The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform The World (Allen Lane Science) Hardcover – 31 Mar 2011
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Bold ... profound ... provocative and persuasive. (The Economist)
Science has never had an advocate quite like David Deutsch. He is a computational physicist on a par with his touchstones Alan Turing and Richard Feynman, and also a philosopher in the line of his greatest hero, Karl Popper. His arguments are so clear that to read him is to experience the thrill of the highest level of discourse available on this planet and to understand it ...This is the great Life, the Universe and Everything book for our time and the answer is not 42: it is infinity. To understand precisely what Deutsch means by this, you will have to read him. Do so and lose your parochial blinkers forever. (Peter Forbes The Independent)
This is Deutsch at his most ambitious, seeking to understand the implications of our scientific explanations of the world ... I enthusiastically recommend this rich, wide-ranging and elegantly written exposition of the unique insights of one of our most original intellectuals. (Michael Berry Times Higher Education Supplement)
David Deutsch...may well go down in history as one of the great scientists of our age. (Andrew Crumey The Scotsman)
About the Author
Born in Haifa, Israel, David Deutsch was educated at Cambridge and Oxford universities. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a professor of physics at the University of Oxford, where he is a member of the Centre for Quantum Computation. His many honors include the Institute of Physics' Paul Dirac Prize and Medal. The author of The Fabric of Reality, he lives in England.
Top customer reviews
However, the author ranges very broadly, and the chapters, hardly related to the main premise, had a generally negative impact on me. For example, he includes a chapter on choice concerning voting systems, which I thought irrelevant to the main thrust of the book, and uniquely for the author, it did not seem to have been thought through; he appears to put forward the argument prevalent before the Great Reform Act that it did not matter how MPs were chosen as long as they formed a body capable of weighing the matters before them. In addition, Professor Deutsch has given space to attacks on those who hold to different beliefs and philosophies to himself, such as empiricists, instrumentalists, and those of religious belief. I would be on his side in at least some of these cases, but the problem is that he is only able to make his views known forcefully, but cannot possibly present the fully developed arguments that characterise the rest of the book. The effect of what I have to call digressions, together with the 25 page dialogue with Socrates, is to make the book significantly longer than it might have been. To do justice to it, I found myself reading one or two chapters at a time so I read it over a time span of 3 weeks. As a result of this and what I found a slightly haphazard ordering of the chapters, I found myself referring back far more often than normal. I think that with tighter editing, the book could have been shortened by close to a third, reducing my problems significantly, and I really hope that this is done for some future edition.
A few other comments:
I also read the author's Fabric of Reality many years ago; I particularly remember the sections on many-worlds QM and "time travel" being excellent, but the rest of it seemed to be rather "wouldn't it be nice if the universe was like this..." and describing it to others at the time as "a theory of everything... as the author would like it to be". With this new book Deutsch seems to have raised his game and the power of his arguments, and the ideas come across as much more convincing.
Some of the later chapters are a bit bizarre. In the one on whether there might be different kinds of subjective/objective beauty Deutsch seems to fall right into the same parochial trap the rest of the book warns about when he speculates that the evolution of human physical appearance may now be being driven by the "objective" rather than "subjective" kind. There is also one on electoral systems which takes it into far more political territory than any other popular science book I've read (excepting the Freakonomics ones maybe), but which has certainly changed my thinking on some things. I thought the Socrates/Plato chapter was a welcome bit of light relief.
Most pop science books I read, by the time I've finished them I'll have added a bunch of other interesting-sounding cited books to my reading list. Not so with this one; Deutsch does mention other's work which I haven't read (e.g anything on memes), but usually follows it up with such powerful "but they made one fatal mistake..." arguments and revisions to the original theory that you feel like you'll be misinformed if you go and read the referenced stuff. Only Popper and Dawkins seem to escape such treatment.
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