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An Optimist's Tour of the Future [Paperback]

Mark Stevenson
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Jan 2011

Mark Stevenson has been to the future a few years ahead of the rest of us - and reckons it has a lot going for it. His voyage of discovery takes him to Oxford to meet Transhumanists (they intend to live forever), to Boston where he confronts a robot with mood swings, to an underwater cabinet meeting in the Indian Ocean, and Australia to question the Outback's smartest farmer. He clambers around space planes in the Mojave desert, gets to grips with the potential of nanotechnology, delves deep into the possibilities of biotech, sees an energy renaissance on a printer, a revolution in communications, has his genome profiled, and glimpses the next stage of human evolution ... and tries to make sense of what's in store.

Insightful and often very funny, An Optimist's Tour of the Future is a book that tracks one curious man's journey to find out 'what's in store?'

Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (6 Jan 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846683564
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846683565
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.4 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 349,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Blind optimism is the last thing the world needs - a recipe for disappointment. But what about optimism based on careful reasoning? On digging below the surface for the ideas and the trends that really do add up to something promising? That's what's on offer here. Stevenson wears no blindfold. His tools are curiosity, open-mindedness, clarity and reason. That makes his journey intriguing ... and ultimately exhilarating (Chris Anderson, TED Curator)

Mark Stevenson is a futurist endowed with optimism. Where some people fear that robotics and artificial intelligence will dehumanize the world, he sees an enhancement of freedom; where some see nanotechnology as an army of sub-micron Lilliputians controlling our every action, he sees an invisible array of artisans performing miracles in tight spaces. It's refreshing to be led to the far side by someone who sees the bright side! (Henry Pollack, Nobel Prize Winner)

This is a brilliant book, and Mark Stevenson is the perfect guide to a dizzying future that is already here. Genetic innovation. Social robots. Nano-factories. The ideas come so quickly, with such great humor - it's like the smartest dinner party you've ever attended. (Peter Miller The Smart Swarm)

Uplifting and liberating. Mark Stevenson is the perfect tour guide: optimistic without being naive, fun but not silly, entertaining yet also an educator. By the end I was utterly convinced that, given the opportunity to flourish, human ingenuity can disperse the clouds that hang over us today. This is a book to gladden the gloomiest heart (Michael Brooks)

A rollicking roller-coaster ride around the cutting edge of science with dozens of laugh-out-loud moments (Jim Ferguson Scotsman 2011-01-08)

Makes a good case for believing that we can have a future worth making an effort to reach (Jon Turney Guardian 2011-01-15)

Infectiously enthusiastic (James McConnachie Sunday Times 2011-01-02)

Refreshingly upbeat (Big Issue)

A refreshing reminder that the future will always belong to the optimists (New Scientist)

The future is here and all around us. It's just, as William Gibson puts it, not evenly distributed yet. And why not? This is the book's killer punch: we have 21st century tech, but our familiar world - from schooling, to work, to our ideas of retirement - hasn't changed since the industrial revolution. The future cannot happen until we change our minds to meet it (Focus)

Book Description

One curious man's journey to find out 'what's next?'

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, funny AND optimistic 3 Jan 2011
An extremely readable and well written book about potentially world changing emergent science, the possible implications and the characters shaping some of these alternative futures. What I liked particularly is that it doesnt claim to have all the answers - just good questions and interesting answers. Plus some remarkable moments of serendipity spiced with the authors dry comedy.
The travelogue format and the authors ability to get to speak directly with some of the worlds leading thinkers in their fields gives the book a personal feel that, together with a non-prescriptive approach, puts it well above a lot of popular science; it would appeal to a wide range of readers.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm not really into science books 4 Jan 2011
By Sarah J
And I've never felt compelled to write a review for a book before, but this book had me hooked from the first page. By the time I finished it I felt like I had been on the same journey as the author who travelled the world meeting some amazing people (most of whom I'd never heard of) who were all at the forefront of technological, scientific, environmental work that was sometimes mind-boggling (and some of it unnerved me) but was mainly awe-inspiring.

What really appealed to me about this book though was its tone - which mixes light hearted humour (I laughed out loud more than once), with some seriously serious science...but the science was so clearly explained I didn't have a chance to get lost or bored, it just kind of came to life

So refreshing to hear about things going on in the world that might just make it a much better place.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Things to make you go "wow!" 6 Jan 2011
After more than a year of travelling, researching and writing, Mark Stevenson has finally finished his first book - An Optimist's Tour of the Future. Like its writer, the book is by turns geeky, funny, thought-provoking and - at times - controversial.

An Optimist's Tour is a rollercoaster headf*ck of a book that leaves you shaking your head and muttering "wow!" as it speeds around the world asking the question "what next?" The premise is simple, but the answers are incredible and have the potential to change humanity as we know it.

Rather than all the doomsayers predicting war, famine, death, drought, pestilence, climate catastrophe and Katie Price's next book, Mark asks what would happen if all the amazing technology that scientists are working on actually comes off. What if we can make robots that can think and feel? What about cheating death and engineering humans that can live for thousands of years? Solving the energy crisis using only some humble algae or a giant cauldron? How about restoring the drought-stricken Australian outback with nothing more than a few fence panels and a motorbike?

To answer these questions, he went on an incredible journey to meet some of the most visionary (and geeky) people in the world - Google's Vint Cerf, futurist maverick Ray Kurzweil, Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed, transhumanist Nick Bostrom, one-woman Kiwi superhero Vicki Buck and robot "godmother" Cynthia Breazeal are just a few of the characters brought to life in glorious detail. You get a real feel for what it's like to meet these people and get caught up by their energy and ideas.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The future's bright. The future's strange. 25 Jan 2011
Mark Stevenson is nothing if not ambitious. He wants to look into the future, as far as he possibly can, to see if it's any good.

Initially, I had some qualms about the applicability of optimism in this context, thinking that perhaps it flew in the face of realism, but the philosophy behind this book isn't about rose-tinted crystal balls. In some places, it takes current concepts of pessimism and asks for their justification. A good example is the regularly heard lament about how violent a place the modern world is. The truth might very well surprise you and tempt you to go out at night.

The book is obviously a piece close to the author's heart, and a lot of work has gone into it. Hard, unrelenting work, involving much travel to exotic locations and far off cocktail bars. It is testament to Mark's writing style that you don't hold this against him, actually being glad he made the effort.

Mark is obviously a skilled communicator and, whilst not a scientist, he is interested in science and displays a talent for scientific thinking. Coupled with a light-hearted flavour, this book examines the current state of cutting edge technology, concentrating on robotics, genetics and nanotechnology, with a chunky side order of agricultural know-how mixed in with the future of thinking and philosophy.

He then meets an absolutely staggering array of experts in these fields (interviews with whom any journalist worth their sodium chloride would give their genetically modified left-nut for) and asks them what we all want to know. Namely, how is THAT going to affect ME?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Present.
This was very well received by my son who enjoys this type of book. I hope he may let me read it, too.
Published 6 months ago by Mrs. Angela READ
4.0 out of 5 stars The future's bright, and now for something completely different.
What can be most annoying about futurologists is their predictions. Here the author carefully avoids going into the concrete and just presents the themes that he thinks are going... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Andrew Dalby
5.0 out of 5 stars a must for all to read
Weather you are into science fiction or not. Science fact is that bit of life that is here.
This book explores the products and inventions that are now available and how they... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Blues Man
5.0 out of 5 stars Can you believe it?
Mark Stevenson's first chapter is "The World's Most Dangerous Ideas". He talks to people who take for granted that we will soon be living for 1000 years. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Anthony Day
4.0 out of 5 stars Mind blowing
Mind blowing ideas for the future that are really real. Wonderful to think the world will be different in ways today cant even imagine, and this book is a preview to that. Read more
Published 13 months ago by HinaP
5.0 out of 5 stars Still reading it
Haven't finished yet. Makes you think. I feel like memorising some passages as they seem to combine the wow! factor with sense and clarity. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Comfort Man
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding and Thought Provoking
I found the book to be an excellent combination of thought provoking, informative and readable. Strongly recommend to anyone interested in science developments in the future
Published 15 months ago by Chris C Allen
4.0 out of 5 stars Infectious optimism - worth catching
This book puts the most important technological developments into perspective. The first three sections are excellent maps to the future. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Barney Cox
5.0 out of 5 stars Who said science has to be boring?
With so many books out right now dealing with 'big ideas' and pondering our future, one might be forgiven for thinking Stevenson is just another also-ran among this canon of... Read more
Published 22 months ago by S. W. Morris
4.0 out of 5 stars One to Re-read in 200 years time
A jaunty, easy going tour of what the future might hold providing we don't wipe ourselves out with some bio-tech bomb. Read more
Published on 18 July 2012 by Jim 8888
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