A Rough Ride to the Future

Overview

Bestselling author of The Revenge of Gaia James Lovelock—the great scientific visionary of our age—presents a radical vision of humanity’s future
 
Now in his 95th year, James Lovelock has been hailed as “the man who conceived the first wholly new way of looking at life on earth since Charles Darwin” (Independent) and “the most profound scientific thinker of our time” ...

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A Rough Ride to the Future

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Overview

Bestselling author of The Revenge of Gaia James Lovelock—the great scientific visionary of our age—presents a radical vision of humanity’s future
 
Now in his 95th year, James Lovelock has been hailed as “the man who conceived the first wholly new way of looking at life on earth since Charles Darwin” (Independent) and “the most profound scientific thinker of our time” (Literary Review).
 
A Rough Ride to the Future introduces two new Lovelock­ian ideas. The first is that three hundred years ago, when Thomas Newcomen invented the steam engine, he was un­knowingly beginning what Lovelock calls “accelerated evolu­tion,” a process that is bringing about change on our planet roughly a million times faster than Darwinian evolution. The second is that as part of this process, humanity has the capacity to become the intelligent part of Gaia, the self-regulating earth system whose discovery Lovelock first an­nounced nearly fifty years ago.
 
A Rough Ride to the Future is also an intellectual autobiography, in which Lovelock reflects on his life as a lone scientist, and asks—eloquently—whether his career trajec­tory is possible in an age of increased bureaucratization.
 
We are now changing the atmosphere again, and Lovelock argues that there is little that can be done about this. But instead of feeling guilty, we should recognize what is happening, prepare for change, and ensure that we survive as a species so we can contribute to—perhaps even guide—the next evolution of Gaia. The road will be rough, but if we are smart enough, life will continue on earth in some form far into the future.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
12/01/2014
As one of the originators of the Gaia hypothesis, which emphasized “our irreplaceable value to the Earth” and its value to us, Lovelock (The Vanishing Face of Gaia) has written extensively over the years about the complicated relationship humans have with nature. In his latest volume, the Royal Society fellow offers further observations on “our old and familiar planetary home.” Striking a cautionary but measured tone and avoiding polemics, Lovelock warns readers about excessive industrial growth, global warming, “hunger in the face of an ever-growing population,” and constant shifts of market economics. These scare and confuse us, he says, making us feel “like a colony of red ants exposed when we lift the garden slab.” Lovelock also scatters throughout this slim narrative references to his long career in the U.S. and U.K. as a scientist and inventor “professionally qualified in physics, chemistry and non-clinical medicine.” This includes his work in the 1960s for NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, and his previous work on the Gaia hypothesis (originated in the 1970s). In this way, Lovelock’s book becomes not simply another look at Mother Nature’s uncertain future, but a revealing glimpse at the life of an outspoken and accomplished man of ideas. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
“Arresting and disturbing . . . Lovelock writes wonderfully well. With the authority of age, his voice is that of an elder statesman . . . The result is mellifluous and fluent.” —Nature

“Though the subject matter could scarcely be more discouraging, Lovelock’s fluent prose and vast range of knowledge make it a surprisingly easy read. . . . His writing has enormous warmth and vitality.” —Financial Times

“The most important book for me this year . . . Lovelock is the most prescient of scientists. . . . He has given us a handbook for human survival.” —John Gray, The Guardian

"In this way, Lovelock’s book becomes not simply another look at Mother Nature’s uncertain future, but a revealing glimpse at the life of an outspoken and accomplished man of ideas" —Publishers Weekly

"There is much to wrestle with in Lovelock's latests provocative rant." —Booklist

Kirkus Reviews
2014-11-29
A radical shift in thinking about climate change from Lovelock, the originator of the Gaia theory.Readers who devoured The Revenge of Gaia (2006) or The Vanishing Face of Gaia (2009) are familiar with the scientist/inventor who posited that Earth, or Gaia, is a closed, self-sustaining system whose balance has been disrupted. Where the outlook of his last book was decidedly gloomy, in this book, Lovelock takes a neutral, or even optimistic, look at climate change as part of Earth's constant and accelerating evolution. As gifted as ever at making complex scientific explanations understandable, the author can also turn an exquisite phrase. While he decries our collective "planetary diabetes," for instance, he also wonders if we aren't entering a time of evolutionary inflation, much like "a flute that changes its pitch when blown harder." However, in Lovelock's view, this isn't necessarily bad news. In fact, he suggests, the accelerating rate of invention that began with the steam engine and the accompanying, unprecedented flux of energy planetwide could cause humans to evolve into as-yet-unimagined life forms based on electronics. Some of the material here seems to be the stuff of science fiction, a genre Lovelock indeed credits for its inventiveness, yet the nonagenarian scientist has the experience and acumen to make a provocative case. He does wax overly nostalgic at times—a chapter devoted to his early career and many inventions could easily be expanded to a full autobiography and contributes only marginally to his present argument—but mostly, he's actively considering the future and how Earth, with or without humans, will cope with the changes to come. "Now is a critical moment in Gaia's history," writes the author. "It is a time of ending, but also a time of new beginnings." For those so inclined, this book is like getting Mother Earth News and Wired magazines in the mail on the same day.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781468310467
  • Publisher: Overlook
  • Publication date: 2/10/2015
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 618,605
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

 James Lovelock is the originator of the Gaia Hypothesis (now Gaia Theory), on which he has written several books, including The Revenge of Gaia and The Vanishing Face of Gaia. He has been a fellow of the Royal Society since 1974, and he has been an honorary visiting fellow of Green College, University of Oxford since 1994. In 2003 he was made a Companion of Honour by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

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