The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World

The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World

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by David Deutsch
     
 

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A bold and all-embracing exploration of the nature and progress of knowledge from one of today's great thinkers.

Throughout history, mankind has struggled to understand life's mysteries, from the mundane to the seemingly miraculous. In this important new book, David Deutsch, an award-winning pioneer in the field of quantum computation, argues thatSee more details below

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Overview

A bold and all-embracing exploration of the nature and progress of knowledge from one of today's great thinkers.

Throughout history, mankind has struggled to understand life's mysteries, from the mundane to the seemingly miraculous. In this important new book, David Deutsch, an award-winning pioneer in the field of quantum computation, argues that explanations have a fundamental place in the universe. They have unlimited scope and power to cause change, and the quest to improve them is the basic regulating principle not only of science but of all successful human endeavor. This stream of ever improving explanations has infinite reach, according to Deutsch: we are subject only to the laws of physics, and they impose no upper boundary to what we can eventually understand, control, and achieve.

In his previous book, The Fabric of Reality, Deutsch describe the four deepest strands of existing knowledge-the theories of evolution, quantum physics, knowledge, and computation-arguing jointly they reveal a unified fabric of reality. In this new book, he applies that worldview to a wide range of issues and unsolved problems, from creativity and free will to the origin and future of the human species. Filled with startling new conclusions about human choice, optimism, scientific explanation, and the evolution of culture, The Beginning of Infinity is a groundbreaking book that will become a classic of its kind.

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Editorial Reviews

David Albert
…a brilliant and exhilarating and profoundly eccentric book. It's about everything: art, science, philosophy, history, politics, evil, death, the future, infinity, bugs, thumbs, what have you…It hardly seems worth saying…that the chutzpah of this guy is almost beyond belief, and that any book with these sorts of ambitions is necessarily, in some overall sense, a failure, or a fraud, or a joke, or madness. But Deutsch…is so smart, and so strange, and so creative, and so inexhaustibly curious, and so vividly intellectually alive, that it is a distinct privilege, notwithstanding everything, to spend time in his head.
—The New York Times
Library Journal
Deutsch (Fellow, Royal Society; physics, Univ. of Oxford, UK; The Fabric of Reality) provides a comprehensive discussion of the larger concepts in science and everyday life. Picking up where Fabric ended, Deutsch expands his views on the deepest strands of discussion on evolution, quantum physics, knowledge, and computation to the broader concept of the multiverse. He does this by examining a variety of concepts including creativity, optimism, choice, and the evolution of culture to show that any topic is within the reach of reason. While Deutsch's book is lengthy, he convinces readers of the existence of the multiverse and how it can be described in the chosen contexts. VERDICT Comparable recent works include John Gribbin's In Search of the Multiverse, Steven Manly's Visions of the Multiverse, and Bernard Carr's Universe or Multitverse? for those interested in learning more about the basics of the discussion and current beliefs in the existence of the multiverse. Recommended for readers in science, philosophy, and physics.—Elizabeth Brown, Binghamton Univ. Libs., NY
Kirkus Reviews

A philosophical exploration of progress, surprisingly lucid and thought-provoking.

Deutsch (Physics/Oxford Univ.; The Fabric of Reality, 1998) asserts that until a few centuries ago, all cultures assumed everything worth knowing was known. Discoveries occurred (fire, tools, iron, gunpowder) but so rarely that no one thought the world could improve—until the scientific revolution in 17th-century Europe. Since then, new knowledge and discoveries have occurred at a steadily increasing rate with the sky being the limit (the "infinity" in the title). What changed? Deutsch maintains that this was part of a wider movement—the Enlightenment—which revolutionized other fields including moral and political philosophy. Its essence was rejecting authority in regard to knowledge, replacing it—not with another authority, but with a tradition of criticism. This simply means that scientists seek good explanations. A good explanation is hard to vary but does its job. Thus, Newton's laws worked beautifully for centuries; Einstein's relativity worked better but didn't alter it greatly. A bad explanation changes easily. Every prescientific culture had an explanation for human origins, the cause of disease or how the sun shines. All were different and wrong. Both skeptical and optimistic, Deutsch devotes ingenious chapters to refuting ideas (empiricism, induction, holism) and philosophies (positivism, most modernism, post-modernism) that limit what we can learn. Today's fashionable no-nos include explaining human consciousness or building an intelligent computer, but putting these off-limits is to believe in magic.

Scientists will eventually understand every phenomenon that obeys the laws of the universe, writes the author in this provocative, imaginative investigation of human genius.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101549827
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/21/2011
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
496
Sales rank:
239,288
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

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