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Next Fifty Years: Science in the First Half of the Twenty-First Century

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2008

    Expand your mind

    I'm new to the subject of futures so a bunch of things in this book was mind boggling for me. I wouldn't have read this book by my own choice but I'm glad I did. If your not a big fan of science this is a great way to quickly catch up with what is currently going on in various fields of science and what experts believe will happen in the near future. Some of the topics may be familiar from what we read and see in the news, but even then, here they dig a little deeper on subjects which then better explain how they come to the conclusion that these ideas will be feasible with in the next fifty years. I enjoyed Martin Rees¿ Cosmological Challenges as it really forces you to at least consider that other forms of life exist outside our planet. Paul Davies¿ Was There a Second Genesis? suggests and makes a strong case that life on Mars probably existed. Then moves further to suggest finding traces of life there will be our next step. Reading some of these theories reminded me of movies. In the movie Gattica people are segregated by genes. In the essay Swappable Minds by Hauser, he suggests that these issues could become a reality. In the essay Son of Moore¿s Law, Dawkins suggest that bring back dinosaurs like Jurassic Park may be feasible. As it is a bunch of collected essays not everyone is a winner. Being an average joe some the topics and some of the language the essays are written in are a little above my head and lose my interest immediately.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2002

    Twenty-five glimpses of the future

    As Yogi Berra said, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." Still, if anyone can make meaningful predictions, it's the leading scientists and authors whose essays grace The Next Fifty Years. It's an exciting book. Almost every piece is enlightening, stimulating, and well written. I read a lot of books and articles about science, but still encountered dozens of new ideas, convincing arguments and sparkling insights. Here are a few of them: Physicist Lee Smolin points out that subtle changes in light waves as they cross space may provide the first test of quantum theories of gravity--we don't need to build accelerators the size of the solar system to gain this information. Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller speculates that gene activation chips will soon allow researchers to map the changes in our brains caused by "every state of mind lasting more than a few hours." The result will be a far richer understanding of human consciousness. Mathematician Steven Strogatz expects that new methods for creating complex, evolving systems on computers will mean that we humans will "end up as bystanders, unable to follow along with the machines we've built, flabbergasted by their startling conclusions." Richard Dawkins predicts that by 2050 it will cost just a few hundred dollars to sequence one's own personal genome, computers will be able to simulate an organism's entire development from its genetic code, and scientists may even be able to reconstruct extinct animals a la Jurassic Park. Computer scientist Rodney Brooks thinks wars may be fought over genetic engineering and artificial enhancements that have the potential to turn humans into "manipulable artifacts." AI researcher Roger Schank foresees the end of schools, classrooms and teachers, to be replaced by an endless supply of virtual experiences and interactions. In many cases, the ideas of one writer are challenged or balanced by another, making the book a kind of high-level dialogue. Cosmologist Martin Rees, for example, takes on Smolin's concept of evolving universes, and neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky is much less optimistic about our ability to conquer depression than is psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The book is not perfect, however. A few of the essays seemed relatively uninspired. These included psychologist Paul Bloom's pessimistic view of our ability ever to understand consciousness--"We might be like dogs trying to understand calculus." And I found computer scientist David Gelernter's essay on the "information beam" that he thinks will transform everyone's lives an unconvincing techno-fix. Also the book really needs an index--that one addition would make it far more useful. However, it is a book that tackles big questions about the future in as thoughtful, insightful and well informed a manner as I've ever encountered. It's worth reading and re-reading. Robert Adler, author of Science Firsts: From the Creation of Science to the Science of Creation.

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