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An Optimist's Tour of the Future Paperback – 6 Jan 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (6 Jan. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846683564
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846683565
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 388,924 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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By SB on 3 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback
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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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By HarpistKat on 6 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Spiral Spirals. on 17 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback
In 'An Optimist's Tour of the Future', Mark Stevenson appeals to us to consider again the omnipresent relationship between humans and technology. Futurism is a strange and difficult field, and unexpected and unlikely events and processes can easily throw off specific predictions. The book is a whirlwind tour of some of the technologies that Stevenson believes may influence our future. At the start of the 21st Century, there is a widespread consensus of pessimism among many authors and commentators like Al Gore and Michael Moore; that humanity is irrevocably damaging its environment, that it is dabbling and 'playing God' in fields it does not understand, that we face brick walls that we cannot, or will not climb.

The technologies that Stevenson overviews range from the visionary -- Eric Drexler's idea of building practically anything with localized molecular manufacturing -- to the wonderfully mundane -- Bruce Barton's idea of mitigating carbon emissions by making farm animals graze in more 'natural' patterns. Stevenson avoids the pitfalls of the highly cliched futurology of the 1950's by focusing on real technologies being harnessed by real people to do real things.

The book appeals to the human spirit of progress, and adventure or 'questing'. The technologies to mitigate carbon emissions, to roll out cheap solar power, to mine rare metals and minerals from asteroids, to create genome-specific medicines and to produce fossil fuel-equivalents from viruses already exist. Although there are dangers and drawbacks (but there have been dangers and drawbacks in every technological revolution in human history) Stevenson seems to be imploring us to ask the questions: 'Why aren't these technologies and their benefits more widespread?
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Sarah J on 4 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback
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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