faster, and acidifying more than models predicted. Ice melt is proceeding at several times the rate predicted. For example, the Greenland ice sheet is melting from below as well from above, as the underlying rock heats up. It is only in the final 50 pages that McKibben swings into action on his opening premises. Solar will help immensely, if we would just deploy it. But it has two things going against it: the fossil fuel industry, which will be hurt by it and can find no profitability in it, and that it is mathematically impossible for solar and wind to replace much more than a fraction of our energy consumption (Though McKibben doesn’t point that out). As for nonviolent actions, he talks about the first Earth Day in 1970, when, he says, 20 million came out in support. That was 10% of the population. Today, there are similar marches all over Europe in support of the Earth, but the USA is dormant, ruled by the minority. The whole book is framed by what McKibben calls the human game. He looks at the effects of various factors by how much or little they might affect the human game. There are three great existential threats to the human game: nuclear war, destroying the ozone layer and climate change. Gene editing and artificial intelligence: a lot, space travel: not so much. From all his cited factors, there is one glaring absence that quickly became obvious and was never explored. What we really need is a functioning democracy. David Wineberg

  3. 5 out of 5

    Radiantflux

    57th book for 2019. I would like to find nice things to say about this book, as I am sure McKibben's heart is in the right place, but this book is a hot mess. McKibben's basic contention is that the human dream—whatever that is—is 'faltering'. We are rushing at high speed into climate change, designer babies and AI superlords, and this all has to do with the 1% having been weened on the cold dry objectivist nipples of Ayn Rand. His solution, which isn't really spelt out in any detail, 57th book for 2019. I would like to find nice things to say about this book, as I am sure McKibben's heart is in the right place, but this book is a hot mess. McKibben's basic contention is that the human dream—whatever that is—is 'faltering'. We are rushing at high speed into climate change, designer babies and AI superlords, and this all has to do with the 1% having been weened on the cold dry objectivist nipples of Ayn Rand. His solution, which isn't really spelt out in any detail, is solar panels and collective action. Mixing in designer babies and AI super-intelligence as worries with global warming does a real disservice tackling the existential threat that is climate change. His proposed solutions are unfortunately presented so superficially to have the weight of a bumper sticker. 2-stars.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Peter Mcloughlin

    Bill McKibben goes after much more than climate change in this book. He goes after the posthuman movement, libertarians, and the far right, oil companies, Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan. This book takes in the sweeping panorama of the moment which is on the precipice and addresses most of the major players on the political stage at the moment. McKibben is an environmentalist so he knows things are dire but his analysis of what got us here is some of the best political writing of the American scene and Bill McKibben goes after much more than climate change in this book. He goes after the posthuman movement, libertarians, and the far right, oil companies, Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan. This book takes in the sweeping panorama of the moment which is on the precipice and addresses most of the major players on the political stage at the moment. McKibben is an environmentalist so he knows things are dire but his analysis of what got us here is some of the best political writing of the American scene and his portrayal of major players and many of the fatally flawed visions is critiqued here. Even if you don't read environmental books this one does a good job of explaining much more than the environmental crisis but the crisis of capitalism itself. recommended. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAAUb...

  5. 4 out of 5

    jeremy

    if greed warps your life, you assume it must warp everyone's. if bill mckibben's prescient warnings had been heeded some thirty years ago, perhaps his new book wouldn't be so urgent and grievous. presuming the question asked in falter's subtitle isn't a rhetorical one, has the human game begun to play itself out?, a preponderance of the evidence seems to offer a resounding, unequivocal 'yes' in reply. the 350.0rg founder's writing remains incisive and engaging, but falter isn't likely to find many readers among the audience if greed warps your life, you assume it must warp everyone's. if bill mckibben's prescient warnings had been heeded some thirty years ago, perhaps his new book wouldn't be so urgent and grievous. presuming the question asked in falter's subtitle isn't a rhetorical one, has the human game begun to play itself out?, a preponderance of the evidence seems to offer a resounding, unequivocal 'yes' in reply. the 350.0rg founder's writing remains incisive and engaging, but falter isn't likely to find many readers among the audience for whom it would be most necessary. broadening the scope of existential threats beyond climate change, mckibben also considers the increasing dangers of gene editing/germline engineering and artificial intelligence. in all, falter is a deeply unsettling book and mckibben doesn't mince words when writing about the very real possibility that it's too late for our species to make the changes necessary to ensure our survival. that is not to say, however, that he is without hope, for the whole last part of the book is titled "an outside chance." falter is fascinating, falter is frightening, but, perhaps most importantly, it's unflinching in its observations of the present human moment — and the growing likelihood of a dark future waiting ahead. the extra heat that we trap near the planet because of the carbon dioxide we've spewed is equivalent to the heat from 400,000 hiroshima-size bombs ever day, or four each second.

  6. 5 out of 5

    howl of minerva

    A cri-de-coeur for the planet. All the things we work on and worry about will be brought to naught if these existential concerns are not addressed. The simultaneously worst and best thing is that the solutions exist and are feasible... The clock is running down...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Murtaza

    This is a book about the possibility that the human species is in its twilight, either due to ecological collapse or transhumanist technologies that will effectively make humanity superfluous. I was hoping for a more novel framework based on his idea of the "human game" (more or less the career of the species, discarding any outside metaphysical measures like divine judgement), but for the most part he focuses on running down the existential threats posed by climate change, AI and human bioengin This is a book about the possibility that the human species is in its twilight, either due to ecological collapse or transhumanist technologies that will effectively make humanity superfluous. I was hoping for a more novel framework based on his idea of the "human game" (more or less the career of the species, discarding any outside metaphysical measures like divine judgement), but for the most part he focuses on running down the existential threats posed by climate change, AI and human bioengineering. McKibben is a talented writer who does a good job at explaining these threats. After many chapters of familiar nightmare fuel, the last quarter of the book is about possible solutions to our existential crisis. He identifies these in massively ramping up solar power production and exerting democratic pressure on our ascendant tech overlords. The argument as a whole is a clarion call to return to democracy, which he have largely in fact lost to a small cadre of elites in the fossil fuel industry and Silicon Valley. These elites are deeply influenced by the basically inhuman ideology of Ayn Rand-style libertarianism and have crafted for us a world built on its precepts. The human game has had villains many times before, but these ones are different for having gained enough leverage to potentially put an end to the whole thing once and for all. All in all, this is a wise and important book. In addition to democracy, Mckibben calls for an ethic of pacing ourselves and spreading the gains of material improvement for awhile rather than continuing to charge headlong into new frontiers of growth and technological development. He has an egalitarian attitude that certainly skews to the left for the most part but should also appeal to genuine conservatives interested in preserving human connection and community. For those less previously informed about the subjects he discusses, like AI and climate disruption, this book would probably feel revelatory. To me personally it felt like the product of reading between the lines of Yuval Noah Harari's Homo Deus and recognizing how alarming it actually is. I might speak with McKibben later and publish an interview based on the book, which I feel should be widely read by the public.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne

    Falter is a screed on climate change and the end of times. I love dystopian novels, but the this book is nonfiction and its first third is written (metaphorically) in all caps. It does not explore issues, allowing up to draw conclusions, but forces them down our throats while we choke. And I am choir. I believe in climate change, have recycled since I was a teenager, and don't eat meat, at least partially for ecological reasons. Despite being a member of the choir, Bill McKibben's style of Falter is a screed on climate change and the end of times. I love dystopian novels, but the this book is nonfiction and its first third is written (metaphorically) in all caps. It does not explore issues, allowing up to draw conclusions, but forces them down our throats while we choke. And I am choir. I believe in climate change, have recycled since I was a teenager, and don't eat meat, at least partially for ecological reasons. Despite being a member of the choir, Bill McKibben's style of argument rubs me the wrong way. I can't imagine that non-believers will find Falter more compelling. His occasional snipes at Trump, while appropriate, will not buy him fans from that audience – which he/we need to do if we are going to create change. And, I am leading a discussion of this book/this issue as part of our orientation of incoming freshmen in a red section of my state. I would have given up reading Falter if I hadn't agreed to this discussion. If I were a new student, especially a more conservative one??? The Nature Conservancy's guide for discussions on climate change offers the following tips about such discussions: 1. Meet people where they are. 2. Connection outweighs facts. 3. The goal is conversation, not conquest. 4. Focus on the person across from you.McKibben did not write following The Nature Conservancy's guidelines and, I'm afraid there will likely be a boomerang effect: an attempt to persuade someone of one position results instead in the adoption of the opposite position. In addition to my concerns about the argument, I have problems with the details of McKibben's argument. For example, he talks designer babies, but his science about the genetics of psychological traits is weak. Even if you could identify the gene for intelligence – it's more likely to be 50 or more genes – the phenotype is also likely to be related to negative outcomes (e.g., schizophrenia or autism). Falter becomes more accessible toward the end, as McKibben discusses the roles of solar panels, advocacy, and thinking as groups rather than individuals. (Ayn Rand and libertarians are gonna be the death of us. Literally.) McKibben is a strong and interesting writer – if you get past the rhetoric. However, I would have found it easier to parse his argument if his chapters and sections were titled. I had a difficult time seeing and organizing the transitions in his argument. Why designer babies and AI in this book on climate change? I get it, but I had to work to get there. 2 1/2 stars. Update: I heard McKibben speak recently. He still clearly says that we face a large problem, but he was almost optimistic during his talk and, because I'd expected so little, I felt more optimistic.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This book should be required reading for everyone—it is by turns sobering, infuriating and eye-opening and written throughout in clear, conversational (and even at times humorous) prose that manages to make a scientific study read like a page turner. Bill McKibben begins Falter with a survey of the symptoms of climate change that are currently threatening our planet; although I was familiar with these issues on some level already, he marshals so many frightening examples and statistics that the This book should be required reading for everyone—it is by turns sobering, infuriating and eye-opening and written throughout in clear, conversational (and even at times humorous) prose that manages to make a scientific study read like a page turner. Bill McKibben begins Falter with a survey of the symptoms of climate change that are currently threatening our planet; although I was familiar with these issues on some level already, he marshals so many frightening examples and statistics that the urgency of the situation hit me like never before. Part 2 is a look at how we got here (the infuriating part), detailing the missed opportunities and—more insidious—the deliberate misinformation and misdirection on the part of corporations and politicians that squandered 50 years during which we might have forestalled the devastating effects of climate change we are living with now. McKibben then shifts from environmental threats to a discussion of more existential threats to our very humanity itself, such as genetic engineering and artificial intelligence (AI). This turned out to be the most fascinating part of the book for me—I was particularly riveted by anecdotes from Silicon Valley that would be risible were they not so frightening. Having laid out the problems in the bulk of the book, McKibben injects a (muted) note of optimism with a final section of proposed solutions such as solar panels and non-violent political action. As I said, everyone, regardless of their politics, should read this book (although I do wish McKibben had resisted a few political comments which—while I am in complete agreement—might alienate some readers). Not an easy topic, but a necessary discussion. Thank you to NetGalley and Henry Holt for providing me with an ARC of this title in return for my honest review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Conor Ahern

    In some ways, this is the scariest book I have ever read. McKibben's object is questioning whether humans--because of natural limits or the consequences of our actions--are doomed to plateau, regress, or die out. McKibben takes a panoramic view of the poor choices we have made and the various precipices we have driven ourselves off of as a species. In the same way that Yuval Hariri (whom he name drops multiple times in this short book) chronicles all of the ways in which humans may be In some ways, this is the scariest book I have ever read. McKibben's object is questioning whether humans--because of natural limits or the consequences of our actions--are doomed to plateau, regress, or die out. McKibben takes a panoramic view of the poor choices we have made and the various precipices we have driven ourselves off of as a species. In the same way that Yuval Hariri (whom he name drops multiple times in this short book) chronicles all of the ways in which humans may be progressing, McKibben gives us an oddly lighthearted survey of the dangers we face yet refuse to recognize. It's scariest and most effective as an accounting of how utterly we have fucked ourselves, by way of fucking our planet, our only home and source of resources. McKibben's goal of scaring his reader was so complete that when he started to introduce solutions, I wasn't even receptive to his suggestions. They seemed too much like half-measures. Massive solar panel banks? Nonviolent resistance? What in the world would make him think that such things are sufficient, given the knowledge we already have about how irreversible the damage we have done is? Instead, when he trots out ideas like "we have to genetically engineer subsequent generations to be more empathetic, to understand that the consequences of their actions accumulate and are difficult to chart out" my thought was not "atrocious! we must not sacrifice our principles!" but instead "yeah, we must just be flawed as a species to have gotten to this place; let's just change the entire paradigm." Probably not the goal he intended, but an evocative book nonetheless. An important read in this day and age.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    This is the most important book I believe I have ever read. To say it is sobering is an understatement. Every sentence is full of facts, figures and deep meaning about the future of our planet and humanity in general, and I would have been better served to read this rather than listen to it. It took me 3 weeks of careful listening, and constant rewinding, during which I took 5 pages of notes which I will compile into a more detailed review here once I settle down from the awful reality of this b This is the most important book I believe I have ever read. To say it is sobering is an understatement. Every sentence is full of facts, figures and deep meaning about the future of our planet and humanity in general, and I would have been better served to read this rather than listen to it. It took me 3 weeks of careful listening, and constant rewinding, during which I took 5 pages of notes which I will compile into a more detailed review here once I settle down from the awful reality of this book. If I thought they would read it, I would buy everyone I know a copy of this.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Annie Rosewood

    This book presents a good overview of what McKibben refers to as the human game - human life and our responsibility to the planet as well as future generations, and the factors that are shaping the present moment and threatening our future: climate change, AI, corporate greed, gene modification. McKibben makes some excellent critiques and his writing is engaging enough that it kept me interested throughout. I particularly liked the notion of the "game," even if it does seem rather romantic. What This book presents a good overview of what McKibben refers to as the human game - human life and our responsibility to the planet as well as future generations, and the factors that are shaping the present moment and threatening our future: climate change, AI, corporate greed, gene modification. McKibben makes some excellent critiques and his writing is engaging enough that it kept me interested throughout. I particularly liked the notion of the "game," even if it does seem rather romantic. What is the objective of our game? Can we agree to the rules collectively?

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    "Put simply, between ecological destruction and technological hubris, the human experiment is now in question."~ Falter by Bill McKibben I was a teenager in the late 1960s when I read Ayn Rand's novels. I was still reading for story and too young to understand Rand's philosophy. I never returned to reread her books. Bill McKibben's Falter has educated me on Rand and the impact of her ideas on shaping the world we live in today. The list of Rand-inspired movers and shakers i "Put simply, between ecological destruction and technological hubris, the human experiment is now in question."~ Falter by Bill McKibben I was a teenager in the late 1960s when I read Ayn Rand's novels. I was still reading for story and too young to understand Rand's philosophy. I never returned to reread her books. Bill McKibben's Falter has educated me on Rand and the impact of her ideas on shaping the world we live in today. The list of Rand-inspired movers and shakers is impressive: Alan Greenspan was a personal friend of Rand and people who revere Rand include Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Paul Ryan, Rex Tillerson, Ronald Reagan, Mike Pompeo, Ray Dalio (a Trump confidant), and Donald Trump. Rand called her philosophy 'objectivism,' which is really libertarianism. It's anti-government, believing there should be no limits on the individual's self-interest and quest to personal achievement. There is no consideration of the needs of others, the people who can't or won't do for themselves, those leeches on society. Don't limit my rights and privilege for the common good and tax my wealth for the government to give to those people. It is a philosophy readily adopted by business. Unimpeded growth without restraints is the goal of capitalism. Drill for all the oil and dig for all the coal anywhere, without limit. It's someone else's problem to clean up any mess we create. Too bad if we contaminate the water or air or devastate the land or cause earthquakes. Right-wing politicians love Rand; don't tax me to pay for programs that benefit the losers; small government is good government. This leads to obscenely rich business owners, like the Koch brothers, funneling money to right-wing politicians who will protect their interests. Then there are the Silicon Valley visionaries funding research into aging and how to live forever and genetic engineering and the creating of AI. Are these good things? Will these technologies improve human life? Or will they create a larger socio-economic divide, even a separation between regular humans and improved humans? What would a world without death look like? Would those living suppress the number of humans to be born? McKibben asks, has the 'human game' begun to 'play itself out?' Has our progress advanced to the point that we are negatively impacting our species? Is continual growth sustainable? Growth in technology, wealth, improvement via genetic engineering? Can we alter climate change? Will we slow down growth to a sustainable rate? Will we put our effort into renewable energy? We are the only species on Earth that can place limits on ourselves, band together to achieve outcomes that improve our mutual community. But...will we? Or will humanity's future look like the movie Wall-E, brain-dead screen-addicts floating in space while a robot runs our lives? "There are people who...hate the idea of society, who organize campaigns against public transit, who try to dismantle public schools and national parks, who instinctively head for the gated enclave. I don't think their rule will last forever...but they currently possess a savage leverage, perhaps power enough to end the human game... "The endless efforts to gerrymander districts, suppress voting, race-bait, gin up cynicism in our politics, confuse us about issues such as climate change--these are nothing more than efforts to weaken society so it can't exert power over its most dominant individuals."~from Falter by Bill McKibben Will the pendulum be swung away from disaster by nonviolent activism and a WWII era rise in commitment to the common good--fighting for our lives? Our fate is in our hands. I received a free book from the publisher through LibraryThing. My review is fair and unbiased.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Randall Wallace

    Scientists believe the end of the Cretaceous period came with a “rock larger than Mt. Everest traveling twenty times faster than a bullet” slammed into the Gulf of Mexico leading to a 1,000ft tall tsunami and a “blizzard of meteorites”. Scientists believe the end of the Cretinous period, will when Americans stop believing in endless growth on a finite planet. A barrel of oil is equal today to 23,000 hours of human labor. Unburned methane that escapes to air, traps heat 80x more efficiently than Scientists believe the end of the Cretaceous period came with a “rock larger than Mt. Everest traveling twenty times faster than a bullet” slammed into the Gulf of Mexico leading to a 1,000ft tall tsunami and a “blizzard of meteorites”. Scientists believe the end of the Cretinous period, will when Americans stop believing in endless growth on a finite planet. A barrel of oil is equal today to 23,000 hours of human labor. Unburned methane that escapes to air, traps heat 80x more efficiently than carbon dioxide. 270,000 sharks are killed every day. Without the oceans to cool the heat, the temperature on the planet since 1955 would have risen a whopping 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Bill says of Obama that “He was elected to run a political system based on endless growth.” Ten years before Hansen’s report, Exxon knew it was destroying the planet. Their public affairs manager released in a secret memo, “Emphasize the uncertainty”. That disinformation campaign costs us ten vital years to try to save the planet. The cool new term for that greedy stuff is “predatory delay”. When you fight a right-wing Ayn Rand fan, ask if they know that she was scathing about Christianity. Donald Trump said Ayn Rand’s “Fountainhead” is his favorite book - yes, right after “Stuart Little”. Bill very coolly reduces the entire American Right’s and Ayn Rand’s mindset into: “If greed warps your life, you assume it must warp everyone’s”. Then Bill goes AWOL for five chapters (15-19) and he starts speculating how many humans will become genetically enhanced while regular people will be called “Naturals” and will work as our servants. How this will somehow happen after a global total financial collapse worse than the Great Depression, fishery collapse, electrical grid collapse, or routine extinction level events, Bill does not say. During the five-chapter blackout, Bill waxes on about AI and high-tech stuff that has no business being in this book. En route, will he dare mention that Silicon Valley has more Super Fund sites than anywhere else? No. On page 231, Bill dismisses the entire subject of scale in a single paragraph (will explain later). Thankfully he mentions the steady-state economy but only briefly and refuses to tell us about CASSE or Herman Daly or steady state thinking today. This book gave me more cool Jeopardy style answers to questions, than it made me think about our collective future. Two 2019 much better books, by Dahr Jamail and David Wells, took far more risks than this book did. Last cool fact in this book: spaceflights are risky for so many reasons, but you may have a bigger chance of cancer by cosmic radiation bombardment while you are up there than dying by a flight accident. Wow. But more important for Jeopardy than saving a carbon-constrained planet. Bill McKibben was the Climate Change Voice #1, whatever happened? In 2008, Pat Murphy’s book “Plan C” had it all: 90% reduction in energy use by all us in the west was needed immediately, end of subject. Does Bill talk here about needing 90% reduction in our profligate energy lifestyles? No. Does Bill see our future problem as critically compounded by overpopulation, inequality, the end of growth, upcoming collapse, capitalism, permanent war, industrial agriculture, or failure of BOTH parties, -no. He mentions none of these. Evidently Naomi Klein’s anti-capitalism’s stance is far to the Left of Bill. Will he even remind his many rich followers of the costs to the planet of their plane rides and explain why Greta takes the train? –no Bill won’t. And how can Bill write this book and not mention the obvious elephant in the room: Green energy cannot save us because it CANNOT be scaled up sufficiently. Whether you read Ozzie Zehner’s book, “Green Illusions” or Derrick Jensen’s unpublished book on the Myth being saved by green energy, the answer is clear. You cannot scale green energy up to the scale of industrial civilization – Bill apparently cannot conceive of the role of scale in our green future. Green energy requires fossil fuels for their manufacture. Rare earth and elements will disappear if you really scale up green energy. Energy intensive to make, turbine blades need maintenance and replacement. Some say, ramping up solar to just 10% uses up all the silver in the world. Try doing that to every element needed and scaled up for a Green Economy. Then do the math and/or envision the actual mining. Bill ignores the Peak movements (running out of) in this book which we are experiencing right now: Peak Water, Peak Sand, Peak Oil, Peak Soil, Peak Resources, and the list goes on. But, will Bill mention any of them in this book? No. It is wildly irresponsible for Bill not to mention that all of us must strive to live to lower our energy footprint (90%), as well as the footprint of our all-consuming capitalist nation. Bill Richardson and Jimmy Carter were destroyed for suggesting Americans self-sacrifice but that is what the future demands of us, so why doesn’t Bill McKibben stand up here and say so as well? And why not write in 2019 about climate change like Naomi Klein, by attacking the #1 culprit: Industrial Capitalism? I thought Bill knew there was no green future without at least 90% reduction, without addressing structural inequality, and that green tech can’t save us. Oh well. I had high hopes for this book, but honestly, I don’t even know its point; apparently it was to fulfill a publishing contract and keep his name out there.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Flynn

    I don't know when I've read a nonfiction book that made such a nakedly transparent appeal to the emotions more than the intellect. Rhetorically it is sometimes dazzling and sometimes over the top. The first section is a depressing look at our present and likely future: a planet despoiled by climate change; greedy fossil fuel executives and Koch brothers who basically sealed the planet's doom; genetically modified babies creating a super-race of those rich enough to afford it; artificial intellig I don't know when I've read a nonfiction book that made such a nakedly transparent appeal to the emotions more than the intellect. Rhetorically it is sometimes dazzling and sometimes over the top. The first section is a depressing look at our present and likely future: a planet despoiled by climate change; greedy fossil fuel executives and Koch brothers who basically sealed the planet's doom; genetically modified babies creating a super-race of those rich enough to afford it; artificial intelligence taking over and shoving humans aside; or maybe tech tycoons making themselves immortal. Then, in the latter half of the book, McKibben offers a possible salvation in the form of the better angels of our nature; solar panels; and nonviolent political action. It doesn't seem like quite enough to defeat the forces arrayed against it, but what else do we have? Best cameo of Jane Austen ever comes when he's in an African village that has recently begun to enjoy the benefits of electricity thanks to solar. Everything in town comes to a halt when a certain TV show comes on: a Punjabi soap opera loosely based on Sense & Sensibility.

  16. 4 out of 5

    George Crowder

    This book pulled together philosophical, political, economic, scientific, and environmental trends that have deeply impacted America and the world in the last fifty years. I found it upsetting and very persuasive; it resonated with what I see playing out nationally, as well as with individuals I know personally. The chapters which confront the influence of Ayn Rand and the rise of Libertarian thinking among wealthy, powerful individuals were particularly helpful in making sense of the transforma This book pulled together philosophical, political, economic, scientific, and environmental trends that have deeply impacted America and the world in the last fifty years. I found it upsetting and very persuasive; it resonated with what I see playing out nationally, as well as with individuals I know personally. The chapters which confront the influence of Ayn Rand and the rise of Libertarian thinking among wealthy, powerful individuals were particularly helpful in making sense of the transformation that has played out in our country. I also appreciate McKibben's efforts to debunk the notion of space colonization as a way out of our predicaments on earth. We have to fight for what we have on this planet and preserve it. While some reviewers have faulted the book for the final optimistic chapters, I beg to disagree. My solar panels came on line a week ago and are producing twice the electricity my family consumes. I can't get used to it. When I look at Google Earth I see thousands of rooftops just like mine in the immediate neighborhood. Let's go!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rhys

    I think this is one of the strongest books Bill McKibben has written - passionate, coherent, intelligent as always, but he seems to have tapped into something more in Falter. By juxtaposing the issues of climate change and AI, McKibben seems to have identified something both obvious and profound - that some people are "not particularly attached to humans." The libertarian cult of the rich and the techno-utopians of Silicon Valley both share this radicalism - "willing to alter the chemical composition o I think this is one of the strongest books Bill McKibben has written - passionate, coherent, intelligent as always, but he seems to have tapped into something more in Falter. By juxtaposing the issues of climate change and AI, McKibben seems to have identified something both obvious and profound - that some people are "not particularly attached to humans." The libertarian cult of the rich and the techno-utopians of Silicon Valley both share this radicalism - "willing to alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere, eager to confer immortality" (p.192), while directing their wealth and power against social constraints like regulation and taxation (which underwrite civilized life). The challenge is clear, here. McKibben even pulled off a bit of optimism (solar power technology and the 'technology' of nonviolent resistance) without triggering in me a spontaneous cringe-shudder. (Though I think we all know we need to do more than power a village in Ghana ...)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    A great book by an important environmentalist Bill McKibben who wrote Eaarth and The End of Nature. He discusses what the Earth is facing and the causes for it. He makes clear while Trump is the leader of climate denial while the gas/oil billionaires are funding his campaign and filling his cabinet. He also discusses the ideology surrounding Ann Rand’s book, The Fountainhead. He also explains what is currently happening to the Earth, what Tech company CEOs seem to be thinking about (mainly thems A great book by an important environmentalist Bill McKibben who wrote Eaarth and The End of Nature. He discusses what the Earth is facing and the causes for it. He makes clear while Trump is the leader of climate denial while the gas/oil billionaires are funding his campaign and filling his cabinet. He also discusses the ideology surrounding Ann Rand’s book, The Fountainhead. He also explains what is currently happening to the Earth, what Tech company CEOs seem to be thinking about (mainly themselves). He also outlines what he thinks people can do to help. Great book and easy to read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Roger Gloss

    McKibben’s new book is far-ranging and deeply philosophical. Who would have expected him to get deeply into artificial intelligence and genetic engineering (besides, of course, climate change), and then tie it all together? I wish I could say I feel better now, having read Falter, but I don’t. Nor was that McKibben’s intent, to make us feel better. The house is, indeed, on fire.

  20. 5 out of 5

    B

    A good overview of climate change, growing inequalities and the rise of artificial intelligence, fueled by idealogues on the right and the effects we are already seeing on our planet.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

    Everyone, please read this one.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chuck

    So, global warming is the ultimate problem for oil companies because oil causes it, and it's the ultimate problem for government-haters because without government intervention, you can't solve it. [p. 121] [T]he human game . . . does come with two logical imperatives. The first is to keep it going, and the second is to keep it human. [p. 17] Bill McKibben has a lot on his mind. Having sounded the alarm on climate change back in 1989 (cf. The End of Nature), he now returns to that topic at a ti So, global warming is the ultimate problem for oil companies because oil causes it, and it's the ultimate problem for government-haters because without government intervention, you can't solve it. [p. 121] [T]he human game . . . does come with two logical imperatives. The first is to keep it going, and the second is to keep it human. [p. 17] Bill McKibben has a lot on his mind. Having sounded the alarm on climate change back in 1989 (cf. The End of Nature), he now returns to that topic at a time when the situation has become far more grim. "More than half of all the greenhouse gases emitted since the start of the Industrial Revolution have spewed from exhaust pipes and smokestacks since 1988" [p. 66]. Ice sheets are melting at an alarming rate; drinking water and irrigation sources are drying up; wildfires are increasingly destructive; record high temperatures are being registered across much of the globe; oceans are acidifying and rising. Yet, around the world, government responses for the most part have ranged from tepid to atavistic, the most consequential cases being especially disheartening. The Trump administration's contempt for environmental protection is well known, and since taking office in January, 2019, Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro has significantly accelerated destruction of the Amazon rain forest, declaring that his country's "vast protected lands were an obstacle to economic growth". But McKibben fears that an uninhabitable earth represents just one way that the "human game" might end. He's also worried about performance-enhancing drugs, social/economic inequality, indefinite life-extension (as envisioned by Silicon Valley prophets such as Ray Kurzweil), and "germline engineering" aimed at producing designer babies. All of these scenarios, McKibben argues, subtract from our humanity, and he devotes interesting chapters to each of them. Nonetheless, the latter two aren't quite yet upon us, and there's been significant backlash against the first two, so there seems to be some hope of combating them. Important though they may be, these four concerns lack the urgent threat posed by global warming, and they probably should have been addressed in a different book. Which takes us back to climate change, where the author is most authoritative. McKibben points to a constellation of factors that explain why the problem now seems so intractable. Exxon knew in 1977 that burning fossil fuels contributed significantly to the "greenhouse effect", but instead of using that information to develop alternative energy sources, the company joined with other major oil companies to sow confusion and doubt over the emerging scientific consensus. Profits soared. Later, with the advent of fracking, the sudden availability of huge natural gas supplies seemed like a godsend, since "when you burn natural gas it gives off half as much carbon dioxide as the coal that powered most of the nation's, and the world's electric supply" [p. 67]. Moreover, "The big oil companies controlled much of the natural gas supply, and they wouldn't protest" [p.68]. Unfortunately, studies soon revealed that when the gas escapes into the air "it traps heat in the atmosphere about eighty times more efficiently than carbon dioxide" [p. 68]. During Obama's presidency, the decline in carbon dioxide pollution was basically offset by methane that escaped during fracking. So, opportunities have been lost, and what once could have been a relatively easy battle against global warming now verges on the impossible. Although genuinely clean energy sources (solar panels, wind turbines) are available and growing cheaper at a rapid pace, they haven't been produced at anything close to the scale that would be required to effect a significant reduction of fossil fuel use. Over the years, the political pendulum has swung back and forth from left to right, between public good and private greed, so one might predict that the oil and gas barons' ascendancy will soon give way to a more socially responsible agenda. But even if their influence diminishes, the time they spent wielding the levers of power put them "in control at precisely the moment when they could do the most damage", thereby locking "in new forms of inequality that can't be undone even by revolution. As the temperature climbs, it's the poorest who suffer most, a suffering that isn't going away" [p. 118]. What, then, is to be done? McKibben advances two main proposals, one aimed at goading governments into action, and the other promoting actions that need to be taken. The first calls for massive nonviolent protests -- protests of the sort that have historically resulted in significant social change. Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King are obvious models, but so was the Earth Day protest in 1970 "when twenty million Americans (a tenth of the population) joined in demonstrations in every corner of the country. . . . Richard Nixon, no environmentalist, had little political choice but to sign the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and other environmental laws still in effect today" [p. 220]. The second proposal calls for a massive investment in solar energy, and to a lesser extent in wind farms and hydroelectric dams; presumably this would involve both government and private financing, although McKibben doesn't address that point explicitly. There are lots of heart-warming but relatively small success stories in this arena, both local and global, and McKibben highlights some of them. Most important, he cites data showing that by 2050 we could derive all of our power from "green" sources, while at the same time creating millions of new jobs and lowering energy costs. As McKibben grants, this would require a huge mobilization of resources, something akin to what the United States accomplished by enlisting many factories in the World War II effort (for example, automobile companies began building tanks, a radiator company made helmets, a fabric company made parachutes). But what was done before can, at least theoretically, be done again. Those two ideas seem eminently sensible, and McKibben's prologue introduces a "note of hope". But late in the book, after remarking that humans are unique because, although we can destroy, "we can decide not to destroy", he admits to suspecting that we probably won't make that choice: "we are faltering now, and the human game has indeed begun to play itself out" [p. 255]. Isn't the ultimate tragedy one that was foreseen and could have been prevented?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Meghan

    I’m a big fan of Bill McKibbon. He speaks the language of my conservationist heart. Part 1 (climate change) was nothing new to me, but always worth reviewing the facts. Some was clearly lifted right from The Water Will Come by Jeff Goodell. Part 2 has a really good segment on Ayn Rand objectivist philosophy cultivating the right-wing libertarian billionaires shaping modern America. Parts 3 and 4 were a little out there (designer babies, defeating death, colonizing space), but I agree with all of I’m a big fan of Bill McKibbon. He speaks the language of my conservationist heart. Part 1 (climate change) was nothing new to me, but always worth reviewing the facts. Some was clearly lifted right from The Water Will Come by Jeff Goodell. Part 2 has a really good segment on Ayn Rand objectivist philosophy cultivating the right-wing libertarian billionaires shaping modern America. Parts 3 and 4 were a little out there (designer babies, defeating death, colonizing space), but I agree with all of his major points. Humanist solidarity over sociopathic objectivism all day long.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Rhine

    What can I say except that this is one of the most important books you will ever read. McKibben starts with the climate crisis, on which he is a recognized expert, but he doesn't stop there. He also explores the implications of artificial intelligence, with its increasing reliance on algorithyms and robots. And then he does it for a third area, right on the horizon of what is now possible--genetic engineering. For all three of these complex serious developments he offers deep thoughts on how the What can I say except that this is one of the most important books you will ever read. McKibben starts with the climate crisis, on which he is a recognized expert, but he doesn't stop there. He also explores the implications of artificial intelligence, with its increasing reliance on algorithyms and robots. And then he does it for a third area, right on the horizon of what is now possible--genetic engineering. For all three of these complex serious developments he offers deep thoughts on how they affect what it means to be human. He does not come out with unwavering optimism; nor is he unduly pessimistic. But he reserves the most scorn for those with resources who see the problems but do nothing about them. This, he feels, is a betrayal of all in the front-line communities, who often did not benefit that much from industrialization, but who are now the most affected. He points out that these folks do not hesitate to be activists. So he will be one too. But honestly? Most touching are the final pages that bring the reader to the essence of our human species's uniqueness, and urges us to use what it offers. To do what? To stay fully human.

  25. 5 out of 5

    KaylaRahaman

    This book runs parallel to the late Hans Rosling's "Factfulness". Whereas "Factfulness" reveals that, relative to the history of human socioeconomic conditions, many (though not all) of the once-perceived global humanitarian crises are on course to becoming obsolete, McKibben's "Falter" elaborates on the road yet ahead. New threats surge which threaten the existence not of humanity, but of ALL life on this wonderful planet Earth. Climate Change is an existential crises; germline engineering pose This book runs parallel to the late Hans Rosling's "Factfulness". Whereas "Factfulness" reveals that, relative to the history of human socioeconomic conditions, many (though not all) of the once-perceived global humanitarian crises are on course to becoming obsolete, McKibben's "Falter" elaborates on the road yet ahead. New threats surge which threaten the existence not of humanity, but of ALL life on this wonderful planet Earth. Climate Change is an existential crises; germline engineering poses an exacerbation of the already-felt disparity of social classes; artificial intelligence calls into question the role of humanity in the future (indeed, if there is much of one); and government corruption, ideological fallacies, and greed from the very top of the wealth ladder all stand in the way of our ability to take the aforementioned challenges head-on. Whether we were prepared or not (evidently, not.), the introduction of the steam engine roughly 200 years ago has brought us into a new age. Our lives, the lives of our descendants, and the presence of life and society as we know it are at stake. Now is not the time for division, nor for selfishness. Now is the time for energy innovation. Now is the time for regaining strength and humanity. Now is the time to reach across international borders and come together to fight the hard war against the monsters we created. To do anything less is to wholly submit to inevitable doom. It's hard to believe we live in what may well be the greatest challenge humanity has and ever will face. If we fail to accomplish the task set before us, whether created by chance of the natural course of physics or by some Divine Plan, we will simply be no more--but if we succeed, we will have realized for the rest of the human game the power that the nations of 7 billion people hold when we join in a collective goal. That power--the power of 7 billion people--rests in your hands. History tells time and again that individuals may lead, but the EFFORT comes from the nameless many. What can you do? Read this book and other material like it. For Truth is a weapon that resists even the mightiest bombs and tanks, and in our digital age, anyone who wishes to wield it may. Look into your soul and realize than any large-scale change is really a collection of individuals who started with themselves. So start with yourself. Be sustainability-conscious in what you buy, use, eat, and support. Be willing to lend an ear to the opinions of others, and approach sharing your message with others as a gift, not a burden. If you can, switch to renewable energy sources, which is becoming ever-more affordable to the public. Pay attention to the affairs of Government. This is not to say keep up with tweets and petty name-calling. Know the laws you will be called to vote on, don't settle for politicians who have no plan for the people and only ambitions of their own, and if democracy is failing where you live, protest nonviolently. McKibben praises the peaceful protest as a great invention of the 20th century. It is welcoming, it is stubborn, and, as Gandhi, Suffragists, African Americans, and all the other great movements of the past show, it has the potential to create seismic social change. Some may walk away from "Falter" with a newfound pessimism for the world, believing there is simply nothing to be done; the human race will hardly be human, and by that time life on Earth will see the sixth mass extinction in geological history. But let us not forget that it was only a century ago that many were just as profusely frustrated by the prospect of nuclear war (which still looms somewhat heavily), when Mankind was suddenly capable of wiping itself out with a few bomb drops. Since that time, most countries in the world have collectively realized the responsibility of NOT tapping into that capability, and as a result, this planet has not seen nuclear warfare (fingers crossed). Likewise, the fight for our existence--our MEANINGFUL existence--on this planet is in the interest of every person, from the private citizens whose net-worth is greater than the GDP of dozens of nations to the innocent children with distended stomachs and broken homes. We must be ready to take action. We must be willing to apply our greatest energies to the pursuit of tomorrow. We have everything to gain, but we may also have everything to lose.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stefanie

    McKibben wonders if the thing he calls the human game--human society, culture, dominance on the planet--has played itself out and whether we have entered the decline of humanity. He looks not only at climate change, but also at issues of inequality and technology and peers ahead to see where it all might lead if things don't change. His conclusion is yes, the human game has begun to play itself out. And while extinction is definitely a possibility, he has hope that after everything collapses, we McKibben wonders if the thing he calls the human game--human society, culture, dominance on the planet--has played itself out and whether we have entered the decline of humanity. He looks not only at climate change, but also at issues of inequality and technology and peers ahead to see where it all might lead if things don't change. His conclusion is yes, the human game has begun to play itself out. And while extinction is definitely a possibility, he has hope that after everything collapses, we might be able to put together a new way of being in the world, one in which we share the planet with all the other life on and live as part of a whole instead of placing ourselves above and outside of it all.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rita

    Easy-to-read, full of witty moments, and full of SOME information, I enjoyed reading this book, especially the weird science stuff. There're parts about billionaires wanting to freeze their bodies, other billionaires who can't wait for nanotechnology and gene-tweaking, so they can live forever. Also, infuriatingly: there's the Princeton professor, Lee Silver, who runs GenePeeks, who unashamedly says "all aspects of the economy, the media, the entertainment industry, and the knowledge industry wi Easy-to-read, full of witty moments, and full of SOME information, I enjoyed reading this book, especially the weird science stuff. There're parts about billionaires wanting to freeze their bodies, other billionaires who can't wait for nanotechnology and gene-tweaking, so they can live forever. Also, infuriatingly: there's the Princeton professor, Lee Silver, who runs GenePeeks, who unashamedly says "all aspects of the economy, the media, the entertainment industry, and the knowledge industry will be controlled by members of the GenRich class." Meanwhile, "Naturals" will work "as low - paid service providers or laborers." p. 153 He's referring to the class of Humans that will be gene-edited as embryos, into super humans. As to all the money being put into AI and robotics, that will eventually take away most jobs, Tyler Cowen, "America's hottest economist" (Business Newsweek) and proprietor of the country's most widely read economics blog, had some advice for young people: develop a skill that can't be automated, and that can be sold to the remaining high earners: be a maid, a personal trainer, a private tutor, a classy sex worker. p.155. But here's the surprising thing about this book about human's causing so much damage and pollution to the planet that we may not be around much longer: this author did not bring up more than two sentences about animal agriculture, what some estimate as being responsible for 65% of climate abuse and change. "We also need to eat lower on the food chain..." p.211. "...just as raising cows and cutting forests contribute to climate damage alongside power plants." p.216 That's it. So either Mckibben is a "meat" eater who recognizes he is a hypocrite, or he's been threatened by BigBoys in animal agriculture. Also, Alex Steffen, an environmental writer, coined the term 'predatory delay,' "the blocking or slowing of needed change, in order to make money off unsustainable, unjust systems in the meantime" p.79. Libertarian money is responsible for a huge amount of destruction to the planet. The Koch brothers wanted no regulations standing in the way of them making obscene amounts of money from oil. [Libertarians'] "emotional core, channeled perfectly by [Ayn] Rand, is simple: government is bad. Selfishness is good. Watch out for yourself. Solidarity is a trap. Taxes are theft. You're not the boss of me." p.91 Are you pissed off yet? I'm sorry, my children.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    Since I associate Bill McKibben with climate change writing, I was surprised to hear this book was also about Artificial Intelligence. I went to hear his presentation about the book (I live in Portland where we have Powell's City of Books and authors come to talk about their recent works.) It was done as a dialogue and the questioner dealt only with the climate stuff, as did most of the Q & A. Until the last question. Someone asked about AI. Of course now there was no time. But his answer in Since I associate Bill McKibben with climate change writing, I was surprised to hear this book was also about Artificial Intelligence. I went to hear his presentation about the book (I live in Portland where we have Powell's City of Books and authors come to talk about their recent works.) It was done as a dialogue and the questioner dealt only with the climate stuff, as did most of the Q & A. Until the last question. Someone asked about AI. Of course now there was no time. But his answer indicated that he felt we were at a beginning of awareness of AI akin to where we were on carbon in the 70s. Now even more interested, I got on the library wait list and finally got the book. The book begins with climate stuff, updates on research. A couple details especially interested me: As the earth warms, the protein content of some plants decreases. At a certan concentration of carbon our cognitive abilities decrease. (I don't remember how far in the future or what percentage.) Then the AI. He cites goals and claims of speed of anticipated accomplishments, exponential. He discusses designer babies--not just medical adjustments, but choices of intelligence and character and . . . The latter would be changes that could be passed on genetically, so affecting more than the baby itself. One critique he made was that Designer Baby 1 would have a selection of traits that the parents deemed desirable. Then the science would continue so that Designer Baby 2 would have an even more enhanced set. Thus Baby 1's time of functional superiority would be short lived, soon to be outdated by the next model, as with most technology. He discusses solutions in the third section, managing to maintain hope for a move to solidarity even while acknowledging the counterforce of individualism. So the book ends on a cautious hopefulness. While there is scientific information, the book is readable. And there are footnotes for those who want to follow up. I especially appreciated the balance of his ending.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Steve H

    In 1989 Bill McKibben wrote "The End of Nature" in which he warned of the dangers of global warming and other ways humans were screwing up the Earth and life on Earth. Now, thirty years later, he's written this book that explains how we got here, what the future might hold, and a few possible glimmers of hope. Unlike David Wallace-Wells' "The Uninhabitable Earth," which lays out our dystopian future catastrophe by catastrophe, McKibben's Falter takes a broader view and draws a possible impending In 1989 Bill McKibben wrote "The End of Nature" in which he warned of the dangers of global warming and other ways humans were screwing up the Earth and life on Earth. Now, thirty years later, he's written this book that explains how we got here, what the future might hold, and a few possible glimmers of hope. Unlike David Wallace-Wells' "The Uninhabitable Earth," which lays out our dystopian future catastrophe by catastrophe, McKibben's Falter takes a broader view and draws a possible impending end of the "human game" on Earth. He then focuses on a few choice traitors to civilization and life on Earth who have over the last 30 or 40 years focused on monetary gain, consolidating power, and trying to distract people from the truth they've known about all along. He moves on to some strategies for keeping civilization or some form of the human game in play. These range from billionaires who allow most people to perish while they continue in protected compounds or floating communities, to people who think they can have their frozen brains thawed and revived in the future, to those who think they can have their consciousnesses uploaded to some form of computer network. McKibben points out the flaws in these plans and then suggests a couple of solutions that might benefit a larger number of humans, like non-violent protest and locally distributed power generation. Unfortunately, the problems that humans created are too big to be solved simply by non-violent actions and solar panels. Entire systems that we have become reliant on for hundreds of years need to change dramatically in the span of only a decade or two. I'm pretty sure McKibben is aware of that, and I'm somewhat perplexed why he doesn't go there in his book, unless it's to prevent his readers from losing hope and just metaphorically flipping over the board of the human game.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Falter is one of those books that will, I'm sure, provide a never-ending source of frustration for me. It fits into the category of important books, books that need a thorough reading by virtually everyone, and that will be, unfortunately, not read by those who need its insights the most. Granted, the topics under discussion are not the easiest to wrap ones head around, nor is the scenario constructed by the author, one which will be comforting or reassuring. In Falter, Bill McKibben tackle Falter is one of those books that will, I'm sure, provide a never-ending source of frustration for me. It fits into the category of important books, books that need a thorough reading by virtually everyone, and that will be, unfortunately, not read by those who need its insights the most. Granted, the topics under discussion are not the easiest to wrap ones head around, nor is the scenario constructed by the author, one which will be comforting or reassuring. In Falter, Bill McKibben tackles the biggest threats currently facing humanity and our lovely garden planet. Topping the list, of course, is climate-change. The author lays out all the horrifying detail of the path we're on. He also spends a good deal of time explaining the fossil fuel industry's complicity in obscuring and concealing the scale and nature of the problems from which they were busily profiting. (Spoiler alert: Thanks to their 30 year campaign to confuse the issue, we've already passed the point at which we can avoid the ecological results. The only thing we can do now is mitigate.) A second threat, as McKibben sees it, connected to the first, is the issue of wealth distribution and the ever-increasing disparity between the haves and the have-nots. The third looming crisis relates to our headlong, and some would say unthinking, rush toward technological advance. AI, genetic tinkering, and automation, all come in for close (and disturbing) scrutiny. Thankfully, the author serves up some (extremely guarded) optimism in his closing chapters. The good news is that there are ways we can mitigate and deflect the existential threat we have created for ourselves. The bad news is that the window of opportunity in which we can act is rapidly closing.

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