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Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World Hardcover – August 1, 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Mulhall sees the future, he pictures every home having a virtually cost-free desktop fabricator, not unlike an ink jet printer, that is able to create any three-dimensional object desired; he envisions being able to change the color of a car, or clothes, simply by speaking. Mulhall, who heads an environmental software consultancy, believes that nanotechnology, the ability to rearrange individual atoms, will lead to technological advances that will change every aspect of our world, including our own species. Mulhall' s exuberance, however, does not fully compensate for his repetitiveness and lack of specificity when he postulates that nanotechnology will lead to such leaps forward in computing power that we will soon create robots capable of independent thought, emotional response and reproduction. We will, he argues, soon be faced with a new species, Robo sapiens, and be forced to deal with the issue of "robot rights." Mulhall urges readers to foster this technology because he believes that it is the only way humans will be able to combat what he claims are the most pressing threats facing our species: massive earthquakes, immense tsunamis capable of inundating the entire east coast of North America and asteroid collisions of the sort that wiped out the dinosaurs. In the end, Mulhall's musings seem more science fiction than science; they are entertaining, but not particularly thought provoking.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Consultant Mulhall takes readers on a speculative tour of how nanotechnology will impact our world over the next decades. Along with describing what MIT types are currently cooking up (electronic paper), Mulhall injects pertinent questions about his topics, for example, whether business is adroit enough to adapt to the new technology; how nanotechnology might improve the environment; and if robotic "transhumans" should have rights. Mulhall contends that humanity is on the cusp of an unpredictably disruptive and decentralizing revolution and spins decidedly weird and disconcerting scenarios of a future of self-replicating nanobots, robo-slaves, and robo-pets. He also speculates on how nanotechnology might defend the planet against disasters such as cataclysmic earthquakes, tsunamis, or asteroids. Mulhall's eclectic tract bursts with amazement at developments in the field, but its very variety and digressiveness make technosavvy enthusiasts its likely audience. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 390 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; Second Edition edition (July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573929921
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573929929
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,785,138 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For optimists and those who find life in the 21st century a complete source of exhiliration, and for those who are indulging themselves in the dizzying pace of technological advancement, this book is sheer delight. Speculative in some points, and gaurded in others, the author has written a book that takes the reader through a future that is not far distant, and a future that is now. Genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, nanoscale computing, and robotics are here, right now, and advances in these areas show every sign of being explosive.
The author asks us to imagine a conversation between a farmer in the year 1899 and a person who rolls up in an early automobile. The driver tells the farmer what is ahead in the next decades, such as playing golf on the moon, his children being able to drive themselves faster than a locomotive, his cows milked using machines, etc. The author then replays the same conversation but with a farmer of the year 2001, he automobile is replaced by a flying car: golf will be played on Mars, and egg hatcheries will be designed by computers that do a better job then humans, agriculture will be replaced by food synthesizers, etc. With these hypothetical conversations, the author asks us to take stock in our skepticism that the future he outlines in the book it too far-fetched.

He is certainly correct in his reasoning. There are too many instances of "famous last words" when it comes to the future of a particular technological development. If one takes cognizance of the many developments that are now occuring simultaneously, it would be hard to tell exactly which ones are going to prevail.
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Format: Hardcover
If I had to sum up the main theme of this work, I would say it's about preservation of the human species. A large portion of this work is devoted to how humans (or our progeny) can avoid extinction by natural and man-made disaster. All other discussions seem to lead to this point in one form or another. The author believes that the underlying technologies in the title can and perhaps will provide for our salvation if we play our cards right.
The author has done his research and has a large source of information to draw from. This book gives the reader a good overview of real scientific advancements as well as other insights from prominent leaders and theorists in these fields. There are ample notes and anecdotes to give the reader the option to pursue more detailed information on the topics.
A few parts of the book drag due to some repetitiveness and some of the discussions don't appear to have a firm scientific base and don't seem too plausible, especially if you have decent scientific knowledge in the particular subject. If you are a scientist or engineer with some expertise in the fields you may find that some theories lack a firm foundation. However one theme that comes with the author's optimism is that throughout history, even the most prominent experts have been proven wrong through natural progressions and even breakthroughs!
This work is not incredibly deep or profound though quite entertaining and at times it appears to feel more like a novel than a documentary of the future. It is suitable for readers of all walks of life.
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Format: Hardcover
Doug Mulhall is a bold, fluent & brillant writer that is able to communicate with both lay persons and scientists alike....a must read! His description of nanotechnological developments lead us by the hand into the future gently, then exposes the potential harsh realities and wonders that will be available to us. With his command of writing, he explains difficult concepts by making them real. I particularly appreciated him writing about an exciting startup, NanobacLabs Pharmaceuticals that has developed nanobiotics to fight nanobacterial infections. The read led me to a physician that wrote a prescription for NanobacTX that appears to be eradicating my heart disease! I not only enjoyed the book, but he may have ultimately saved my life.....sign me, GRATEFUL.
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Format: Hardcover
Fascinating glimpse into the future.
Rarely does one find a book with as many insights into the future as Our Molecular Future. Page after page there are concepts which are entirely foreign to you before reading them, and then seem so self-evident after you have understood them. Clearly, not everything that is depicted in the book is going to come to pass in our lifetimes. However, this was the best book I have read for years. Not since Godel, Escher, Bach have I thought so much while reading!
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Format: Hardcover
You can see this book was written by a journalist rather than a scientist.

Yes, it contains a big deal of information, but this is casually scattered all over the text with little resemblance of order. The feeling you get is that the author searched the internet for a few weeks looking for anything he could find about future technologies and than casually slapped the lot on paper interspersing it with his own rants. I'm not saying this is what he actually did, but surely it is what it feels like.

A lot of futuristic gizmos are described but how are they really supposed to work, how likely is that they are ever really realized and when, if ever, they will be available hardly is.
So the author describes how in the future nanobots will swim in our blood vessels cleaning it from all sort of impurities. That's all good and well but how will, in practice, this bots work? How will they be built? Where will they get the energy to function from? What kind of intelligence will they have to perform their task? What are the collateral risks of such technology? When can we expect them to be available? Which scientists and researchers think building such devices is possible and which think it is not, and especially why? This kind of information is hardly present and when it is appears shallow in content and scattered seemingly at random all over the book.

If I wanted fancy scenarios rather than hard facts I would have bought a science fiction novel. As a matter of fact a lot of the gizmos the author mentions I personally already encountered in science fiction, only better explained.

Fact is, if I just wanted scattered information I would have searched the internet myself at a much cheaper cost than the book's. Nowadays most of what you need to know is online, if you buy a book you are looking for a tidy summary and/or a deeper analysis. Did this part of the present technological revolution escape such a futurist author?
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