By @SimonCocking, review of Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance, by Ian Goldin  andChris Kutarna. Available from Amazon here.

Now is humanity’s best moment. And our most fragile. Global health, wealth and education are booming. Scientific discovery is flourishing. But the same forces that make big gains possible for some of us deliver big losses to others-and tangle us together in ways that make everyone vulnerable.

We’ve been here before. The first Renaissance, the time of Columbus, Copernicus, Gutenberg and others, redrew all maps of the world, liberated information and shifted Western civilization from the medieval to the early modern era. Such change came at a price: social division, political extremism, economic shocks, pandemics and other unintended consequences of human endeavour.

Now is our second Renaissance. In the face of terrorism, Brexit, refugee crises and the global impact of a Trump presidency, we can flourish-if we heed the urgent lessons of history. Age of Discovery, revised and updated for this paperback edition, shows us how.

From the Medicis to Brexit and Donald Trump and how it’s all a logical part of the cycle of human life, perhaps? As we spend so much time here in the now, this is a fun book to read in that it asks you to take a 500 year perspective on things, our lives, and the world around us. It’s an appealing approach, because in many ways things are perhaps not as new and different as we might like to think that they are. Back in the dark old days of the Brexit vote and the US election it did seem like we were witnessing a protest vote. Something along the lines of ‘these guys don’t make a lot of sense, but I’ve had it with the establishment anyway, so why not go for something else, it can be no worse than what we have …’ This book attempts to make some sense of what might be happening around us at the moment. They do identify some good comparisons between now and the first renaissance. Linking common themes of change, disruption, dislocation, and the subsequent cultural flowering that it brought too.

It was an enjoyable book to read, definitely thought provoking and stimulating, though at times you did wonder if they were over labouring the point in terms of making connections between then and now. On the other hand, as a metaphorical starting point, it is a good way to help to contextualise many of the changes we are encountering now as AI potentially threatens to replace many people’s jobs. Some will argue that it will enhance humans ability to work, which for some it will, but for others, drivers for example, it will surely simply just replace them. A good book to read, definitely one to get you off screen, and into contemplative mode, one for the hardcopy not the kindle reading experience.


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