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As the world becomes more complex, so do its problems--and the solutions to these problems become tougher to grasp, writes University of Toronto professor Thomas Homer-Dixon in The Ingenuity Gap. "As we strive to maintain or increase our prosperity and improve the quality of our lives, we must make far more sophisticated decisions, and in less time, than ever before," he writes. Is the day coming in which our ingenuity can't keep up? Homer-Dixon fears that it is: "the hour is late," and we're blindly "careening into the future." What we face, he says, is a "very real chasm that sometimes looms between our ever more difficult problems and our lagging ability to solve them." There are moments when Homer-Dixon comes close to sounding like a modern-day Malthus, with his never-ending worries about population growth, the environment, the strength of international financial institutions, civil wars, and so on. Yet parts of this book are downright fascinating; at its best, The Ingenuity Gap reads like one of Malcolm Gladwell's stories for The New Yorker (or his book The Tipping Point).
Homer-Dixon is very good when he tackles particular problems, and his interests are wide-ranging, moving from the psychology of an airplane cockpit during a crisis to the depletion of the world's fisheries to differences between the minds of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. He also dredges up fine details. Did you know that "the largest human-made structure on the planet is not an Egyptian pyramid or a hydroelectric dam but the Staten Island Fresh Kills landfill near New York City, which has a depth of one hundred meters and an area of nine square kilometers"? There's plenty to argue with on these pages, and some readers will find Homer-Dixon's tendency to write in the first person a bit self-indulgent. Yet fans of big-think books like Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, David Landes's The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, and Robert Wright's The Moral Animal will find The Ingenuity Gap riveting. --John J. Miller --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
I read Homer Dixon's Book and I was very disapointed. His book lacks structure, and is very very repetitive(Its 400 pages, it could be easily written in 50 pages without... Read morePublished on June 28 2005
The short answer to Homer-Dixon's question in the subtitle of his book "Can we solve the problems of the future?" is: it depends. Read morePublished on Dec 12 2002 by Friederike Knabe
Not a bad book by any means, eloquently writting, well researched, and Dixon often adds a well fit personal perspective and experience to his points. Read morePublished on May 15 2002 by Joe Greps
I first became acquainted with the extraordinary book "The Ingenuity Gap" by Thomas Homer-Dixon on Pacifica Radio, KPFK Los Angeles, on the "Free Forum" show during a one hour... Read morePublished on Feb. 26 2002
An excellent resource for understanding the challenges we are facing in the 21st century. Homer-Dixon's book is accessible, precise and provides strong recommendations for... Read morePublished on Dec 23 2001 by Justin Peffer
This is an extraordinary book, and it should be widely read. Not only does it make a compelling case that the problems we're creating for ourselves are rapidly outrunning our... Read morePublished on Nov. 17 2001 by Doug James Armstrong
anyone not taking seriously the information in The Ingenuity Gap
is still asleep. Prof. Homer-Dixon's book is clear, concise and
accurate combined with sensitivity and... Read more
Thought provoking, incise, right on the mark. I dodn't know what book the reviewer from Prague was writing about, but I suggest he read this book. Read morePublished on Nov. 14 2001
This is astounding: I must have read a totally different book than the other reviewers, with the same title and by the same author. Read morePublished on Oct. 31 2001 by Alexei Tsvetkov