Top positive review
5 May 2019
James Lovelock is very very nearly 100 years old (born on July 26th 1919) and he is still fizzing away with brilliant ideas.
This latest book suggests that the human race will enable the evolution of hyper-intelligent cyborgs which will usher in the Novacene era...(of which more in a minute) - but first he looks through the past.
I read his wonderful, astonishing and thought provoking first book (Gaia: The Practical Science of Planetary Medicine.) back when it first came out - and have watched with delight as his theory has turned from being scorned by the establishment to become a corner-stone of ecological thinking.
This new book starts off with the bold statement that we are alone in the Universe, of which I am not convinced...
Douglas Adams [who is also quoted by Lovelock with regard to dolphins] has a theory that goes as follows:
"... given that the volume of the universe is infinite there must be an infinite number of worlds. But not all of them are populated; therefore only a finite number are. Any finite number divided by infinity is zero, therefore the average population of the Universe is zero, and so the total population must be zero."
I am more inclined to think that none of the parameter's in Drake's equation are zero - so the probability is greater than zero. We just will never find them or contact them, thanks to Uncle Albert's (frankly somewhat unhelpful) limitation on the speed of information transfer.
Lovelock has a sensible thought about Elon Musk and his ilk who are spending fortunes on the race to be able to die slowly and horribly on Mars, whereas they could benefit mankind by using their vast wealth to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
Lovelock is also a convert to nuclear power - which makes a lot of sense but few friends with the Greens!
He also concludes that much of the doomsday scenarios proposed by the climate scientists are not necessarily realistic or likely in the foreseeable future - "...as with much of climate science, we just don't know".
BUT our glorious planet needs help to cool down.
And we CAN make a difference - as he demonstrates with the tale of the CFCs - which were the demons that were destroying the ozone layer, which is predicted to return to its pre-CFC state by the 2070s.
He also makes the point that too many politicians are bound by vested interests from the fossil fuel and other businesses - perhaps we should all be REALLY nice to the global capitalists who actually run the world (the Musks, and Bezos's and Zuckerbergs) and buy lots more of their products on the understanding that they will use their huge profits to circumvent the stymied national governments and help create storable electricity, safe nuclear (fission) power and plant billions of trees.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and highly recommend it.
P.S. You may have noticed that I have not reviewed the Cyborg bits. This is because (as a PhD in Artificial Intelligence) I am fairly certain that this is not going to happen.
I refer you to a couple of really sensible recent books, which show that current AI is just "smart" rather than intelligent and we are not on course for SkyNet and the Terminator...
"AI: Its nature and future" by Margaret Boden
"Artifictional Intelligence" by Harry Collins
"Hello World" by Hannah Fry
"Machines that Think" from New Scientist