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The Next Fifty Years: Science in the First Half of the Twenty-First Century [Paperback]

John Brockman
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Nov 2003
From Dolly the sheep to the Human Genome Project, the last fifty years have seen unprecedented leaps in our scientific understanding that have revolutionised our perception of ourselves, our world and our place in it. What, one might wonder, does the future have in store for us? Will we discover that our universe existed before the Big Bang or be able to 'swap' brains between different species? What is the future of happiness? In this dazzling collection, scientists at the very forefront of their fields, including Richard Dawkins, Lee Smolin, Sir Martin Rees and Ian Stewart, have been brought together to discuss the future of science, and the ways in which these dynamic changes will affect our daily lives.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (6 Nov 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753817101
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753817100
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,108,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Fifty years is a long time in science. The contributors to this volume of 25 specially commissioned essays write with a proper sense of caution as well as bold speculation. Each essay is written by an expert in his or her chosen field - on subjects ranging from mathematics to cyborgs; information technology to the treatment of disease; DNA to the discovery of life on other planets. Divided into two broad sections ('The Future, In Theory' and 'The Future, In Practice'), what's especially engaging about the book is the fact that the focus rarely strays from considerations of how developments might actually impinge upon our lives. For the most part, too, the contributors (including Richard Dawkins) have successfully pitched their essays towards what Brockmann calls 'the generally educated reader'. Fascinating stuff. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

A thought provoking and wide ranging look at what science might, and might not, be able to do for us in the first half of the twenty-first century. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Read 18 Mar 2003
I found this book to be an interesting read, but you need to be careful about your expectations. It's not a purely "technology" based prediction on what the future will hold - in fact it has very little reference to technological shifts and developments. It is more focused on societal, psychological and humanitarian developments.
In fact it reminded me of the "A Vision For Tomorrow" series, in that it looked more closely at the underlying shifts we will see in society as opposed to the technological advances that will enable these shifts.
For example, several sections are devoted entirely to psychiatry and psychoanalysis. Whilst interesting, I was interested more in the "gadget" and "science" aspects of futurology, and was left feeling a little bit as though the theories didn't really explain the route by which we would get there.
Nontheless, this book does offer interesting insights into our future society, and is particularly intriguing in the way that it threads current scientific thinking into possible outcomes, marrying various fields in to a connected vision.
A good read, mainly focused on society as opposed to technology.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite an eclectic mix but came good in the end 18 Jan 2004
By Keith Appleyard VINE VOICE
When I started this book, my first reaction was - who are all these authors? I only recognised 20% of the names. Hardly had I thought this then the Introduction told me exactly who they were - very timely.
However, as I progressed through the book, there was quite a variance in the quality of the writing. Some authors, such as those on Cosmology, communicated well, but then others were far too high-level for a general audience. It was the latter chapters that brought me considerable delight & education when discussing the Mind, Psychology etc (not my favourite subjects I may add).
If all the contributors had tuned their work to the same general audience, then this would have deserved 5 stars; if it wasn't for the redeeming work by the psychologists & neuroscientists I'd have probably rated the book as 3 stars.
And the cover illustration left me completely confused as to what it was trying to communicate?
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4.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag 25 Jun 2008
By Andrew Dalby VINE VOICE
The quality of the articles is very variable. There is a strong bias towards psychology and science of the mind and away from the physical sciences. The book is divided into two sections - the first how theory will change and the second about the practical implications.

As John Holland says in the book making predictions over such a long period is very dangerous especially with the current rapid rate of change and so some of the predictions are already looking "dated" and we are only 5 years on. Some articles are brilliant and worth the price of the book - Roger Schank, Jaron Lanier and Stuart Kauffman for example. Some others are poor such as those by Peter Atkins and especially Richard Dawkins who comes across particularly badly.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a collection of 25 essays by eminent scientists in their respective fields, who, as the work's title suggests, attempt to describe the advancements in human scientific knowledge and understanding they feel will take place in the first half of the twenty-first century.

It is interesting, upon first reading this book in 2011, how the impact of the mere nine years since its publication can be perceived in some of its constituent essays; for instance, I see no evidence that we are any closer now to a world of David Gelernter's anticipated 'Beams' of constantly accessable information in 'cyberspace' through time: they are arguably with us already under the moniker of The Internet, in which case Gelernter is perhaps guilty of inventing a complex term for that which already exissts. If, alternatively, he is proposing a fundamentally different cyberspatial architecture, this begs the question of who, in the fundamentally decentralised Web, will be tasked to construct these monolithic 'Beams'?

Robert M. Sapolsky's fine contribution on depression also seemed clearly rooted in an early-noughties zeitgeist, both in its portrayal of a almost complete lack of understanding of the neurophysiology and genetics behind depression, and its denunciation of the attitude that might be termed 'pills will solve all your problems' (both issues on which there has been some albeit limited advancement since).

The essays cover a broad range, from physics and mathematics to educational science and moral development, but I would say there is a definite slant toward more biological and psychological fields and to information technology.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars pretty straightforward 2 Dec 2007
This book is definitely interesting and well written, and puts forth generally plausible ideas from many bright, well respected people. A few of the ideas seem a bit hard to swallow, such as Paul Ewald claiming that many of the major human diseases, such as bipolar disorder and Alzheimer's, will be shown to be caused by viruses. But for the most part the book is plausible, interesting, and even somewhat entertaining. Author of Adjust Your Brain: A Practical Theory for Maximizing Mental Health.
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