on August 2, 2008
What an awesome awesome book! I haven't enjoyed a new book that can plausibly be construed as sci-fi for a while. The book is basically a collection of essays by a number of experts in their respective fields. The subjects range from the significance of prime numbers vs. humor, extending human life span, and very very very far off future. The overall claim is that we will basically become aliens with god like abilities (that is unless we do ourselves in first). There are a number of references at the end of the book that are worth looking up.
on August 24, 2008
This is a book from several leading scientists/mathematicians/speculators, that for an inquiring mind of what the future holds, will keep you reading deep into the night. It is a very optimistically rounded off point of view of what the world may/ or may not be in a million years from now. No where will you find nuclear extinction or, cataclysmic astroid deaths. This is a book of mere speculation of the human race surviving to the year million; but a very creative read. Their are 13 contributing authors, and each essay has a different take on what the future holds. I found the first half of the book to be a completely awesome read. And I skipped a couple chapters in the middle, but the end was pretty good; talking about how the universe's infinite expansion could be met by human kind's or intelligent life's willingness to survive past the death of our sun, and the forever cold universe: stretching out and slowing down its life functions. Many times throughout the book, there are few hard facts on how some things can be done, and much of it is left up to a science fiction take on things. But, then again we are talking about life 1 million years from now. This is a very intriguing read for anyone curious about what life could hold 999,900 years after our generation's bones are all buried and dried up.
on August 3, 2008
This book stretches anyone's mind. No matter how much science fiction one has read, or futurist literature --there are new ideas contained within the pages of Year Million. Not all the writers are equal, some are better than others--but a few shine brilliantly. You can read and disagree, formulate your own ideas--or nod your head with the 'hmmm' moments when you agree. It is a fun book, I highly enjoyed it.
A million years ago, homo sapiens didn't exist. A mere ten thousand years ago we hadn't even started our first cities.
Yet today, we cover the globe and have even ventured into space.
What will the next million years bring? As the fourteen essayists of this book readily admit, they don't know. But they have made some interesting educated guesses.
The first of those guesses is the answer to the obvious question: Will humans even be around in Year One Million?
In answering in the affirmative, the essayists have focused on the so called Copernican Hypothesis. Noted for first publishing in the west that the Earth revovles around the sun (the information was less controversial and more readily understood in the Moslem world) since ancient Greece, Copernicus essentially made the point that of two propositions that one that implies a more mundane state is probably the better theory.
In other words, if as he did, Copernicus was to compare two systems...one of which said that all creation revolved around the Earth and the other which posited a more humble status for our planet...then logic dictated the more mundane of the two assumptions to be true.
Applied to the existence of man, the Copernican hypothesis says that if we're around to observe the existence of man then there's nothing special about our status. That means that we are either witnesses to the very early history of man...say in the first five percent of its existence or alternatively we're witnesses to the last five percent of its existence. Running the numbers five percent translates into a division or multiplication by 39 giving mankind an upper limit of another eleven million years to exist...well beyond the Year Million contemplated in this book.
Proceeding from the question of existence to the questions of what that existence will involve comprises the rest of this volume.
According to some of the writers we will become pure thought and develop the capacity to control not only our sun but our galaxy and maybe our universe as well.
Frankly who knows whether we'll be around or what our lives will be like. A million years IS a very long time indeed.
But it is interesting to wonder and frankly the assumption by all these authors that we'll survive our problems with pollution and violence is heartening.
on February 9, 2009
Year Million is a collection of essays, ostensibly describing what life will be like a million years from now. It's an excellent source ideas for the writer looking for stimulus. For the reader interested in the future, there are a lot of thought experiments that involve the reader in the process of extrapolation. Ultimately, though, the book falls victim to its incredibly long view of the future: given enough years, anything that is not forbidden will happen. And that's what we get when the contributors (mostly Analog authors and PhDs) start extrapolating too far into the future.
I was hooked when I found fascinating ideas that are broadly applicable in the first two essays. And for the most part, the essays maintained my interest and kept me reading through to the end. But at some point, it simply becomes a travelogue of all the wonders that may be, rather than extrapolation of how we get from here to there, and what will happen as we go.
Right off the bat, Jim Holt (in "The Laughter of Copernicus") grabbed me with his simple version of the Copernican Principle, which I found myself applying everywhere I could. His explanation, that "you're not special," says the odds are that nothing we see has just started or is about to end (the odds of not seeing the first 2.5% or the last 2.5% are, by definition, 39-to-1). And the book is even littered with throaway lines that will keep you thinking (for instance, Catherine Asaro's "The progress of the human race could be described as the history of how we didn't know what we didn't know"). Wil McCarthy scoffs at Star Trek's transporters, but offers an alternative possibility: sending ourselves all over the galaxy via fax. Robert Bradbury moves on to redesigning the solar system more to our liking (or to a form we can more easily make use of). Rudy Rucker's "The Great Awakening" talks of technological telepathy, which may be simply a by-product of ubiquitous nanotechnology, and he makes it sound good.
Broderick has divided the fourteen essays into four sections ("The Expanding Human Universe", "Deep Space in Deep Time", "The Mind/Body in Year Million", and "Into the Very Deepest Future"), but I see it as simply moving from more concrete extrapolations ("How will the human body evolve?" "How will we live among the stars?") to more abstract blue-skying ("Is the universe open or closed?" and "What form will intelligence take in a run-down universe?").
Most of the contributors to this collection should be well known to Analog readers. They include: Jim Holt, Dougal Dixon, Steven B. Harris, Lisa Kaltenegger, Catherine Asaro, Wil McCarthy, Robert Bradbury, Robin Hanson, Pamela Sargent & Anne Corwin, Amara D. Angelica, Rudy Rucker, Sean M. Carroll, Gregory Benford, and George Zebrowski.
on June 30, 2009
This book was quite interesting...and it will likely stretch any reader's mind. As one reviewer noted earlier, "human" life will, essentially, be unrecognizable in Year Million relative to today's humans (assuming, of course, humans survive that long). I think the word used by the reviewer was that humans will be like we might imagine "aliens" to be like (only much, much stranger).
One striking characteristic of this book is that the various authors' speculations about Year Million seem so plausible.
The disturbing aspect of this book is that Year Million human life will be, well, unrecognizable! Pretty much every human activity done today will likely not be done by Year Million humans (or humans' progeny). None of the many and various things humans do for entertainment today will likely be done by Year Million humans (at least not in the same recognizable form). Camping, music, sports, boating, horseback riding, photography, reading, computer games, sewing...pretty much everything a person can imagine for a pastime today will likely be no longer done in Year Million.
To future humans, the world will seem "normal," I'm sure. But a modern-day human would likely find the Year Million frightening, foreign, and incomprehensible. All of the things we find fun or entertaining and all of the things we find interesting or important (religion, for example) will likely no longer exist.
So, while the book is disturbing (or at least I found it so), it is also intriguing and fascinating.
I recommend it.
on July 23, 2009
The difficulty about this sort of essay collection is to get people with the necessary expertise to contribute, and to take the necessary time and trouble over their work. Looking at the CV 's, one has to some extent to take this on trust. But Broderick appears to be a responsible person and I am inclined to think he has carefully excluded phonies. With that minor reservation, I am impressed. Some folk with no or little knowledge of, for example, human evolution will if they read this (unlikely) be shaken by it. It is a short course in where we may be heading by reason of our collective scientific expertise. Those who have no notion of this topic may find much of it it hard to believe. But most of those inclined to get Broderick's book will find useful instruction in it.
on November 9, 2008
Utterly mind-blowing look into what the human race might become. Read this book, then meditate on it, and you will find yourself wrestling with questions like "How is a sufficiently advanced civilization different from God?" and "If we can all connect to each other using some future version of the internet to the point where we can experience each other's thoughts and feelings instantaneously and expand our intellect to the point of processing all of those experiences and understandings simultaneously, what need is there for a self?" The first chapter is a bit math heavy, but don't let that discourage you - follow it as best you can, because the reward of reading this book is as incalculable as some of the stuff our descendants will be doing.
on September 26, 2008
This book is simply the best existing summary of current, cutting-edge hypotheses, projections and estrapolations concerning our distant future, having regard both to posthuman changes and to a more cosmological scale.
The subject is attacked from very different angles by a diverse set of contributors who mix vision, technicalities, and - why not? - a poetic sense of what our presence and possible long-term survival in this universe may imply.
A fascinating scenario indeed, and a transhumanist challenge to old biases...
on April 26, 2015
Amazing and thoughtful. We should all be thinking about the future further afield.