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

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

Bill McKibben. Holt, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250178-26-8

Three decades after bringing news of climate change to a broad audience with the book The End of Nature, environmental scholar McKibben once again examines the impact of global warming in unsettling look at the prospects for human survival. He notes at the outset that, as a writer, he owes his readers honesty, not hope, of which there’s little to be found. McKibben does find cause for optimism in two human “technologies” or innovations—nonviolent protests and solar panels—“that could prove decisive if fully employed.” But he suspects that humanity won’t do so. He also examines how Ayn Rand’s outsize influence prevented American government from effectively responding to global warming and how Exxon concealed its own researchers’ findings about the threat. His analysis factors in two other developments, in addition to global warming, as causes for worry. Unregulated artificial intelligence could lead to self-improving AI which would “soon outstrip our ability to control it,” and which might eventually deem human life unnecessary. Meanwhile, advances in bioengineering have brought new plausibility to seemingly fantastic concepts such as designer children and even immortality; McKibben makes clear that such “progress” would radically change what it means to be human. Readers open to inconvenient and sobering truths will find much to digest in McKibben’s eloquently unsparing treatise. (Apr.)