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Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything Hardcover – October 17, 2017
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“Kelly and Zach Weinersmith's SOONISH is an exceptional science book: it concerns itself with ten(ish) coming technologies that hold enormous, potentially world-changing promise (and peril), and it delves into each of those subjects with admirable depth, including all the caveats and unknowns, and still keeps the excitement intact.”—Cory Doctorow, Boing-Boing
“A great book. [SOONISH] is wonderful to read.”—Ira Flatow, Science Friday
“Soonish addresses heady scientific concepts in an accessible, readable way. . . . Part of the benefit of the book is that it doesn't promise we'll all be sipping printed cocktails on the moon in 2067. The Weinersmiths just lay out, clearly and with a wry sense of humor, exactly what it might take to get us there.”—Tasha Robinson, NPR.org
“[A] wild glimpse into a future that may or may not involve space elevators and brain-computer interfaces and programmable matter. . . . [Kelly and Zach Weinersmith] sift through mountains of literature and pick the brains of the researchers at the forefront of things like bioprinting (like 3-D printing, only more bio) and augmented reality (like reality, only more augmented), turning a skeptical yet exuberant eye toward the technologies of tomorrow.”—Matt Simon, Wired
“Fans of science, math, or medicine; gamers; and those who love the weird and wonderful will gravitate to [SOONISH].”—School Library Journal
“An entertaining look at future tech wizardry, from space tourism and asteroid mining to nuclear fusion power, matter replication, synthetic biology and direct brain-computer interfaces. . . . The text is very well-researched, with a casual, friendly style (“Tinkering with the language of life. What could go wrong?”), and color cartoons add a wry counterpoint to the narrative of a future that, as always, might be utopia or disaster.”—Steven Poole, Wall Street Journal
“Curiosity is a beautiful thing, and Kelly and Zach Weinersmith have it in spades. Their coauthored SOONISH is an unabashed nerd-out of a book, zinging from outer space to DNA, hardly pausing for breath. . . . The gleeful geeking out makes for a great read—I couldn’t help chuckling or outright cracking up a number of times—while surreptitiously teaching some really important science. It’s a winning combination. The sheer breadth of topics covered is also amazing: Probably no other book in history has seriously described the science behind both tentacle construction robots and the human nasal cycle.” —Colin McCormick, Science
"Space elevators, gold asteroids, and fusion-powered toasters - who knew science could be so much fun? And who knew fun could be so scientific? 'Soonish' is hilarious, provocative, and shamelessly informative." – Tim Harford, author of Messy and The Undercover Economist
"Basically, I think this book is a masterpiece, and something I wish I'd written myself.” – Scott Aaronson, David J. Bruton Centennial Professor of Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Quantum Computing Since Democritus
"Playful, yet deep." – Dr. George Church, Harvard University
"I love this book so much I 3D printed myself a second heart so I could love it more." – Dr. Phil Plait, astronomer, author, writer of the Bad Astronomy Blog
"Kelly and Zach promised me a crystal ball, but what I got is both more insightful and far more entertaining than staring into a dumb glass orb. Soonish will make you laugh and -- without you even realizing it -- give you insight into the most ambitious technological feats of our time. You should read this book, sooner than soonish." - Alexis Ohanian, Cofounder of Reddit
“[An] enthusiastic exploration of ten areas of potentially world-changing innovation. . . . Excellent.”—Library Journal
“Predicting the future of scientific endeavor isn’t easy, but this fun title from this husband-and-wife team gives readers plenty of amazing possibilities to think about. . . . The authors leaven even the most serious topics. . . . The Weinersmiths deliver a fascinating look at the most provocative and promising research going on today and how it could alter the way we work and live.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“The world of emerging technologies is a fascinating place, though for the layperson, the specifics and implications of scientists’ most groundbreaking research can be mind-boggling. . . . Thankfully, husband-and-wife team Kelly and Zach Weinersmith boil down some particularly juicy advances and present them in a compelling, accessible, and wryly funny way. . . . With infectious enthusiasm, the Weinersmiths serve up the perfect combination for curious, critical minds. Popular-science writing has rarely been so whip-smart, captivating, or hilarious (albeit occasionally terrifying).”—Booklist, starred review
“Astute. . . . [Kelly and Zach Weinersmith] deliver excellent descriptions of the science behind each [technological] wonder and the state of current research that may or may not bear fruit.”—Kirkus
About the Author
Zach Weinersmith is the cartoonist behind the popular geek webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. His work has been featured in The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, Forbes, Science Friday, Boingboing, the Freakonomics Blog, the RadioLab blog, Entertainment Weekly, Mother Jones, CNN, Discovery Magazine, and more.
Dr. Kelly Weinersmith is Adjunct Faculty in the BioSciences Department at Rice University, where she studies parasites that manipulate the behavior of their hosts. In addition to being a respected researcher, she cohosts Science...Sort Of, which is one of the top 20 natural science podcasts. Kelly spoke at Smithsonian Magazine's "The Future is Here 2015," and her work has been featured in The Atlantic, Science, and Nature.
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The potential technologies brought up in Soonish were not just computer science based. They cover many areas of science including medical, world enhancements and energy. Many of the topics covered are ones I had no idea we were so close to. Programmable matter would be an incredible game changer in the world, for better and worse.
And that's something else that I really appreciated about this book. Each technology sounds like it would be an incredible boon to mankind. So the authors have made sure to include a "Concerns" section for each of these potential marvels. It is important that these exciting innovations are properly thought through and discussed. As much fun as it was thinking that Asteroid Mining could soon be a reality, what would be the actual economic effects? Being able to 3D print your own replacement heart valve or liver sounds like nothing but good news (and the authors do struggle to find a concern for this one) but how do we make it fair to those who may not be able to afford this marvel?
As much fun as the content is to read, the comics that they include are fun as well. Sometimes they're included to help drive a point home. Other times they're included to show the authors' sense of humor. For example, one comic shows Elon Musk walking on Mars and proclaiming "Finders Keepers" to talk about the legal issues of private companies driving the space program. Another comic shows one of the authors assuring Dr. Elvis they will not draw him as Elvis (though they totally do).
Overall, I'm glad I got this book. If you're looking for a science, non-fiction with a good sense of humor, you'll enjoy this.
The most interesting part of the book comes at the end, when they point out that the people working on these technologies are anonymous academics who just happen to work in fields that could change the world. I suspect, though I don't know, that this revelation surprised them. It surprised me. It's crazy enough that humanity is figuring out how to mine asteroids or 3D print new livers. But it's refreshing and affirming and amazing to realize that the people actually doing this are people who decided "You know what I want to do with my life? Get us to Mars." And they worked hard, got their PhDs, and started trying to get us to Mars.
This idea is so amazing. You know who can change the world? You! Or me! Or my kids! Or your kids! The people changing the world right now are the people who decided to change the world.
Buy this book. Get inspired. Get some laughs. And feel good about your fellow humans.
Each section outlines advancements in an area of science or technology, and then muses about how those advancements might change the world. I teach physics, and I learned a great deal from this book. The biology section really astonished me, as I do not keep up with that area at all. AND there is a comprehensive bibliography if you care to delve deeper into any of the areas of interest.
Topics covered include cheap access to space, asteroid mining, fusion power, programmable matter (woah, yeah this is mind blowing), robotic construction, augmented reality, synthetic biology (I knew absolutely nothing in the section, I read it three times), precision medicine, bioprinting and brain-computer interfaces. Then there is a section of topics that were considered and rejected.
I bought it originally to support SMBC, but have already been back to purchase three more copies for friends and family. If you need a gift for a nerd or science geek, you have found the perfect book.
I didn't notice any major errors in any of the areas I was familiar with and so would give pretty high confidence in all that they said. The one minor error that I noticed was in the fusion section (I happen to work in magnetically confined fusion). They said that to heat plasmas "They electrocute it, microwave it, and fire a beam of neutrons at it". We most assuredly do not fire a beam of neutrons at it, but we fire a beam of neutrals (that is a particle with no net charge, or non-plasma). This technology is quite interesting on its own (look up netural beam injection on wikipedia). This is a common misinterpretation as "neutron" and "neutral" are similar sounding, though.
Otherwise, I definitely recommend the book, but I like the style of humor. If you don't like SMBC, then you probably won't like the style of the book.