The New York Times
The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the Worldby David Deutsch
In this groundbreaking book, award-winning physicist David Deutsch argues that explanations have a fundamental place in the universe—and that improving them is the basic regulating principle of all successful human endeavor. Taking us on/b>/i>
The New York Times bestseller: A provocative, imaginative exploration of the nature and progress of knowledge
In this groundbreaking book, award-winning physicist David Deutsch argues that explanations have a fundamental place in the universe—and that improving them is the basic regulating principle of all successful human endeavor. Taking us on a journey through every fundamental field of science, as well as the history of civilization, art, moral values, and the theory of political institutions, Deutsch tracks how we form new explanations and drop bad ones, explaining the conditions under which progress—which he argues is potentially boundless—can and cannot happen. Hugely ambitious and highly original, The Beginning of Infinity explores and establishes deep connections between the laws of nature, the human condition, knowledge, and the possibility for progress.
The New York Times
The New York Times Book Review
"[Deutsch] makes the case for infinite progress and such passion, imagination, and quirky brilliance that I couldn't help enjoying his argument. . . . [He] mounts a compelling challenge to scientific reductionism."
The Wall Street Journal
"Provocative and persuasive . . . Address[es] subjects from artificial intelligence to the evolution of culture and creativity."
“[Deutsch’s books] are among the most ambitious works of nonfiction I have read, in that their aim is no less than an explanation of all reality. . . . They are treatises that weave together not just physics and astronomy but biology, mathematics, computer science, political science, psychology, philosophy, aesthetics, and—most important for Deutsch—epistemology, among other fields, in fashioning a profound new view of the world and the universe.”
The New Yorker’s Book Bench
“Deutsch has an important message . . . that our destiny is to be explainers of the world around us, and explaining is the key to our mastery. . . . He writes clearly and thinks wisely. His book could help the world toward better ways of dealing with its problems.”
Freeman Dyson, The New York Review of Books
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.
- Penguin Publishing Group
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- 18 Years
Meet the Author
Born in Haifa, Israel, David Deutsch was educated at Cambridge and Oxford Universities. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a professor of physics at the University of Oxford, where he is a member of the Centre for Quantum Computation. His papers on quantum computation laid the foundations for that field, and he is an authority on the theory of parallel universes. His honors include the Institute of Physics' Paul Dirac Prize and Medal. The author of The Fabric of Reality, he lives in England.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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...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."
She nodded and quickly trotted off
Self indulgent and rambling. What could have been an interesting read became a chore. There's better choices than this book.