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"A crash course to a wonderful, frightening world."—Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia)
Posted April 17, 2002
Damien Broderick has done a wonderful job of outlining many of the technologies and technological trends that are driving exponential change in our world and then analyzing the impacts of those changes on humanity. Better than Moravec's Robot, and Kurzweil's Age of Spiritual Machines (wonderful books in their own right), Broderick has covered the subject of technological progress in the coming decades in a much more broad and practical manner. Easily understandable by the non-scientist and technology neophites, The Spike is nontheless very entertaining and captivating reading for anyone interested in the dynamic social landscape that is rapidly evolving as a result of the interactions between highly complex technologies and human reactions to them. A positive look at our collective future that embraces the possiblities and potentialities of what we might become. Highly recommended.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 25, 2001
We are already in the early stages of a transition that will radically alter civilization and even the human species itself. THE SPIKE, by Australia's respected cultural theorist and science writer Damien Broderick, offers an insightful survey of cutting-edge science of today and the not-so-distant future. First published in Australia in 1997, THE SPIKE has been thoroughly updated for it's release in the USA. Advances in several fields of applied science are following a course whose graphs have remained relatively flat throughout human history but are suddenly becoming steeper. If current trends continue, the graphs will become almost vertical within the next thirty to fifty years. Dr. Broderick refers to this interval of rapid change as The Spike, because that's what the graphs resemble. Probably the most commonly known of these trends Is Moore's Law, which holds that computing power (expressed as the number of components on an integrated circuit) per dollar will double every eighteen months to two years. The arithmetic is easy to do. Start with 2 x 1 = 2; 2 x 2 = 4; 2 x 4 = 8; by the time you've repeated the multiplication process twenty times you've increased computing power by a factor of a million, and the twenty-first multiplication increases it by a million more. Although trends do not always continue to the runaway Spike stage, there are no obvious reasons to anticipate that current growth will slow significantly within the next thirty years. Because The Spike represents such a dramatic shift in the rate of technological advance, it is impossible to accurately predict what the post-Spike world will be like, but by projecting existing trends into the future experts can make educated guesses. The three fields which are likely to have the greatest impact on the future are biotechnology, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence. Broderick provides an intriguing tour of some of the technological wonders that may be part of our reality later this century. Genetic engineering, more fully covered in Broderick's book The Last Mortal Generation, could abolish disease, aging, and even death. Molecular Nanotechnology, or minting (from the initials MNT), may allow the assembly of goods at the molecular level. Using minting, you could produce 'whatever you want to build, if you have the plan and the laws of physics don't forbid it.' With self-replicating assemblers, finished products could be had for little more than the cost of the raw materials. Take diamonds. They're made of carbon, and carbon is cheap. The minting process could use diamond, with a strength-to-weight ratio fifty times greater than steel, to fashion the frames of high-rise buildings or space stations. A serving of perfectly aged and roasted prime rib could be constructed atom by atom. Walkways could be paved with photovoltaic cells. Artificial Intelligence, or AI, might take the form of a PC with the reasoning power of the human mind; or a self-aware Internet; or a Super Intelligent machine beside which a human would seem incredibly slow and stupid. Humans could enhance their brains by linking them to other brains or to machines. Or human personalities could be uploaded to machines. The last two possibilities add new dimensions to the question of self-identity. Such things as diamond sky scrapers and linked human brains may seem more like fantasy than science, but they are based on foreseeable development of existing technology. And shockingly, such advanced development could take place within the next fifty years. Mathematician Vernor Vinge predicts a spike some time between 2030 and 2100 for AI, and graphs of trends in several other fields of applied science converge around the year 2050. While Broderick's sweeping account of the current and possible future states of technology is wonderfully exciting, the most valuable aspect of The Spike may be the questions it raises about technology's impact on human society. TheWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 2, 2012
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