This superb book by Freeman Dyson was largely based on the 'Three Faces of Science' lectures he gave at the New York Public Library in 1997. It consists of three chapters.
CHAPTER 1: SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION
Dyson revisits scientific disciplines that have come about as a result of brilliant minds exploring a previously unexisting path of research. In doing so, he makes an effort to extrapolate out of today's most rapidly growing areas of science (molecular biology and astronomy) what the future scientific revolutions might be like, and gives wise words of advise to medical scientists and biologists on how to make faster progress in their disciplines by changing some of their fundamental research paradigms, learning from the ways of astronomers.
CHAPTER 2: TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
In more than one way, it reminds me of a very pivotal article written not too long ago by Sun Microsystem's Bill Joy in Wired Magazine, which dealt with genetic engineering, robotics and nanotechnology, and their ethical implications.
Dyson's new list of important things for us to 'worry' about gave way to the book's title. He looks "for ways in which technology may contribute to social justice..." by mitigating evils such as rural poverty. This chapter is a brilliant exercise in which Dyson puts his mind to fly and actually makes his vision very easy to grasp by non-technical readers. When you read through the chapter you can almost feel that his vision is happening already, although there are some very real and respectable hurdles still separating us from it, which need to be overcome.
CHAPTER 3: THE HIGH ROAD
Although the book consists of three chapters, the reason for the title is more aptly dealt with in chapters 1 and 2. Chapter 3 is a little out of context with respect to the original intention of the book, yet doesn't make the reader loose interest.
In this chapter, Dyson makes an incredible analysis and extrapolation about the elements surrounding our ability to find life beyond the boundaries of our planet. He believes, on the other hand, that as much as one hundred years would have to pass before we're near being able to send a significant amount of human explorers to space. But he doesn't leave readers without hope for this 'distant' future, as he lets his mind fly once again: He explains some of the exciting possible technologies he sees making massive human space exploration happen.
Finally, he wraps up chapter 3 with an ethical dissertation on the topics of cloning and reprogenetics (substituting chunks of live DNA with new, supposedly 'more desirable' chunks), closing it with the following brilliant yet slightly frightening words:
"To give us room to explore the varieties of mind and body into which our genome can evolve, one planet is not enough."
After such as closing sentence in chapter 3, I have to admit that the epilogue seemed a little weak, going back to topics already well discussed in chapter 2.
It is very easy throughout the entire book (which happens to take very little time to read, by the way) to be humbled by the ease with which Dyson deals with new scientific topics (for being a theoretical physicist, he jumps very easily, for example, from genetic engineering to space science) and the clarity he has (where some scientifics lack) in terms of the importance of maintaining the feet on the ground in the light of new scientific discoveries: how expensive will a new technology coming out of a discovery will be like, how many people will use it, etc.
After the death of Richard Feynman (some of whose books are among the 'scientific' books I've enjoyed the most) I thought the world had been deprived of its most brilliant teacher of science. Now I know Dyson is still with us, and this one only promises to become the first of his books I will read.