The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World

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Overview

Selected by The New York Times Book Review as a Notable Book of the Year

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 ...

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Overview

Selected by The New York Times Book Review as a Notable Book of the Year

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

From Barnes & Noble

At the heart of this book is a simple question with an intricate answer: What constitutes a good explanation? Whether we are delving into the deepest secrets of universal change, problems of free will, or attempting to comprehend our own bursts of anger, our quest is at root the same. In The Beginning of Infinity, Cambridge and Oxford trained physicist David Deutsch examines what is quite possibly the root problem of knowledge itself. An adventurous, intellectually stimulating book on how problems are solved.

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: 9780143121350
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/29/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 285,196
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

David Deutsch, internationally acclaimed for his seminal publications on quantum computation, is a member of the Quantum Computation and Cryptography Research Group at the Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements vi

Introduction vii

1 The Reach of Explanations 1

2 Closer to Reality 34

3 The Spark 42

4 Creation 78

5 The Reality of Abstractions 107

6 The Jump to Universality 125

7 Artificial Creativity 148

8 A Window on Infinity 164

9 Optimism 196

10 A Dream of Socrates 223

11 The Multiverse 258

12 A Physicist's History of Bad Philosophy 305

13 Choices 326

14 Why are Flowers Beautiful? 353

15 The Evolution of Culture 369

16 The Evolution of Creativity 398

17 Unsustainable 418

18 The Beginning 443

Bibliography 460

Index 463

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 11 )
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(6)

4 Star

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3 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2013

    Vala

    She nodded and quickly trotted off

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2013

    Star

    Gallops in then slows her pace and sees Angel. She trotts out sadly seeing that Angel was already there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2013

    Angel

    "I can be your mother." She neighs happily

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2013

    The newborn colt

    Neighed o-ok.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2013

    Stallion Den

    This is the stallion den. It is huge with enough piles of hay, feathers, and grass to comfortably sleep any number of stallions. *~!nf!n!†y~*

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2013

    Pass on this one.

    Self indulgent and rambling. What could have been an interesting read became a chore. There's better choices than this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2012

    it's probably actually a 4 star book but....

    ...for me, it's a real effort. It's not so difficult as a George Soros book I once picked up, which probably should have been titled "I am Smarter than You", but you really have to concentrate at times.

    Still, the subject matter is definitely interesting. At times, it gave me the satisfaction depicted in the song "If I were a Rich Man":

    "I'd spend my whole time listening to the wise men, and that would be the sweetest thing of all."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted January 1, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2011

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    Posted December 24, 2011

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