Deep history and the robot future


I reviewed four new science books for The New York Times. They span millions of years, beginning with the birth of humanity and ending with a serious look at AI. 

If you don't build it...


A case study in sport has a lot in common with case studies in medicine or scientific discovery. It follows a standard arc even as it tells an individual tale. All the classic tensions are there: the individual versus the world, the expertise of the old versus the ambition of the young, the beauty of hard-won skills, and the poignant value of leaving home. Plus, there's throwing and hitting things. I wrote about the sought-after Australian rookie Lewis Thorpe for the Good Weekend. 

Civilization and its discontents

If you took a planet and a handful of genes, you could pose some great questions about human nature and then run experiments to answer them. Instead of asking how much altruism, cooperation, creativity, or any other human trait is hard-wired, you could adjust the wiring yourself. First, you would work out how tightly behaviors and abilities could be programmed into the genome. Then you would create many societies with starkly different predispositions and compare their progress. In one country... Slate.