Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: The Next Fifty Years: Science in the First Half of the Twenty-first Century
Safety Month botysf16 Amazon Fashion Learn more Discover it $5 Albums The best from Bose just got wireless Fire TV Stick Sun Care Patriotic Picks STEM Amazon Cash Back Offer AnnedroidsS3 AnnedroidsS3 AnnedroidsS3  Amazon Echo  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Amazon Echo Starting at $49.99 All-New Kindle Oasis Best Camping & Hiking Gear in Outdoors STEM

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars23
Format: Paperback|Change
Price:$15.06+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on October 27, 2002
A wonderful example across the sciences as to why people working in a field have excellent visibility over the next 5 years, and very poor visibility (or at least very unoriginal) when asked to speculate over longer time periods. For those of you familiar with the research of these people, their vision of the future looks extraordinary like the work they do, only extrapolated in ways that are obvious to those in the field. What I expected was the "creative destruction" by people of their own agendas. All the computer scientists (Brooks, Holland, Gelernter and Schank) disappointed in this regard. Richard Dawkins was the only intriguing one.
Just to calibrate the thought again. If you want to learn the views of some pretty good scientists on the larger backdrop of their research, this is a good book to read. However, other than the fact that they are working on what they are working on, there is no convincing argument as to why the world will turn out the way they envision. Not to mention, good scientists tend to be spectacularly wrong on long term visions (remember Lord Kelvin's claim about the end of chemistry a century ago).
I still look forward enthusiastically to a book with this same title, but a different cast of contributors.
11 comment|43 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 5, 2002
As Yogi Berra said, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." However, if anyone can make meaningful predictions, it's the twenty-five leading scientists and authors whose essays grace The Next Fifty Years.
It's an exciting book. Almost every piece is enlightening, stimulating, and remarkably well written. I read a lot of books and articles about science, but still came across dozens of new ideas, convincing arguments and sparkling insights. Here are a few items that got me thinking:
Physicist Lee Smolin points out that subtle changes in light waves as they cross space may provide the first test of quantum theories of gravity--we won't need to build accelerators the size of the solar system to gain this information.
Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller speculates that gene activation chips will soon allow researchers to map the changes in our brains caused by "every state of mind lasting more than a few hours." The result will be a far richer understanding of human consciousness.
Mathematician Steven Strogatz expects that new methods for creating complex, evolving systems on computers will mean that we humans will "end up as bystanders, unable to follow along with the machines we've built, flabbergasted by their startling conclusions."
Richard Dawkins predicts that by 2050 it will cost just a few hundred dollars to sequence one's own personal genome, computers will be able to simulate an organism's entire development from its genetic code, and scientists may even be able to reconstruct extinct animals a la Jurassic Park.
Computer scientist Rodney Brooks thinks wars may be fought over genetic engineering and artificial enhancements that have the potential to turn humans into "manipulable artifacts."
AI researcher Roger Schank foresees the end of schools, classrooms and teachers, to be replaced by an endless supply of virtual experiences and interactions.
In many cases, the bold ideas of one writer are challenged or balanced by another, making the book a kind of high-level dialogue. Cosmologist Martin Rees, for example, takes on Smolin's idea of evolving universes, and neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky is much less optimistic about our ability to conquer depression than is psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
It's not all perfection, however. A few of the essays seemed relatively uninspired. These included psychologist Paul Bloom's pessimistic view of our ability ever to understand consciousness or the nature of thought--"We might be like dogs trying to understand calculus." And I found computer scientist David Gelernter's essay on the grand "information beam" that will transform everyone's lives an unconvincing one-note techno-fix. Also the book really needs an index--that simple addition would have made it much more useful.
However, it's a book that tackles big questions about our future in as thoughtful, insightful and well informed a manner as I've ever encountered. It's worth reading and re-reading.
Robert Adler, author of Science Firsts: From the Creation of Science to the Science of Creation (Wiley, 2002).
0Comment|52 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon August 6, 2005
Twenty-five scientists expound on what the world will be like in 2050. The quality in my opinion is a little spotty and too many of them preface their story with a disclaimer about the fallacy of making predictions - but well over half of them are absolutely invigorating. Each new chapter is like taste-testing a new flavor of ice cream blindfolded. They all tend to focus on big developments in their own field, as they should. My favorite approach for this assignment was by Judith Rich Harris who gave a lecture in 2050 at the age of 125. She first thanked previous scientists for the contributions they had made to human longevity. Overall, this is a superb read.

Lee Smolin - We will have a more detailed history of the universe which will constrain current theories about INFLATION...we may or may not have observed dark matter and dark energy. String Theory (its only mention in this book) will be ruled in or out by observations within a few years.

Ian Stewart - The concept of "proof" in mathematics will come under scrutiny and will survive. The use of computers in mathematical proofs will be ingrained. We will have a rigorous mathematical theory of emergent phenomenon and the high level dynamics of complex relationships.

Martin Rees - We will know how life began on earth.

Allison Gopnik - The emergence of the disciplines of philosophy of science, AI, statistics and developmental psychology will lead to a full-fledged theory of how we learn.

Paul Bloom - The fact that evolutionary considerations exist as a source of evidence in the study of psychology will no longer be questioned.

Geoffrey Miller - The charge that evolutionary psychology is a set of "just-so stories" will vanish, as we see the genetic footprints of evolution all over our brains.

Milahy Csikszentmihalyi - We will have the ability to control the genetic make-up of the human species.

Robert Sapolsky - Our traditional sources of solace will progressively atrophy...we will become sadder.

Steven Strogatz - Our brains are hardwired by evolution to visualize only three dimensions. We will be rescued from the demon of dimensionality by computers. We may end up as bystanders, unable to follow along with the machines we've built, flabbergasted by their startling conclusions.

Richard Dawkins - A patient will purchase the read-out of his entire genome for $160 (today's money). The doctor will hand out a prescription suited precisely to his/her genome. Detectives finding a blood-stain may be able to issue a computer image of the suspect's face. The "Lucy Genome Project" will create Lucy (Jurassic Park style). The existence of a living, breathing Lucy in our midst will change forever our complacent human-centered view of morals and politics.

Paul Davies - We will go to Mars.

John Holland - We will still know surprisingly little about the relationship between consciousness and neural activity. We will wear a wrist-watch sized multi-function device which assists us with all aspects of living, including social and political decisions. This will create a logarithmic increase in the number of people who routinely explore options in a principled way. We will have robotic trained assistants, but they will be brittle in unexpected situations. We will have engineered solutions to diseases and artificial immune systems. We will have flexible individual or group transport, without confinement to roads, making highway systems obsolete. Surveillance will be so advanced, privacy and freedom will be an issue. We will have bases on the Moon, Mars and circling Jupiter. This writer gets a gold star for creativity and bold predictions.

Rodney Brooks - We will perhaps be able to add a few sheets of neurons to our brains. We can expect radical alterations to the human body through genetic manipulation. What responsibilities does the individual scientist have for whatever forms of life he manipulates - or creates? Questions like these will thrashed out, accompanied by vandalism, terrorism and full-fledged war. Another gold star.

Peter Atkins - We will produce working proteins and a good synthetic approximation of cell membranes, but we will not yet synthesize life. Carbon nanotubes will be used to build suspension bridges. Bacteria, already being milked for pharmaceuticals and other chemicals, will be engineered to excrete whole machines.

Roger Schank - Knowledge will be so easy to obtain that virtual reality systems will replace schools. The creation of virtual experience will be a major industry.

Jaron Lanier - Computers files will be replaced and an alternative to protocol adherence will be found. In a wide variety of explorations, we will be limited by complexity ceilings, which cannot be breached by faster computers.

David Gelernter - The standard shape of information will be a form he calls the "information beam." The affiliated Cybersphere will replace the Internet. We will still be reading books, but most universities will be gone. Technology will be vastly more powerful but we will be less fixated upon it. A school will be a random collection of kids, each tapped into his information beam. We won't need cities any more, except as gigantic museums/theme parks/shopping malls.

Joseph Ledoux - Brain fMRI techniques will be refined enough to identify potential criminals. As we discover more about the balance between the conscious and unconscious mind, lawyers will thrash out the nature and limits of human responsibility. Drugs will treat troubled networks in the brain without affecting others, and recreational re-wiring will be available.

Judith Rich Harris - In 2016, the US government will refuse to fund any more developmental psychology studies that don't include genetic controls. The older generation of developmental psychologists will promptly retire. In 2021, it will be discovered that Neanderthals were furry, that humans and Neanderthals viewed each other as food, and that humans viewed Neanderthals as a source of warm clothing.

Samuel Barondes - Anyone visiting a psychiatrist will bring his personal DNA file. There will be hundreds of medications to choose from, matched to one's genome.

Paul Ewald - Atherosclerosis, diabetes, Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, most cancers and most fertility problems will be known to be caused by infections.

There is much to mull over in the fascinating speculations and predictions in this book. Despite the shortcomings of a multi-authored book, it definitely earns FIVE ENTHUSIASTIC STARS!!!
0Comment|19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 26, 2006
Prophecy has been having a bad press lately. Despite the seeming millions of folks who either chat with a divinity, channel the dead, "solve" crimes, see ghosts or converse with aliens, not one predicted 911, the London bombings or the Indonesian tsunami. It's not just the fringe that strikes out. "Experts" routinely choose wrong whether in politics, sports, finance, entertainment or cultural trends. It's disillusioning, but the record of science is not much better in terms of "things to come". This is not to say that energy is not expended on that task. It is safe to say that the intervention of the computer, TV, car, discovery of DNA, cloning, medical advances, etc renders past predictions useless. That is one reason I liked this book so well. It is divided into 2 parts - the first philosophical, the second practical.

The first part asks basic questions to which we still have no answer - How did life start? What is life? Do aliens exist? What is the nature of gravity and the universe? How will manipulation of genes, nanotechnology and quantum mechanics affect us? These and other questions such as morality, death, artificial intelligence and life extension are also discussed in a series of brilliant essays by a wide range of (for want of a better word) "experts". The last half of the book looks at the practical side - education, politics, entertainment, happiness, love, medicine. the biggest change that a book written fifty years ago and this book is the emphasis upon biology - the manipulation of our bodies, our genes, the emerging synthesis of humans and machine.

Perhaps one of the most startling essays was THE MERGER OF FLESH AND MACHINES by Rodney Brooks who heads the MIT artificial intelligence library. It has migrated from machine to flesh over the last few years and this is the way of the future. So what will it be like in 50 years?

Most everyone agrees that we will live longer and be healthier, that computers will become smaller, faster and smarter, that we will find the cure to many diseases and that things will change even faster. If any one trend dominates, it is the increasing importance of biology for a host of social concerns - designer babies, specialized children, disease-resistant beings, mental and physical augmentation...the choices are almost endless. A few of the writers caution against taking any prediction too seriously since scientists have always overstated their case. From Drake (who said he would receive an alien message before the 21st century) to the doomsayers who promised we'd all die of famine by 1980 to those who declared a cheapt renewable energy source was here. A great summer read for the beach.
0Comment|7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Perhaps we can get a general picture of what science will be like in the next fifty years by noting that of the 25 scientists that John Brockman has cleverly assembled here (and even more cleverly induced to write speculatively about the future), five are biologists, eight are psychologists, three are neuroscientists, but only one is an astronomer/cosmologist (Martin Rees) and only two are physicists. Clearly the emphasis is on biology and the brain. No doubt something will happen in the next fifty years that will make Brockman's eminently reasonable choice of scientists seem improperly skewed; yet it is just this baseline of expectation that will allow us to compare. (By "us" I mean those, not myself, who will be alive fifty years from now!)
The truth is, something always happens that surprises us. To extrapolate from present trends to future actualities is to be assured that we will miss something. That "something" is by its very nature unpredictable. Nuclear energy is an example. No nineteenth century physicist could have predicted the atomic bomb. Go back further in time and no one could have predicted electrical appliances or the telephone. Before photography and electricity, the idea of television was next to impossible.
On the other hand some developments are not only predictable but have been foreseen. These include airplanes and rockets to the moon, submarines and motor cars. These are examples of new technology being predicted from existing technology. Some of what is written about in these 25 essays by imminent scientists is of this order: an extrapolation of current trends and technology to a time fifty years in the future. What will we know and what will we have developed by then? is the question being addressed in this fascinating collection.
In a sense what these essays do is the near equivalent of what science fiction has done for us in the past. Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller puts this idea in a slightly different way with this observation: "A century ago, we had to rely on the novels of Henry James to portray human consciousness in high-resolution detail and rich-spectrum color. In the future, we won't be able to rely on mass culture to do that--Viacom and Disney don't see the profit in it. But we may be able to turn to science to fill the void." (p. 87)
What makes this collection so effective and such an informed pleasure to read is the discipline specificity made possible because the ideas are coming from 25 individual directions. Developmental psychologist Paul Bloom, for example, sees the need for "a theory of moral development...informed by work across disciplines, including cognitive psychology and evolutionary theory." (p. 81) But he isn't optimistic. "It may be that the nature of moral thought or consciousness is simply beyond our understanding...We might be like dogs trying to understand calculus." (p. 82)
Dissimilarly John H. Holland believes that "The number one priority on a fifty-year scale is bringing Earth's human population down to a value more in line with renewable resources. Some of our most serious large-scale problems--inadequate food production, forest depletion, global warming, energy shortages--are traceable to a surplus of humans relative to resources." (p. 178) I also like his retrospective observation on pages 176-177, "By the mid-twenty-first century, much of medicine as it was practiced in the latter part of the twentieth century--for example, using surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation to treat cancer--will look as ineffective as the bloodletting of earlier centuries."
A startling view is that of AI expert Rodney Brooks in his very interesting essay, "The Merger of Flesh and Machines." He believes "there will be an alteration in our view of ourselves as a species; we will begin to see ourselves as simply a part of the infrastructure of industry." (p. 191)
In contrast is computer scientist Jaron Lanier's reaction to the idea of "an inevitable singularity, which is expected sometime in the next half century." (An idea I first encountered from L.A. futurist John Smart in association with the ideas of Ray Kurzweil.) "This singularity would occur when computers become so wise and powerful that they not only displace humans as the dominant form of life but also attain mastery over matter and energy so as to live in what might be described as a mythic or godlike way, completely beyond human conception. While it feels odd even to type the previous sentence, it is an accurate description of the beliefs of many of my colleagues." (p. 217)
Brockman provides a short bio for each scientist at the end of each essay along with a mention of some of their works. After reading psychologist Nancy Etcoff's lucid and penetrating essay, "Brain Scans, Wearables, and Brief Encounters," I have been inspired to read her Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty, a book I have twice (inexplicitly) passed over. What really sold me on Dr. Etcoff are the following insightful quotes under the subheading "Freud Moves Out; Darwin Moves In" (pp. 283-286):
"The practice of psychotherapy will be reoriented from a focus on disease to a focus on vulnerabilities, from symptoms to adaptive defenses...."
"The energy, creativity, and charisma associated with mild mania may offer a fitness advantage to some people with the disorder, or to other people in whom the genes do not cause the disorder but have the beneficial effects."
"Certain symptoms will suggest design trade-offs prompted by mismatches between the present environment and the ancestral one, or simply exaggerated normal defenses."
"Mild depression may serve the adaptive function of conserving resources in times of hardship, signaling others that help is needed, and allowing time for reassessment of goals. Mild depression may also be a sign of submission when the individual cannot or does not wish to oppose the hierarchy."
Concluding, let me say that by projecting from the present we may anticipate the future, but we may also more clearly understand the present.
0Comment|11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on September 20, 2015
Another underwhelming entry from Edge and John Brockman (editor). These books are much less stimulating than they should be, and the included thinkers' perspective of reality shows science at its worst: narrow and arrogant, with a mechanistic disregard for life. Nearly everyone in the book has blind faith in science as a panacea to the world's ills. Frequently I felt as if I were reading a middle ages book praising the glory of God; here, the word "God" has been replaced with "Science," but the uncritical praise is the same.

Here are just a few examples of the pervasive scientific hubris and shocking disrespect for life:
* "At the beginning of the twenty-first century, chemists are in complete command of matter" (194)
* "One engaging possibility is that bacteria can be genetically engineered to excrete whole cogwheels, pistons, and springs" (198)
* "Humans are machines" (184-185)
* "We can be confident that all such discoveries will fall within our current canon of understanding" (199)
* "The world half a century from now will look different and work differently. It will be much richer. It will have far snazzier technology. It might even be ever so slightly happier." (241)

While these scientists feel "in complete command," moving toward a "snazzier, slightly happier future," they largely ignore the fact that the world is careening toward social, political, economic, and environmental disaster--and that all of these problems, which these scientists are blind to, are largely rooted in the mechanistic, patriarchal, modern scientific worldview which has sucked Spirit from the world.

It is interesting to consider the book as whole. The patterns that repeat throughout seem most likely to yield the surest and most spectacular advances: genetics, neuroscience, and computer science (the Bio, Info, and Cognitive segments of the familiar NBIC acronym--nano is hardly touched on here).

But in general, Edge scientists need a wake up call: technology cannot be the solution to all our ills. The solution is much bigger than that, and it would be nice if these scientists could at least address the future of science in the context of the world beyond their provincial specialties.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on November 19, 2011
The 25 essays (about 5-10 pages each) contained in this book are all from leading academic experts in their field. Hence they are very authoritative. In addition, and rather surprisingly, the overwhelming majority are well written. They are written geared to the layman, as opposed to the specialist, and hence they make a fairly good read members of that audience.

Despite the fact that the chapters have been leading by leading authorities there are still problems that flow through the book. The most important is that each author examines his or her field in isolation from others. Considering the fact that most revolutionary paradigm shifts have been as a result of "Kuhnian Revolutions" (see Thomas Kuhn's "The Structures of Scientific Revolutions") where radical changes in scientific theories have been brought about or significantly influenced by theories or concepts outside of the field this is not a minor oversight.

A second problem is inherent to forecasting the future, especially in terms of scientific advances. That is that it is inherently difficult to do. Witness the fact that leading minds in the past have not been able to do this in past. For example Turing, one of the leading minds in cybernetics and theoretical mathematics, did not predict the importance of computers to society in even a much smaller time frame (i.e., 20 years instead of 50). Even in the late 1950s and early 1960s he did not predict their rise in importance. During the late 1990s many of the leading minds at Cal Tech, for example, were not able to, on a consensual basis, even pick technologies that would be the most cutting edge within only 5 or 10 years is also revealing. Even one of the authors in one of the chapters in the book admits that many of the concepts and much of the language in theoretical physics in existence in the 1930s and 1940s did not even exist even in the period right up to the first world war.

In short, the book contains many well written essays with interesting perspectives primarily due to the authoritative nature of their authors but, considering the task of predicting so far in the future in fields in such perpetual and rapid flux (one that is inherently difficult), the essays can only be considered educated guesses that will, in all probability, be incorrect.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 13, 2003
John Brockman has brought together a group of thinkers to create an online think tank called the EDGE. In an attempt to overcome the great divide between literary intellectuals and scientists that C.P. Snow defined as the "Two Cultures", Brockman created the EDGE to be "The Third Culture".
The Next Fifty Years, is a collection of essays from some of the thinkers from the EDGE. They explore the next fifty years on different topics ranging from Csikszentmihalyi's engineered IQ and Dawkin's thoughts on the genome to colonization on Mars and the importance of Mathematics in the year 2050.
The essays were stimulating and I found this book to be well worth the effort to read. Any book that triggers new thoughts and ideas is one that I will treasure. As many of the scientists point out, trying to predict the future is a futile endeavor, but for me it gives a great insight into the present to see what these minds are pondering today. The ideas that might shape the next fifty years, might not turn out to be accurate, but the ideas and research that are happening today will effect us one way or another in the next 10 years. As humans we over estimate what can be achieved in year, but under estimate what can be achieved in a decade, and in general completely miss the mark when trying to estimate anything that exceeds those time lines. But I think Brockman chose fifty years, to give the thinkers some creative freedom.
If you are interested in science, and you are interested in what some of our best brains are mulling over at present, then you will enjoy this diverse collection of essays on the future.
0Comment|14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
The making of predictions is necessary and important, for it can instill both optimism and caution. There is only a modest collection of predictions in this book, but they do give a fairly good representation of the different scientific fields and what to expect in these fields by the end of the fifth decade of the 21st century. Here is a brief summary and commentary of a few of them:
- "The Future of the Nature of the Universe" (Lee Smolin). The author predicts that quantum computing will become a reality in 50 years, as long as quantum mechanics remains true when extrapolated to macroscopic systems. COMMENT: Due to studies in decoherence and more honest interpretations of experiments testing the phenomenon of entanglement, quantum theory will instead be viewed in more "classical" terms in its formalism and foundations. Research into quantum computation, as understood presently, will fade from the scene.

- "Cosmological Challenges: Are We Alone, and Where?" (Martin Rees). The author is optimisitic about the SETI project and other attempts to detect the presence of life external to the Earth. COMMENT: Due to advances in solid state device physics, life on other planets will be detected via the by-products they put into their atmospheres. The information theory behind the SETI searches will become more refined also, increasing the probability of understanding a real message from another civilization.
- "Son of Moore's Law" (Richard Dawkins). The author predicts an exponential increase in DNA sequencing power, which he labels as the "Son of Moore's Law." The author also expresses a fear that there will still be theologians in 2050, this being done in the context of ethical debates on the genetic sequencing of "Lucy" and the possibility of the reintroduction of dinosaurs. COMMENT: The sequencing projects and the number of sequenced organisms will increase hyperexponentially. In addition, tens of thousands of new "transgenic" organisms will appear, all of them optimized to carry out certain biological functions. The field of horticulture will explode, with thousands of new species of ornamental plants appearing before 2050. The university will meet its demise by 2050, but theologians will not disappear. On the contrary, and perhaps unfortunately, the major religions will be with us for many centuries to come, and they will accompany humankind on their voyages to other worlds, for better or worse.

-"The Mathematics of 2050" (Ian Stewart). The author predicts major revolutions in mathematics, due partially to the increasing influence of the computer, bioinformatics, and financial engineering. He also predicts that the current split between "pure" and "applied" mathematics will end, with the result being just "mathematics". He mentions also the "Milennium Problems", one being the Riemann hypothesis, which he predicts will be solved by 2050, its solution being hinted at by considerations in physics. The P/NP problem will be proved undecidable, the Hodge conjecture will be disproved, the Birch/Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture will be proved, the Navier-Stokes equations will turn out not to have solutions in certain circumstances, the Yang-Mills mass gap problem will be settled but will be deemed irrelevant by physicists, and the Poincare conjecture will be "wide-open". Interestingly, the author is one of the few who have mentioned the role of "quantization of mathematics" via quantum algebra, quantum topology, and quantum number theory. COMMENT: The Poincare conjecture will be resolved by 2010 with its resolution being in the context of the "quantization of mathematics" mentioned by the author. In fact, the quantization of mathematics will be the driving force behind whole new areas of mathematics. Pure mathematics will continue to be viewed as disjoint from applied mathematics. In fact, there will be an intense effort, as evident from the last two meetings of the International Congress of Mathematicians, to keep pure and applied mathematics as separate disciplines. Mathematical finance will continue to explode and there will be intense competition between financial firms to develop highly sophisticated algorithms for financial prediction and portfolio manangement. Financial mathematics will also have more overlap with physics and meteorology, as energy and weather derivatives take on even more importance. The next fifty years will see the rise of financial firms, and others, managed, staffed, and run completely by intelligent machines. In addition, due to hardware advances and the development of highly sophisticated algorithms in mathematical biology and bioinformatics, the entire biosphere will be sequenced by 2050. Complete mathematical models of the entire human body will be developed by mathematicians working in the biotechnology industry, and drug discovery will be viewed as essentially mathematical, with the actual physical chemistry and manufacture being essentially automatic. In this same light, combinatorial chemistry will become a branch of mathematics in its own right, attracting the attention of hundreds of mathematicians. Advances in artificial intelligence will bring about, with indications by the year 2040, of intelligent machines able to construct original concepts and theories in pure mathematics. Skepticism as to the possibility of thinking machines will be alleviated because of these developments. "Artificial" mathematicians will begin to become competitive with "natural" ones by the year 2050. Further, cryptography will continue to explode as a field of mathematics, due to the increasing need for online security and individual privacy. Increased computer power will fuel this need, and the competition between encryption and de-encryption algorithms will become very intense. lastly, by 2050 it will be accurate to say that mathematics will enter into every phase of human and machine activity. There will be no process, no business transaction, no entertainment function, no leisurely activity, that will not depend predominantly on mathematical structures or algorithms.
0Comment|39 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
HALL OF FAMEon April 9, 2005
There are twenty- five essays in this work written by first - rate scientists. The editor John Brockman in his introduction describes the work as divided into two parts, the first devoted to theory and the second on the future ' in practice'. In the first the topics include ' advances in cosmology , the use in mathematics of virtual unreality systems, new directions in complexity theory, speculations on what it means to be ' alive' on how we learn,on how we think on the nature of consciousness and how we feel, on whether or not we are along as a unique form of intelligence in the universe.'

In the second part the topics are the 'the future of DNA sequencing and what it will teach us about ourselves, the exploration of Mars and the search for extraterrestial life, our command over matter, our intimate interaction with our machines and particularly our computers, the future outlines of cyperspace, neuroscience, and the way we raise our children, and the prospects for our continuing physical and mental well- being.'

This volume is a very rich one. Three essays I found particulary interesting were that of Robert M. Sapolsky ,'Will we still be Sad Fifty Years from now?' Mihaly Csikszentimihalyi on 'The Future of Happiness' and 'Nancy Etcoff on 'Brain Scans, Wearables and Brief Encounters'

These essays it seems to me taken together suggest that fifty years down the line we will not be living in Utopia but will still have to contend with disease and depression.

Again my brief words do not give an adequate sense of this rich and highly recommended volume.
0Comment|2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse