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Our Final Century?: Will the Human Race Survive the Twenty-first Century? Hardcover – 1 May 2003

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: William Heinemann Ltd (1 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0434008095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0434008094
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.2 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 465,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Just when you've stopped worrying, along comes Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, with teeming armies of deadly viruses, nanobots, and armed fanatics in Our Final Century.

Beyond the hazards most of us know about--smallpox, terrorists, global warming--Rees introduces the new threats of the 21st century and the unholy political and scientific alliances that have made them possible. He spells out doomsday scenarios for cosmic collisions, high-energy experiments gone wrong, and self-replicating machines that steadily devour the biosphere. If we can avoid driving ourselves to extinction, he writes, a glorious future awaits; if not, our devices may very well destroy the universe.

What happens here on Earth, in this century, could conceivably make the difference between a near eternity filled with ever more complex and subtle forms of life and one filled with nothing but base matter.

For many technological debacles, Rees places much of the blame squarely on the shoulders of the scientists who participate in perfecting environmental destruction, biological menaces, and ever-more powerful weapons. So is there any hope for humanity? Rees is vaguely optimistic on this point, offering solutions that would require a level of worldwide cooperation humans have yet to exhibit. If the daily news isn't enough to make you want to crawl under a rock, this book will do the trick. --Therese Littleton


'I have to take his arguments seriously… Rees is a clear, entertaining and thought-provoking author.’ -- Financial Times

'Rees is at his most learned and fluent when discussing these risk calculations… he writes with rare clarity and conciseness' -- Matt Ridley in the Sunday Telegraph

'Terrifying… Impassioned… not just a catalogue of scare stories but a clarion call for scientists to come together...' -- John Cornwell in the Sunday Times

‘That a scientist so distinguished as Rees should air these fierce anxieties is a sign that something is amiss.’ -- J G Ballard in the Daily Telegraph

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Format: Hardcover
Our Final Century - Martin Rees - 2003

This book, published nearly a decade since, has survived with us close on thirteen years into the 21st Century, it remains to be seen if some of us get past the 2012 Olympics being staged in London, UK.

The subtitle for Rees's 228 book is "Will the Human Race Survive the Twenty-First Century? " Perhaps this should be "Will the Planet Survive another Century of Human Endeavour?" Speaking as an all-round scientist myself (more accurately, a polymath) I would doubt it.

Martin Rees is a fellow astronomer for whom I have a great deal of respect. His writings are lucid and economical and therefore well focussed. My only regret with the present volume is that he could not resist bringing in cosmology (he is after all more of a theoretician than a practical astronomer, despite holding the rank of Astronomer Royal). Therefore I am bugged by allusions to big bangs, string theory and the like; but I'll disregard this aspect of the book and concentrate on what appears to me to be the real threats to our continued tenancy of planet Earth.

The Prologue starts well: "The twentieth Century brought us the bomb, and the nuclear threat will never leave us; the short-term threat from terrorism is high on the public and political agenda; inequalities in wealth and welfare get ever wider. My primary aim is not toad to the burgeoning literature on these challenging themes but to focus on twenty-first century hazards, currently less familiar, that could threaten humanity and the global environment still more."

The theme of thermonuclear self-destruction is developed in the Prologue.
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Comment 6 of 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
Being an astronomer gives you a different perspective to life on Earth to the rest of us, as Martin Rees acknowledges in this book. While the rest of us spend our lives surrounded by life, astronomers spend their time staring into and thinking about vast expanses of lifeless nothing, watching stars blow up and seeing the evidence scattered all around us that shows how the Universe just doesn't look to receptive to life in general. We are just a small blue speck in the vast scheme of things, and specks get blown away all too easily.
It's why he's probably better placed than most to write a book like this, looking at the various ways we could wipe ourselves out over the next hundred years, and what steps we could take to increase the chances of our survival. He looks at a variety of scenarios, from 'bioerror and bioterror' through nanotechnology gone wrong to bizarre possibilities in advanced physics experiments that might not just destroy Earth, but could go on to destroy the entire universe - and it would all happen so quickly that we'd never know about it.
Rees is clearly and expert on his subject, and isn't just a mad prophet in the desert calling down woe on the works of mankind. He wants us to survive, wants us to be aware of the risks we face and what we can do to avoid them or lessen the risk. He's careful to end the book on notes of hope rather than despair, like a Nick Ross on a cosmic scale telling us not to have nightmares about the risk of our entire existence being stolen from us in the night.
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Format: Paperback
Martin Rees discusses a large variety of subjects in Our Final Century; everything that could wipe mankind of the face of the Earth, and that's an awful lot. Taking up such a subject cannot lead to an in-depth description of details. But Rees has succeeded wonderfully in writing a book that informs the general reader about everything that could happen, to what extent we can expect it to happen, and the possible actions we should take to prevent it from happening.

Our Final Century is written in a pleasant, informal style. Rees occasionally shares his experiences and opinions, but in a modest way, without being pushy or pedantic. From beginning to end, this book does not cease to interest, succeeding in both amusing and alarming the reader.
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Format: Hardcover
Interesting book, which would have been great with a slightly tighter focus. Sir Martin Rees tries to warn us that with ever-faster technological progress, the odds of a truly catastrophic mishap - either by accident or design - are going to be significant over the next century. He outlines 'familiar' dangers such as nuclear weapons, genetically engineered viruses, environmental hazards and includes more futuristic ideas about nanotechnology running amok and artificial hyperintelligences taking over.
Truly an interesting subject, and a good book, but unfortunately the ending maybe rambles off into a fairly generic speculation of humanity's potential future, should we succeed in not wiping ourselves out. The book takes a reasonably apolitical slant, which I think is a shame but maybe justified as the author is, after all, a scientist.
There are interesting thoughts on whether we should seek to ban certain lines of research on the grounds that the research itself is too dangerous, compared to the benefits, or that it might lead to potentially dangerous uses. There's a very interesting chapter on the philosophical, probabilistic Doomsday theories.
All in all, a good and quick read on an interesting, and unfortunately quite timely, subject.
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