Ten Billion People, 208 Pages

Ten Billion People, 208 Pages

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Posted by Rob Knies

Ten Billion book cover

In 2012, Stephen Emmott, head of the Computational Science Laboratory based at Microsoft Research Cambridge, took the stage in London for a one-man show called Ten Billion that underscored the challenges the world faces in a century when the global population is expected to surpass that figure.

It was a riveting experience—for those who got a chance to experience it.

On July 11, that circle will begin to expand dramatically. Penguin Random House, the newly conjoined combination of publishing powerhouses, will release Ten Billion, a trade paperback that will bring his cautionary message to a much broader audience.

That increased reach might make for even more people being shocked by the ominous, unforgiving narrative Emmott presents, but, he insists, that’s not the point.

“It isn’t meant to shock,” Emmott says. “It is meant to help inform and, hopefully, generate debate.”

“The aim of the book,” Emmott says, “is to get us to think about the situation we are in, in a way that, typically, we are not thinking about it now. My hope is this will be a wake-up call.”

Emmott’s Computational Science Laboratory is an interdisciplinary group focused on making fundamental advances in our understanding of complex systems, from biological computation to global ecosystems, by pioneering new conceptual and computational ideas, methods, and tools.

Therefore, it is fitting that a launch event for the Ten Billion book will be held July 18 at London's Science Museum.

Rest assured that no punches are being pulled in the book. Emmott was asked if there were any step that could be taken—by industry, by government, by individuals—to move things in the right direction. He, though, was having none of it.

“Part of the problem,” he stated, “is that we typically look to or hope for some kind of ‘magic bullet’ to solve our problems, from individual well-being to the planetary-scale problem I try to outline in Ten Billion. I don’t think there is any ‘one step’ solution to the problems we face.”

Now, we all have an opportunity to access this provocative thesis. Pull up a chair—but first, you might consider pouring yourself a stiff drink.

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  • For those interested, Mr. Emmmott will be presenting his lecture/performance at the 92nd Street Y (New York) on Tuesday, September 10, 2013.

    For details and tickets: www.92y.org/.../Stephen-Emmott.aspx

  • Sounds interesting, I'll look more on the subject.