Theoretical physicist and bestselling author Paul Davies examines the likelihood that by the year 2050 we will be able to establish a continuing human presence on Mars. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi investigates the ramifications of engineering high-IQ, geneticially happy babies. Psychiatrist Nancy Etcoff explains current research into the creation of emotion-sensing jewelry that could gauge our moods and tell us when to take an anti-depressant pill. And evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins explores the probability that we will soon be able to obtain a genome printout that predicts our natural end for the same cost as a chest x-ray. (Will we want to read it? And will insurance companies and governments have access to it?) This fascinating and unprecedented book explores not only the practical possibilities of the near future, but also the social and political ramifications of the developments of the strange new world to come.
Also includes original essays by:
Marc D. Hauser
Robert M. Sapolsky
John H. Holland
Roger C. Schank
Judith Rich Harris
Paul W. Ewald
From the Trade Paperback edition.
When unexpectedly confronted with his own mortality, Mark Stevenson-a writer, deep-thinker, and stand-up comedian-began to ponder what the future holds for our species. "The past is a foreign country," writes Stevenson. "By my analysis it's a bit like France-in that I've been to parts of it and eaten some nice food there. But the future? The future is an unknown territory-and there isn't a guidebook." Thus, his ambition was born.
Stevenson set out simply, asking, "What's next?" and then traveled the globe in pursuit of the answers. Along the way, he visited the Australian outback to visit the farmers who can save us from climate change, met a robot with mood swings, and talked to the Spaniard who's putting a hotel in space. While some might be overwhelmed, or even dismayed by the looming realities of genome sequencing, synthetic biology, a nuclear renaissance, and carbon scrubbing, Stevenson remains, well, optimistic. Drawing on his singular humor and storytelling to break down these sometimes complicated discoveries, An Optimist's Tour of the Future paints a wonderfully readable, and completely enthralling portrait of where we'll be when we grow up- and why it's not so scary.
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Wondering what's really in store for the human race? Nanotechnology and gene enhancements, solar power and carbon capture? Or oil shocks, water wars, food shortages, and mass extinction? The Rough Guide to the Future cuts a clear path through the jungle of scientific research and political debate, steering you around the prophets of doom and the utopian visionaries, to take you on a tour of the likeliest possibilities for the rest of this century - and beyond. It covers 50 predictions from the world's leading futurologists and chronicles predictions from the past along with visions of the future. You'll find out where we go from here with The Rough Guide to the Future.
By comparing objects of science, such as the brain, the galaxy, the amoeba, and the quark, with objects of humanistic inquiry, such as the poem, the photograph, the belief, and the philosophical concept, Volney Gay reestablishes a fundamental distinction between science and the humanities. He frees the latter from its pursuit of material-based progress and restores its disciplines to a place of privilege and respect. Using the metaphor of magnification, Gay shows that, while we can investigate natural objects to the limits of imaging capacity, magnifying cultural objects dissolves them into noise. In other words, cultural objects can be studied only within their contexts and through the prism of metaphor and narrative.
Gathering examples from literature, art, film, philosophy, religion, science, and psychoanalysis, Gay builds a new justification for the humanities. By revealing the unseen and making abstract ideas tangible, the arts create meaningful wholes, which itself is a form of progress.
As a species, Homo sapiens is at a crossroads. Study of our planet’s turbulent past suggests that we are overdue for a catastrophic disaster, whether caused by nature or by human interference.
It’s a frightening prospect, as each of the Earth’s past major disasters—from meteor strikes to bombardment by cosmic radiation—resulted in a mass extinction, where more than 75 percent of the planet’s species died out. But in Scatter, Adapt, and Remember, Annalee Newitz, science journalist and editor of the science Web site io9.com explains that although global disaster is all but inevitable, our chances of long-term species survival are better than ever. Life on Earth has come close to annihilation—humans have, more than once, narrowly avoided extinction just
during the last million years—but every single time a few creatures survived, evolving to adapt to the harshest of conditions.
This brilliantly speculative work of popular science focuses on humanity’s long history of dodging the bullet, as well as on new threats that we may face in years to come. Most important, it explores how scientific breakthroughs today will help us avoid disasters tomorrow. From simulating tsunamis to studying central Turkey’s ancient underground cities; from cultivating cyanobacteria for “living cities” to designing space elevators to make space colonies cost-effective; from using math to stop pandemics to studying the remarkable survival strategies of gray whales, scientists and researchers the world over are discovering the keys to long-term resilience and learning how humans can choose life over death.
Newitz’s remarkable and fascinating journey through the science of mass extinctions is a powerful argument about human ingenuity and our ability to change. In a world populated by doomsday preppers and media commentators obsessively forecasting our demise, Scatter, Adapt, and Remember is a compelling voice of hope. It leads us away from apocalyptic thinking into a future where we live to build a better world—on this planet and perhaps on others. Readers of this book will be equipped scientifically, intellectually, and emotionally to face whatever the future holds.
No one can predict the future, but we all wonder about it. Most of us think we can affect it to some extent which is why we make plans. Maybe we plan a party tonight, or plan for a college education, or plan a vacation to some exotic place. Some plans are very personal, and some may involve our friends and our families. Some we participate in and some plans are made for us, with or without our knowledge and consent.
On a daily basis, we make plans as if we were very much in charge of the future—as if we can affect it for better or worse by the plans we make. Sometimes the plans of others affect us even when we know nothing about them, as in the 9-11 disaster. Plans can have unintended consequences, and not having a plan can have consequences too.
Most people seem to accept the idea that the future can be planned for, or else they wouldn’t plan for it. But can the future be planned for on a larger scale than just tonight’s dance, or tomorrow’s cook out? Can groups larger than one’s friends and family plan effectively for the future, and if so, how might this be done? What kinds of plans should be made if people can make plans? Who should make them? What should BIG PLANS be based on?
These are questions which are not easy, but they may be necessary. According to many polls, a majority of scientists think that the human race is on a “collision course” with nature, and that the ability of the planet to sustain life is in serious jeopardy. There is a threat of rapid global climate change which, whether planned or unplanned, will certainly have consequences. The pollution of rivers and the air we breathe threatens our health. We are using up our “capital” instead of living off the interest, which means we are wasting non-renewable resources like topsoil and the ozone layer instead of using these resources intelligently.