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Making Sense: Conversations on Consciousness, Morality, and the Future of Humanity Hardcover – 11 August 2020
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Making Sense is one of the most thought-provoking podcasts that I've come across. Sam Harris does an incredible job probing--and finding answers to--some of the most important questions of our times."--Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies and The Gene: An Intimate History
"Sam Harris is tremendous at his job; sharp, skeptical in just the best sense, and full of curiosity and openness. He's a terrific questioner, and he greatly enlivens and improves public discourse." --Cass Sunstein, author of Can It Happen Here?: Authoritarianism in America
"There are precious few spaces in the media landscape where difficult, rigorous and respectful conversations can play out at substantial length, without agenda. Sam Harris created the model for such illuminating exchange, and the Making Sense podcast is a treasure trove of discussions with many of the most compelling and fascinating minds of our era." --Thomas Chatterton Williams, contributing writer, The New York Times Magazine, author of Self Portrait in Black and White.
"In a nation and at a time that seems to have lost all capacity for nuance and reason in its public discourse, Making Sense serves a deep and important purpose: allowing people to discuss pressing matters in careful and yet exciting ways, to the benefit of us all. Sam Harris, ever brilliant, is a national treasure."--Nicholas Christakis, author of Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society
"Free and open debate, in the best sense of the word. . . . The book's advantage over the podcast is that readers can linger as they need to and cherry-pick interviews at will. Recommended for anyone who wants to spend time with intelligent minds wrestling not with each other but with understanding."--Kirkus Reviews
"Harris displays his skills as an interviewer and conversationalist capable of clarifying complex ideas and engaging scholars from diverse backgrounds and fields of study on their areas of expertise. . . . The result is a collection full of stimulating, nuanced, and deeply informed discussions on both abstract concepts (the future of humanity; the nature of reality) and hot-button current events (the #MeToo movement)."--Publishers Weekly
"In the rapidly expanding universe of podcasts, Sam Harris's Making Sense is a firmly established galaxy of brilliant minds orbiting Sam's shrewd but solar intelligence. I am frequently late for work because I start listening while shaving and can't bring myself to hit pause."--Niall Ferguson, author of The Ascent of Money
"Making Sense brings the power and patience of contemplation to the art of conversation. Sam Harris models not only how to articulate complex ideas, but also how to truly hear the ideas of others. This is cognitive jazz at its best."--Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock
"Do yourself a favor, broaden your perspectives and listen to the Making Sense podcast. Whatever your politics, you will find ideas and points of views you've never considered before, in fields you don't know, from neuroscience to computer science to culture."--Anne Applebaum, author of Gulag
About the Author
Sam Harris is the author of the bestselling books The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, and Lying. The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction and his work has been published in more than 20 languages. He has written for the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the Economist, the Times (London), the Boston Globe, the Atlantic, the Annals of Neurology, and elsewhere. He received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
But as you read the redacted conversations you begin to see that they have a considerable depth—a depth possibly not discoverable as one listens to the podcast while doing other things.
According to the perspective of Harris and his interlocutors, humankind is on the cusp of breakthroughs in neuroscience and artificial intelligence that will transform society in ways beyond that of even the industrial revolution. While we have only the slimmest of inklings what these technologies will do and bring, that only makes the future more subject to the power of the imagination.
In this sense, most of the conversations’ closest analogues is to the science fiction of the turn of the last century. The earth will be transformed, we know not how, but it certainly is interesting to speculate on it with the world’s leading intellects. Thus, Harris discusses the possibilities of super human AI, living in a simulation, the nature of knowledge, the future of post-modernism and, his favorite topic, the phenomenon of human consciousness.
If you’re looking for hard-nosed predictions on the next ten years you will be disappointed. Just like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, the different interviewees let their imaginations soar. But if you like to speculate on where humankind may be in a hundred, thousand or million years this book may be for you.
In some ways combining the interest of a podcast with the depth of a good work of nonfiction, I found Making Sense stimulating reading. Whether Harris is discussing the hard problem of consciousness, the possibility of an AI takeover or the perennial problem of racial injustice he seldom fails to find something original to say. I recommend these dialogues to all those interested in expanding their minds to the wide range of possibilities of our mutual future existence.
This book is a cleaned up dialog of these podcast episodes. No additional thought is given. This book is great to reference these episodes and topics. Do not waste you're money if the podcast is enough of a spark.
I personally found the dialog format slightly annoying. Overall the book was disappointing with no additional input from Sam.
Viewing the information from the perspective of the first philosophic level, this book is appalling. These conversations are a perfect example of why nobody takes philosophy seriously, which is beyond tragic considering philosophy is what is needed to fix today's society. Philosophy deals with ideas and it's ideas that shape cultures and individual lives. A proper philosophy should answer the most fundamental questions such as where am I? How do I know? And, critically, what should I do (ethics)? Instead, this book is filled with scenarios that result in quotes like this from Nick Bostrom: "You might conclude, for example, that reducing existential risk by one thousandth of one percentage point would be worth more than eliminating world hunger or curing cancer." These topics are completely alien to any normal person looking for answers regarding what they should do with their life, and this book is chock full of them. It makes sense that most people think of philosophy as some abstract field that goes nowhere.
These discussions also give off an elitist philosopher-king attitude with condescension towards normal "stupid" people who believe things like the glass of water in front of them is a glass of water, instead of pondering if it's a simulation or a simulation of a simulation. Almost all of the individuals are explicit leftists and one discussion talks at length about the importance and necessity of having a "turnkey totalitarianism".
As for the other, sci-fi level, these discussions can be entertaining and thought-provoking. I was presented with several new thought experiments, and the dialogue format is an effective way of conveying the different trains of thought. There are numerous discussions regarding artificial intelligence and other futuristic scenarios.
Overall can only recommend if you are well aware that this should be taken as an entertaining, sci-fi type discussion. If you think these are the best minds society currently has to offer and therefore have all the solutions, I would stay far away from this. if you are interested in a philosophy that pertains to human beings on planet Earth, there is only one place to go, and that is anything by Ayn Rand. If you truly care about your life read as much as you can, including Rand's works, and think for yourself which ideas make the most sense and why.
If there is a unifying theme to everything Sam Harris does it’s an effort to help people make better decisions and avoid falling prey to bad ideas.
If you want to better understand how bad ideas flourish (especially in the modern world), and escape their insidious allure, read this book. It’s a mind-shifting game-changer.