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Hachette Books
The Watchman's Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction

The Watchman's Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction

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Why can’t we solve our problems anymore? Why do threats such as the Gulf oil spill, worldwide recession, terrorism, and global warming suddenly seem unstoppable? Are there limits to the kinds of problems humans can solve?


Rebecca Costa confronts- and offers a solution to-these questions in her highly anticipated and game-changing book, The Watchman’s Rattle.


Costa pulls headline for today’s news to demonstrate how accelerating complexity quickly outpaces that rate at which the human brain can develop new capabilities. With compelling evidenced based on research in the rise and fall of Mayan, Khmer, and Roman empires, Costa shows how t ht tendency to find a quick solutions- leads to frightening long term consequence: Society’s ability to solve its most challenging, intractable problems becomes gridlocked, progress slows, and collapse ensues.


A provocative new voice in the tradition of thought leaders Thomas Friedman, Jared Diamond and Malcolm Gladwell, Costa reveals how we can reverse the downward spiral. Part history, part social science, part biology, The Watchman’s Rattle is sure to provoke, engage and incite change.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593156053
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 10/12/2010
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Rebecca D. Costa is an American sociobiologist and futurist. She is a world renowned expert in the field of “fast adaptation.” Costa’s first book, The Watchman’s Rattle A Radical New Theory of Collapse, was an international bestseller. Her follow-on book, titled On the Verge was introduced in 2017 to critical acclaim, shooting to the top of Amazon’s #1 New Business Releases. Costa’s work has been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, SF Chronicle, The Guardian, and other leading publications. Her weekly column, THE FIX, is presently featured on Newsmax. For more information visit

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The Watchman's Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
jope on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had high expectations going into this book, and there is some wisdom to be found in it. But the rampant oversimplifications, factual flaws, matter-of-fact tone, obsequiousness toward celebrities and obsession with insight all grated on me so relentlessly, that its rating is about two stars lower than it could have been in a better author's hands.
Alan-nalA More than 1 year ago
The author carefully and clearly explores the tendency of humans to substitute belief for fact when faced with complexity... be it global warming, terrorism, pandemics, or just good old political spin. The ideas in this book presented clearly and concisely.  The author seeks to clarify complexity and add to the problems it engenders.  This book is a must-read for every thoughtful citizen of the increasing complex modern world.
ReadersFavorite More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Alice D. for Readers Favorite "The Watchman's Rattle" takes its title from the centuries old story of every village's night watchman who would shake his wooden rattle to warn sleeping villagers of approaching trouble. And so, sociobiologist Rebecca Costa, having studied expertly the alarming trends in human evolution, current global markets, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and failing education systems, writes to warn readers of historical patterns that are repeating themselves today, as the Mayans and the Khymers had highly developed civilizations that collapsed because beliefs and memes took over for facts and did not allow for insightful solutions. An ardent disciple of the brilliant E.O. Wilson, Rebecca Costa discusses the beliefs, the memes, that mankind resort to rather than brain power. She feels that with the problems mankind share today, we may be faced with extinction if our leaders continue to look for quick fixes rather than taking time for rational thinking. Will Costa's voice of reason be heard and understood by those in power in a world where global warming, threats of war and people's general inability to solve problems proliferate? "The Watchman's Rattle" is a very well-written, well-edited, researched and documented treatise that everyone should read. The book's plot proceeds smoothly to its ending, and the author explains clearly what a supermeme is and gives the top five examples. Her explanation of why children are not learning to think is terrifying.