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The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
     

The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World

3.9 10
by David Deutsch
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

David Albert
…a brilliant and exhilarating and profoundly eccentric book. It's about everything: art, science, philosophy, history, politics, evil, death, the future, infinity, bugs, thumbs, what have you…It hardly seems worth saying…that the chutzpah of this guy is almost beyond belief, and that any book with these sorts of ambitions is necessarily, in some overall sense, a failure, or a fraud, or a joke, or madness. But Deutsch…is so smart, and so strange, and so creative, and so inexhaustibly curious, and so vividly intellectually alive, that it is a distinct privilege, notwithstanding everything, to spend time in his head.
—The New York Times
From the Publisher
"Brilliant and exhilarating . . . Deutsch is so smart, and so strange, and so creative, and so inexhaustibly curious, and so vividly intellectually alive, that it is a distinct privilege to spend time in his head."
—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."
—The Economist  

“[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 

Library Journal
Deutsch (Fellow, Royal Society; physics, Univ. of Oxford, UK; The Fabric of Reality) provides a comprehensive discussion of the larger concepts in science and everyday life. Picking up where Fabric ended, Deutsch expands his views on the deepest strands of discussion on evolution, quantum physics, knowledge, and computation to the broader concept of the multiverse. He does this by examining a variety of concepts including creativity, optimism, choice, and the evolution of culture to show that any topic is within the reach of reason. While Deutsch's book is lengthy, he convinces readers of the existence of the multiverse and how it can be described in the chosen contexts. VERDICT Comparable recent works include John Gribbin's In Search of the Multiverse, Steven Manly's Visions of the Multiverse, and Bernard Carr's Universe or Multitverse? for those interested in learning more about the basics of the discussion and current beliefs in the existence of the multiverse. Recommended for readers in science, philosophy, and physics.—Elizabeth Brown, Binghamton Univ. Libs., NY
Kirkus Reviews

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101549827
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/21/2011
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
496
Sales rank:
176,657
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
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.

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Beginning of Infinity 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
...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."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She nodded and quickly trotted off
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Self indulgent and rambling. What could have been an interesting read became a chore. There's better choices than this book.