Summary of Rethink

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Rethink book summary

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London Guardian columnist Steven Poole provides a roller-coaster ride through the history of philosophy, science and society. He pulls together millennia of ideas and reflects on their modern incarnations. His narrative is lively, enthusiastic and conversational, and the content is dense and deep. Poole leads you down paths less traveled to explore esoteric ideas rejected long ago, but now in vogue. He teases apart wide-ranging concepts before returning to the main road. Scientists, researchers, social and political activists, and programmers will enjoy his complex insights.

About the Author

London-based Guardian columnist Steven Poole has also written for the New StatesmanThe Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal.


Electric cars first appeared in the late 1800s, but they didn’t win public acceptance until the 21st century.

Amid the chaos of London’s streets in the late 1800s, electric taxis swarmed among horse-drawn cabs. The police commissioner pushed for what he called electric “hummingbirds” to reduce gridlock, reduce street noise and avoid the exhaust fumes of their gas-powered counterparts. The most widespread consumer embrace of the electric car in Paris, Berlin and New York occurred before the turn of the 19th century, with more than 30,000 electric cars registered in the United States alone.

Society ridicules or suppresses many new ideas when they first emerge.

Over the next 10 years, however, the many drivers of London’s horse-drawn cabs mounted a vigorous campaign against the electric cars. New efficiencies in finding and processing oil led to plummeting gasoline prices. Henry Ford began selling a far less expensive, more reliable gas-powered alternative to the electric car, thus making extended road trips possible in the United States.

More than 100 years later, ...

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