- Save 10% on selected children’s books, compliments of Amazon Family Promotion exclusive for Prime members .
Our Final Hour: A Scientist's Warning Paperback – 14 Apr 2004
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Special offers and product promotions
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Our Final Hour spells out doomsday scenarios for cosmic collisions, high-energy experiments gone wrong and self-replicating machines that steadily devour the biosphere. Just when you've stopped worrying and learned to love the bomb, Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, comes along with teeming armies of deadly viruses, nanobots, and armed fanatics. 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.
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."
Rees places much of the blame for many technological debacles 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, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Heady, scary--and very scholarly--Stuff.... Rees writes with beautiful simplicity. This is a conversational book, totally accessible to a general reader."See all Product description
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Top customer reviews
The books have different covers, and are different sizes, but they are both the same book!
WORD FOR WORD.
I felt cheated by Amazon for selling me the same thing twice!!
BE WARNED !
The book starts off describing some of the well known threats that we face as a race. I found this part of the book rather mundane. I was really looking for some revelations here and some food for thought on this important subject.
It wasn't until the ninth chapter on experimental particle physics (about half way through the book) that I became truly engaged. Given Sir Rees' vocation it's probably not surprising that this is the area where he is most informative. His discussion here about the dangers of this kind of science and the responsibility of scientists to keep the rest of us informed was enlightening.
I enjoyed the second half of the book much more than the first as it was more optimistic. This part of the book describes the potential that we have as a race and also discusses the level of our cosmic significance.
My disappointment with this book was twofold. The first was that it is a rather brief book. I finished each chapter wanting to know very much more than the author told me. Secondly given the fact that Sir Rees rates our survival past this century as around 50% I was surprised to find that there was no practical advice as to what we as individuals could do to improve our chances. Rees puts our fate squarely in the hands of either scientists or terrorists.
I have to say that given Rees' comments on the possibility of a post human future I was surprised to see him treat scientists such as Ray Kurzweil so scathingly. It seems to me that someone who can so eloquently speak about the possibility of parallel universes should be able to conceive of the world changing to the point where some of us may become immortal.
Overall this is a rather negative view of the world. Rees believes that we are living at a critical time in history. In his view it is this century that will make or break us and on balance he doesn't think we have more than an even chance to survive. He may very well be right but while he should be congratulated for wanting to discuss these issues, I personally don't think a warning such as this is much use without some advice on what to do about it.
The phase shift of humanity from Anthropocene into a radically novel epoch which I call “Anthroporegenesis”, in which humanity will recreate itself and its environments thanks to surging power supplied by science and technology, raises three fateful questions: what are the novel dangers and opportunities; what are the options for coping with them; and who should decide what to do and be in charge of doing so.
Most of this book is devoted to the paramount part of the first question and explores main dangers posed to humanity by emerging science and technology. It does so admirably, including enlightening philosophic discourse and inspiring ideas. With some updating, such as the population projections, pp. 102-105), and some additions, such as on human enhancement, this volume should be obligatory reading for all public leaders and all students of humankind issues.
But, as nearly all books dealing with emerging human predicaments resulting from peaking science and technology, this one too does not cope with the fateful question who, on behalf of humanity and for its sake, should decide what to do and enforce what is necessary.
Rees recognizes the problem, stating “some physics experiments offer an interesting ‘case study’ of who should decide (and how) whether to sanction an experiment with a catastrophic ‘downside’ that is very improbable but not quite inconceivable” (p. 119). He quotes Fred Ikle’s 1997 statement “The knowledge and technique for making biological superweapons will become dispersed among hospital laboratories, agricultural research institutes, and peaceful factories everywhere. Only an oppressive police state could assure total government control over such novel tools for mass destruction” (p. 48). The book also mentions the need for “intrusive surveillance” (pp. 66-68); Fukayama’s suggestion of strict control of mind-altering drugs (p. 69); and, the need to restrain science and technology, or at least slow them down (discussed in excellent chapter 6). Rees fully recognized that “Ethical constraints on research, or relinquishment of potentially threatening technologies, are difficult to agree and even tougher to implement” (p. 73).
The need for deeply tragic existential choices is acknowledged by statements such as “These risks can’t be eliminated; indeed, it will be hard to stop them from growing without encroaching on some cherished personal freedoms” (p. 186). All the more pressing is the question who shall decide what is more important: reducing humanity-endangering risks or preserving cherished personal freedoms, when every choice is in essence a fuzzy gamble.
The insight that “Our destiny depends …above all on choices that we ourselves make during the present century” (p. 130), expanded into the daring conjecture that “We live at what could be a defining moment for the cosmos, not just for our Earth” (p. 181) sharpens even more the question who are “we” making the choices.” But, as nearly all the books dealing with emerging human predicaments resulting from peaking science and technology, this one too does not tackle this crucial issue. The section on “Who Should Decide” (pp. 127-129), however interesting, does not really do so.
This is disturbing, but not surprising. Revising the “two cultures” thesis of C.P. Snow, I think that three “pure type” cultures/communities are (1) science and technology, devoted to advancing knowledge and applications; (2) science and society, dealing with interactions between novel science and technology and society as well as humanity as a whole; and (3) power and politics, concerned which decision makers and powerful actors. 1 and 2 interact and partly overlap. But both often lack real understanding of of power and politics, while the latter does not understand 1 and hardly cares about 2.
If we add the “politically incorrect” and even “taboo” nature of what may be essential for coping with the dangers posed by science and technology, then lack of adequate treatments of the needed agency is not surprising. But this is a potentially fatal lacuna, which needs urgently deeper and franker treatment the available at present. This book helps a lot by succinctly posing main issues; but the question of humankind agency remains open.
Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The end of the world has been predicted since it began, but the chance of keeping the planet alive has been getting worse with the awesome speed of scientific advance. Rees calculates that the odds of a terminal disaster striking Earth have risen to 50% from 20% over the century.
Rees lists major threats from - nuclear terrorism, deadly viruses, rogue machines and genetic engineering that could alter humanity. All could result from innocent error or the action of a single aggressor. By 2020, an incidence of bioterror or error will have killed a million, Rees contends.
An interesting read, a conversation starter. Read it.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews
Look for similar items by category
- Books > Science & Nature > Engineering & Technology > Civil Engineering > Environmental
- Books > Science & Nature > Engineering & Technology > Environmental
- Books > Science & Nature > History & Philosophy > Reference
- Books > Science & Nature > Mathematics > Popular Maths
- Books > Science & Nature > Mathematics > Reference
- Books > Scientific, Technical & Medical > Engineering > Environmental Engineering
- Books > Society, Politics & Philosophy > Social Sciences