A Brief History of Tomorrow: How The Experts Usually Screw Up (Future Forecasting)

A Brief History of Tomorrow: How The Experts Usually Screw Up (Future Forecasting)

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by Jonathan Margolis
     
 

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A fascinating look at the future, as you've never seen it.

Ten years from now, will we have a tiny personal computer surgically inserted in an earlobe, capable of connecting to phone lines and the internet? Fifty years from now, will atomic-sized robots replace surgeons? A hundred years from now, instead of taking the bus, will we simply teleport to

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Overview

A fascinating look at the future, as you've never seen it.

Ten years from now, will we have a tiny personal computer surgically inserted in an earlobe, capable of connecting to phone lines and the internet? Fifty years from now, will atomic-sized robots replace surgeons? A hundred years from now, instead of taking the bus, will we simply teleport to work? It all may sound like impossible science fiction, but not too long ago, so did walking on the moon. Journalist Jonathan Margolis interviews leading thinkers in such fields as genetics, medicine, neurobiology, quantum physics, robotics, computer science, and space travel to explore where we're going, and what it will look like when - and if - we get there.

Beginning with famously flawed past visions of the future - among them H.G. Wells, George Orwell, Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Gates - Margolis examines many of the strange and tempting futures that may lie in store for us. Politics, society, religion, and work are all destined for great changes. What might they be? How will they come about? Thought-provoking, amusing, and absolutely original, A Brief History of Tomorrow is a deliciously compelling look at something we all spend a lot of time contemplating: the future.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a voice pitched somewhere between conversational, conspiratorial and professorial, Margolis takes on "the arrogance of the present"--each generation's view that it is on the cusp of greatness and that the things which are important now will always be--but simultaneously argues that ours is indeed a remarkable time. The author of Uri Geller: Magician or Mystic and columnist for the Financial Times shows just how remarkably wrong or astonishingly right predictions can be. The fascinatingly odd visions covered in chapters on the mind, leisure, the human body and more will make readers wonder if current commonly accepted predictions--such as global warming are all that much less bizarre. Readers will be so effectively drawn in that they will be able to see the subtle ways that the future is already upon us (smart-lawn mowers, cell phones) and ways in which we have fallen behind our own imaginations (space travel, farming the sea). This is a clever look at how the world could have been, how it might be and how it won't be. (Nov.) Forecast: If this survey of the decidedly fickle art of predicting the future is marketed for general consumption, it may have a decent following. It holds appeal for historians, science fiction fans, and anyone who thinks they know what the future will bring. The arrival of Y2K, which had been a focal point for many seers, from Arthur C. Clarke to Nostradamus, has tuned many people in to the future and the past simultaneously. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A light and lively survey of dated visions of the future that show the futility of futuristic stargazing, followed by the author's upbeat presumptions for the coming century. You don't have to play the stock market, or change your last name to Nostradamus or Popcorn, to suffer embarrassment when your hopes and fears simply don't happen. Margolis, a British journalist who previously wrote biographies of Monty Python comics (Cleese Encounters, 1992, etc.), first quotes everyone from Shakespeare to Stephen Hawking on the pointlessness of futurology (the study of possibilities based on current information), and then takes a great leap backward, examining in brief, breathless paragraphs some prior visions that veered from pie-in-sky utopian optimism (an obscure 17th-century tract about life in the realm of an imagined King George VI expected vastly efficient canals to link the far-flung English colonies) to down-in-the-dumps doom (the apocalyptic limits-to-growth pundits of the 1970s posited that the world would run out of oil and other natural resources by the end of the 1980s). Even those who got some things right failed to foresee even half of the picture, as in the case of science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, whose prediction of a communications satellite network did come to pass, though the diabolical computer and interplanetary spaceships of his 1969 film 2001 have yet to arrive. Viewed historically, so much failed expectation reveals less about the future than it does about those who dream of it: technologists (with a few exceptions), imagining mile-high skyscrapers and flying cars, tend to be ridiculously optimistic; while environmentalists, especially thosehawkingvarious catastrophes from exploding volcanoes to global warming, are thoroughly pessimistic. Margolis concludes with his own comfortably cheerful predictions about the beneficial effects of genetic engineering, the Internet, and American suburban lifestyle. They should keep the pundits busy until he's proven wrong. Shallow and glib: Margolis's future will not only be better than we can imagine, but better than he can imagine.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781908556202
Publisher:
Apostrophe Books Ltd
Publication date:
03/20/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
1,123,792
File size:
794 KB

Read an Excerpt

‘The future,’ science fiction guru Arthur C. Clarke once said, ‘isn’t what it used to be.’ A clever, ironic statement, superficially quite ridiculous of course, containing nevertheless two nuggets of wisdom for the price of one. Because what the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey was talking about, naturally, was futurology, the fusion of informed scientific analysis and inspired guesswork about the future at which he has excelled for over fifty years.

Meet the Author

Jonathan Margolis is a journalist and author who writes for the Financial Times, The Guardian and the Daily Mail among other publications. He specialises in technology, but also writes on China, along with a variety of quirkier, mostly scientific, subjects that interest him. His first book was Hothouse People: Can We Create Super Human Beings? (Pan 1987, with Jane Walmsley). His most recent books were A Brief History of Tomorrow (Bloomsbury 2000), which analysed the successes and failures of futurologists, and O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm (Century 2004). Jonathan lives in London with the author Sue Margolis and their family. See Jonathan’s technology reviews and videos at www.howtospendit.com/#/themes/technology

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Brief History of Tomorrow 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well-researched; beautifully written; crammed with wisdom. Margolis is one of the fairest and most balanced writers I've come across, especially on environmental matters. If you're looking for a sensible, well-researched survey of the major themes of 21st century technology, then your search is over.