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This Will Change Everything: Ideas That Will Shape the Future (Edge Question Series) Paperback – December 22, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Part of a series stemming from his online science journal Edge (www.edge.com), including What Have You Changed Your Mind About? and What Is Your Dangerous Idea?, author and editor Brockman presents 136 answers to the question, "What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?" Milan architect Stefano Boeri responds with a single sentence: "Discovering that someone from the future has already come to visit us." Most others take the question more seriously; J. Craig Venter believes his laboratory will use "digitized genetic information" to direct organisms in creating biofuels and recycling carbon dioxide. Like biofuels, several topics are recurrent: both Robert Shapiro and Douglas Rushikoff consider discovering a "Separate Origin for Life," a terrestrial unicellular organism that doesn't belong to our tree of life; Leo M. Chalupa and Alison Gopnik both consider the possibility resetting the adult brain's plasticity-its capacity for learning-to childhood levels. Futurologist Juan Enriquez believes that reengineering body parts and the brain will lead to "human speciation" unseen for hundreds of thousands of years, while controversial atheist Richard Dawkins suggests that reverse-engineering evolution could create a highly illuminating "continuum between every species and every other." Full of ideas wild (neurocosmetics, "resizing ourselves," "intuiting in six dimensions") and more close-to-home ("Basketball and Science Camps," solar technology"), this volume offers dozens of ingenious ways to think about progress.
Brockman asked about 130 scientists and several artists the following question: What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see? Their two- to three-page prognostications bid farewell to the present while disagreeing on the mode of change. Several respondents espy catastrophes such as nuclear war or global warming, but the majority tell readers to expect a fundamental alteration in the human species. This group predicts that a stupendous expansion in computational capacity allied to genomic engineering will transform the human body, brain included, such that one writer suggests the end of Homo sapiens and its succession by Homo evolutis. Pending that apocalyptic development, other scientists nevertheless agree that burgeoning data processing speeds presage a revolution. Some find it in the transmission of knowledge that will profoundly affect education; others, in lifestyle changes such as a preference for robots as pets. Whether their predictions are alarming or reassuring, most names in this volume will be recognized by the futurology audience, who will reach for Brockman’s book on sight. --Gilbert Taylor
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Top Customer Reviews
Written in layman language, the essays are brief and to-the-point. And, while familiar with, and having read a great deal in the areas of Future Studies and Competitor Intelligence, I don't think I've ever read anything quite like this book. Usually such works are full of gobbly-gook language or are too scholarly and arcane to be "easy-reading." This book is different as the narrative is similar to what one would probably hear if the reader met any of these individuals on a passenger jet and engaged them in casual conversation.
Here's a sampling:
Scott Sampson, a geologist and geophysicist, suggests that we'll incorporate our better understanding of evolutionary design and theory into science and technology applications. For example, in this field, called biomimicry, scientists will examine aspects of termite mounds to design of passive-cooled buildings; to use the present evolutionary design of spider silk to create strong, flexible fibers of our own, etc.
Rupert Sheldrake, who -- at Cambridge University -- explores unexplained human and animal abilities, discusses the future of materialism in the context of human consciousness via molecular biology and physiological psychology.
Paul Davies, a physicist at Arizona State who specializes in Astrobiology, considers the "fascinating question of whether there might be more than one form of life inhabiting the terrestrial biosphere" of Earth at the microbial level. He suggests: "I believe there is a strong likelihood that Earth possesses a shadow biosphere of alternative microbial life representing the evolutionary products of a second genesis."
Oliver Morton, News and Features Editor of the highly respected journal, Nature, sees geoengineers of the future "deliberately [making] changes in the way the climate system works." While recognizing that scientists involved in this area have traditionally been shunned by colleagues "because of the moral hazard involved," and that such actions will likely backfire and wreck havoc on climate, he still sees it has happening and causing great harm to people and our planet.
Highly recommended for libraries of all kinds. And, for inquiring minds who "want to know" it's an essential purchase !
Please be sure to indicate if this review is helpful...
R. Neil Scott
Middle Tennessee State University