Imagined Worlds / Edition 1by Freeman J. Dyson
Pub. Date: 09/15/1998
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Imagine a world where whole epochs will pass, cultures rise and fall, between a telephone call and the reply. Think of the human race multiplying 500-million fold, or evolving new, distinct species. Consider the technology of space colonization, computer-assisted reproduction, the "Martian potato." One hundred years after H. G. Wells visited the future in The… See more details below
Imagine a world where whole epochs will pass, cultures rise and fall, between a telephone call and the reply. Think of the human race multiplying 500-million fold, or evolving new, distinct species. Consider the technology of space colonization, computer-assisted reproduction, the "Martian potato." One hundred years after H. G. Wells visited the future in The Time Machine, Freeman Dyson marshals his uncommon gifts as a scientist and storyteller to take us once more to that ever-closer, ever-receding time to come.
Since Disturbing the Universe, the book that first brought him international renown, Freeman Dyson has been helping us see ourselves and our world from a scientist's point of view. In Imagined Worlds he brings this perspective to a speculative future to show us where science and technology, real and imagined, may be taking us. The stories he tells--about "Napoleonic" versus "Tolstoyan" styles of doing science; the coming era of radioneurology and radiotelepathy; the works of writers from Aldous Huxley to Michael Crichton to William Blake; Samuel Gompers and the American labor movement--come from science, science fiction, and history. Sharing in the joy and gloom of these sources, Dyson seeks out the lessons we must learn from all three if we are to understand our future and guide it in hopeful directions.
Whether looking at the Gaia theory or the future of nuclear weapons, science fiction or the dangers of "science worship," sea-going kayaks or the Pluto Express, Dyson is concerned with ethics, with how we might mitigate the evil consequences of technology and enhance the good. At the heart of it all is the belief once expressed by the biologist J. B. S. Haldane, that progress in science will bring enormous confusion and misery to humankind unless it is accompanied by progress in ethics.
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This review is from: Imagined worlds (Jerusalem-Harvard Lectures)(Paperback) In this book, Freeman Dyson writes about numerous past scientific developments and attempts to determine what the world will be like in the future because of more advances in science that he thinks will be made. He warns that if people do not accept advances in science, that it will hinder discoveries and eventually lead to the demise of mankind. Dyson structures his book in an unique way to get his point across. He begins with several examples of advances in technology that ended up in being failures. He then goes on to talk about advances in science and how the world has evolved because of these advances. In the end of the book, Dyson explains how he thinks these advances will affect the world hundreds of years from now. In the last few paragraphs, he states that people must accept scientific advances even if they are contrary to their beliefs and morals and compares people who look down upon scientific advancement to the nazis during the Holocaust. The way this book is structured makes it interesting and there are some examples of scientific advancements that are quite fascinating. However, its structure is confusing and not effective in revealing Dyson’s point of view or reasons for writing the book. The examples given have no connection with each other and seem to be randomly selected. There seems to be no order to how the book was written. A reader could get just as much out of this book if they were to open it to random pages and reading instead of reading it straight through. Also, Duson is very condemning towards people who do not agree with his beliefs. He states his opinions about controversial issues such as abortion but does not back them up with any evidence. This book would have been much better if Dyson had connected the examples to a central idea and had clearly given his point or supporting his beliefs with evidence and not just throw them on the reader without reasons why they should agree. I would not recommend this book to anyone looking for something to read on their free time.
Freeman Dyson is an opinionated scientist who shares his view point of the future through what he believes will come in many years ahead paired with examples or details from science fiction. He begins the book with an introduction that covers the changing present through his uncle in Germany, H. G. Well’s The Time Machine, and his beliefs and experiences. Each chapter after the introduction details a completely different topic ranging from failed technology and endeavors to manipulating genes in flies and mice. The information presented in each chapter displays a particular view point of Dyson. However, once he has made that point, he changes the subject to explore a new unrelated concept that he is passionate about. Because of his scientific background, Dyson brings up many topics related to his or another field of science that interests him which he connects to technology or ethics. Overall, the examples that Dyson uses throughout the book are applicable to his main point explained in the last chapter, but he leaves the reader to do that for themselves instead of connecting his ideas. As we continue our scientific and technological progress in our society, Dyson believes that we must let go of “old institutions” constructed by society’s ethics to advance in science. Throughout the book Dyson explains many concepts that are interesting. However, because he was trying to determine what the future will bring and how we should adapt for it through these examples, he kept changing topics after only a few paragraphs. He has some interesting view points, but he doesn’t go in depth on any of them except for his end point to change society for science.
Six essays, adapted from a lecture series, explore a wide range of scientific and technological issues. Dyson uses science fiction -- ranging from _Jurassic Park_ to _The Island of Dr. Moreau_ -- as starting points for his tales, but more importantly brings in his own experience as a scientist, citizen, and parent. Dyson's thoughts on the interaction of science and politics are especially interesting. While not as dense and literary as _Disturbing the Universe,_ it's an excellent read and highly recommended.