- Series: New York Public Library Lectures in Humanities
- Paperback: 144 pages
- Publisher: New York Public Library (October 19, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195139224
- ISBN-13: 978-0195139228
- Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.5 x 5.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,591,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Sun, The Genome, and The Internet: Tools of Scientific Revolution (New York Public Library Lectures in Humanities)
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"Writing with great passion and compassion of his view of solar energy, genetics, and the Internet, Dyson shows how each fits into an ethical science of the 21st century. Anyone who believes that science and a happier, more equitable world are incompatible must read this book." --John L. Casti, Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, NM, author of The Cambridge Quintet and Paradigms Lost
"There could be no better guide to what the new century and millennium may hold than Freeman Dyson, who bring a rare lucidity and humanity, along with wide-ranging scientific and historical intelligence, to everything he writes. In The Sun, the Genome, and the Internet Dyson considers the potential impact of new scientific and technological advances on individual lives and on society in general; it is a most engaging and important book, as accessible as it is profound."--Oliver Sacks, M.D.
"Freeman Dyson, a legendary figure in the sciences, has given us a thoughtful and thought-provoking glimpse into the 21st century. In his lyrical and erudite style, he paints a vivid portrait of the technologies which will touch our lives in the next century. The Sun, the Genome, and the Internet is a must-read for anyone who wants a sneak preview into the future. Only Dyson could weave together this rich tapestry, blending ethics, ideology, science, and technology into a coherent vision of the future. --Michio Kaku, author of Hyperspace and Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century, and Professor of Theoretical Physics, City University of New York
"This slim volume grew out of a series of lectures at the New York Public Library, a format that has served Dyson will appeal to a general audience not yet exposed to the newest research in neuroscience. Public libraries will be well served by this book." --Laurie Bartolini, MacMurray Coll. Lib., Springfield, Il.
"In a discussion of the search for primitive life in the universe, he takes the reader from contemplating the possibility of freeze-dried fish floating in the ring of space debris around Jupiter to skunk cabbage in New Jersey--in the turn of a page.... He writes with detailed, admirable conviction."--The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Freeman Dyson is Professor Emeritus of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University. He is the author of Disturbing the Universe, Infinite in All Directions, Weapons and Hope, and many other books. He is a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award and The Phi Beta Kappa Award in science, among many other honors. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
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CHAPTER 1: SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION
Dyson revisits scientific disciplines that have come about as a result of brilliant minds exploring a previously unexisting path of research. In doing so, he makes an effort to extrapolate out of today's most rapidly growing areas of science (molecular biology and astronomy) what the future scientific revolutions might be like, and gives wise words of advise to medical scientists and biologists on how to make faster progress in their disciplines by changing some of their fundamental research paradigms, learning from the ways of astronomers.
CHAPTER 2: TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
In more than one way, it reminds me of a very pivotal article written not too long ago by Sun Microsystem's Bill Joy in Wired Magazine, which dealt with genetic engineering, robotics and nanotechnology, and their ethical implications.
Dyson's new list of important things for us to 'worry' about gave way to the book's title. He looks "for ways in which technology may contribute to social justice..." by mitigating evils such as rural poverty. This chapter is a brilliant exercise in which Dyson puts his mind to fly and actually makes his vision very easy to grasp by non-technical readers. When you read through the chapter you can almost feel that his vision is happening already, although there are some very real and respectable hurdles still separating us from it, which need to be overcome.
CHAPTER 3: THE HIGH ROAD
Although the book consists of three chapters, the reason for the title is more aptly dealt with in chapters 1 and 2. Chapter 3 is a little out of context with respect to the original intention of the book, yet doesn't make the reader loose interest.
In this chapter, Dyson makes an incredible analysis and extrapolation about the elements surrounding our ability to find life beyond the boundaries of our planet. He believes, on the other hand, that as much as one hundred years would have to pass before we're near being able to send a significant amount of human explorers to space. But he doesn't leave readers without hope for this 'distant' future, as he lets his mind fly once again: He explains some of the exciting possible technologies he sees making massive human space exploration happen.
Finally, he wraps up chapter 3 with an ethical dissertation on the topics of cloning and reprogenetics (substituting chunks of live DNA with new, supposedly 'more desirable' chunks), closing it with the following brilliant yet slightly frightening words:
"To give us room to explore the varieties of mind and body into which our genome can evolve, one planet is not enough."
After such as closing sentence in chapter 3, I have to admit that the epilogue seemed a little weak, going back to topics already well discussed in chapter 2.
It is very easy throughout the entire book (which happens to take very little time to read, by the way) to be humbled by the ease with which Dyson deals with new scientific topics (for being a theoretical physicist, he jumps very easily, for example, from genetic engineering to space science) and the clarity he has (where some scientifics lack) in terms of the importance of maintaining the feet on the ground in the light of new scientific discoveries: how expensive will a new technology coming out of a discovery will be like, how many people will use it, etc.
After the death of Richard Feynman (some of whose books are among the 'scientific' books I've enjoyed the most) I thought the world had been deprived of its most brilliant teacher of science. Now I know Dyson is still with us, and this one only promises to become the first of his books I will read.
Dyson's books have always fascinated me by his wide-ranging intelligence, great insight, keen analysis and convincing arguments based on concrete examples. "The Sun, the Genome, the Internet" is not an exception. An additional agreeable character of his writing consists in the fact that he attaches importance to social justice realizable by technology. He expects that the gap between the rich and the poor would be narrowed by the ethical application of science.
In the final chapters of the book, Dyson discusses the future of the society under the inexorable growth of techniques suggested by the two big surprises that happened in 1997. These surprises are the cloning of Dolly and the defeat of the world chess champion by the IBM chess-playing program Deep Blue. The first of the surprises makes Dyson think about "reprogenetics," which is a possible future technology offering the parent the opportunity to improve the quality of life of the child by removing bad genes and by inserting advantageous ones. We cannot read Dyson's discussion about this possibility without reminding ourselves of the science fiction "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley.
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