What is the meaning of life? Award-winning essayist Wright addresses this daring question in an engaging look at the work and beliefs of three leading American scientists. He begins with Ed Fredkin, a self-made millionaire and former MIT professor whose intriguing synthesis of information theory and physics leads him to conclude that the universe is a giant cellular automaton. Why does it exist? Because, according to Fredkin: ``There is no way to know the answer to some question any faster than what's going on.'' Next Wright explores the relation between genetic evolution and the evolution of behavior by analyzing the work of Harvard entomologist and founder of sociobiology, Edward O. Wilson. He focuses particularly on Wilson's controversial views on the nexus between genetics and human cultural development. Wright ends with the eccentric economist Kenneth Boulding whose general systems theory attempts to account for the increased intricacy in a universe governed by entropy and who thinks of evolution as ``a rise in complexity, control and consciousness.'' This is a wonderful, thought-provoking book. First serial to the Atlantic. (June)
This is the story of three extraordinary people: Ed Fredkin, who developed the startling theory that the universe itself is a computer; sociobiologist E.O. Wilson, who searches for a link between human genes and culture; and economist Kenneth Boulding, who explores the impact of technology on social change. Each is attempting to explain the role of information at increasingly complex levels of organization: Fredkin in physics, Wilson in biology, and Boulding in economics. Their quest for an underlying unity to the world is both scientific and spiritual, leading to more profound speculations about the origin and meaning of life. Wright's lively and exciting narrative captures the creative process of scientific thought in action. Highly recommended. Raymond Frey, Bergen Comm. Coll., Paramus, N.J.
Robert Wright is the author of Three Scientists and Their Gods and The Moral Animal, which was named by the New York Times Book Review as one of the twelve best books of the year and has been published in nine languages. A recipient of the National Magazine Award for Essay and Criticism, Wright has published in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Time, and Slate. He was previously a senior editor at The New Republic and The Sciences and now runs the Web site nonzero.org.