Age of Discovery Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance (2016, Bloomsbury)

Review :

As a history buff, I picked this up a couple days ago, even though the European Renaissance isn't usually my preferred era to read up on. I wasn't disappointed by the history, but I was wonderfully surprised by the comparative account the book gives of the present day, of medical and scientific advances, technological leaps forward, and new ways of thinking.

After weeks and months of relentless pessimism and negativity from politicians and pundits, this book was a breath of fresh air. It offered a way to cut through all the chaos and argue that something good can come of the instability we're in. There ARE great discoveries and new ideas being presented around us, and as much as criminal forces are using new technology and social trends against us, we can also use those same technologies and trends for positive ends, if we are willing to work at it. If that sounds overly cheesy and optimistic, don't worry: the authors didn't sugarcoat anything, and whole chapters talk about risks and the perils of unintended consequences. The book offers both a broad framework to use to think about the world and lots of historical and present day detail to make their case that the opportunities in front of us mean both risk and reward and we can work for the reward. It's a perspective that we seem to have lost, and it's deeply satisfying and thought-provoking to read that perspective presented so convincingly in such a well-written and obviously well-researched book.


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