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VINE VOICEon 18 July 2010
James Martin had made a name as a futurologist with his book "The Wired Society" which predicted the impact that the internet would have on creating the world we live in. Here he predicts that the world will undergo a major transition during the 21st Century. He describes how the world will go through a transformation by travelling through the mid-century canyon and that it is imperative that mankind makes it to the other side. There are perils for making it through the canyon and for this reason he has set-up the James Martin 21st Century School at the University of Oxford, to try and work out how we can make it through safely. This is a school for civilisation and survival that links many disciplines.

The canyon is a ncie metaphor and should provide a framework about which the book should be structured, so how we are now, problems of the canyon and how we might emerge, but this is not used well. We jump between problems and how we will emerge without saying how we get from one to the other. There is not enough focus on the canyon. This might be because Martin still does not have a clear view of the solutions - hence the School, but the canyon is getting very close and the book itself stressses the need for early action.

Where the book is strongest is identifying the wasted resources in our current world. This is not just wasted natural resources that we plunder without adding them to the balance sheet, but also people, our biggest wasted resource. On this I think he has identified the biggest failure of current society. He also identifies the madness of excessive consumerism with endless trivial consumer goods.

Where the books is weak is in the ideas about trans-humanism and our approaching Kurzweil's singularity - that we will be able to move in silico. If we do all the environmental problems go as we will never need food again! I also think he is too focussed on nuclear and biological weaponry which while a threat are nowhere near the levels of danger we faced 20 years ago. In the canyon bad things will happen, but we are unlikely to return to the total response view of the cold war. There is also too much emphasis on high civilisation - the higher arts. Florence in the time of da Vinci was not a great time to live. People were not enjoying high civilisation, they were fighting continuous wars to defend fragile democracies against tyrannical Princes. Great cultural movements do not mean good times for the citizens, which is what the future has to be about.
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on 14 August 2013
I had high hopes for the book as it does identify really key issues that need serious consideration.

I was hoping for more insight into methods by which interdisciplinary working methods might help tackle the challenges. Some of the examples such as Factor 4 are now quite old and the resources issue didn't mention other ideas like closed loop systems/economies. Given this is probably the area I am most familiar with, it raised some doubts in my mind about the throughness of the other topics.

It gets somewhat repetitive after a while and I personally didn't like the short sentence structure; others might.
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on 9 February 2015
insightful book
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on 19 January 2015
Great. Thanks
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on 12 October 2008
An utterly fascinating book... the best thing I've read in years.

I've been developing a strong interest in futurology, and this book is packed full of predictions, scenarios and warnings for what lies ahead in the 21st century. Practically everything you can think of is covered here - nanotechnology, genetics, climate change, overpopulation, poverty, disease, global trade, demographics, war, terrorism, computers and the Internet, AI, the exploration of Mars, transhumanism and mind uploading.

Martin writes in a clear, logical and persuasive style that is very easy to follow. This book is nearly 600 pages long, but I finished it within a couple of weeks.

Some of the predictions he describes are terrifying - it's clear that we face enormous challenges in the years ahead, and there's a very real chance that civilisation won't survive beyond the 21st century. We desperately need to learn how to manage our planet, its resources, and our relationships with the world's poorest countries.

One thing we can be sure about, is that we'll have to endure LOTS of changes over the next few decades.

Martin is an optimist though, and far from doom-mongering, he shows the many spectacular ways in which humanity could be transformed by the emerging technologies. But only if we learn to work together, control our resources, and minimise our impact on the natural world.

I would give this book 10/10, it's a real eye-opener and needs to be read by everyone... especially our politicians!

To quote Sarah Greenfield, Director of the Royal Institution: "On rare occasions, a special book introduces a vital new idea into the public consciousness. This is one of those books."
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on 18 January 2011
This is a very wide-ranging and stimulating overview of the big issues facing us in the coming century - written five years ago, but in no way dated. James Martin is a hugely successful businessman who has turned his thoughts and energies to framing and confronting these challenges in a long-term context. He has put his money where his mouth is, substantially funding research at Oxford University on the same themes.

Martin's list of challenges is a long and intimidating one. Some are quite familiar, such as population growth, poverty and terrorism. Others are less so, for example transhumanism - the opportunities which are opening up for integrating silicon into our bodies to connect ourselves directly to dramatically increasing computer power. This will change our whole understanding of intelligence and poses immense and unsettling ethical questions.

There are big ideas here. Tertiary evolution refers to the way an intelligent species learns to automate evolution itself (secondary evolution being the process by which we can create forms of evolution such as DNA manipulation). We should prepare ourselves for possibly open-ended senescence. We need to think in terms of resource productivity rather than labour productivity, hugely increasing the effective use of energy and materials. For me as an adult educator some of the most fascinating parts are those on the prospects for human intelligence, and the need for new modes of learning which preserve and enable our humanity in the face of massive technological change.

One of the virtues of the book is Martin's determined and convincing optimism that these challenges can be met, if we have the vision and the courage. Another is his undogmatic and pragmatic approach, for example on GM foods and nuclear power. He argues against premature rejection of these options, but sets out the kind of progress that science has to make if they are to become realistic. His reflections combine large-scale thinking with some neat details - I particular liked the suggestion of a digital Michelin Guide to help us sort the valuable from the crap in a world of huge information flows. The book sprawls a little and could have done with some tighter editing. But it is an impressive source of important, grounded futures thinking.
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on 9 July 2013
This book is rather engaging, the author writes with passion about the problems he forsees, as he did in 1975 (and apparently was vindicated by history). It is also rather refreshingly pragmatic, he encourages the use of new (but not old) generation nuclear power alongside renewables. Furthermore as a biochemist myself, his insight into the life sciences is rather keen. Encouraginly, he backs up all his 'futorology' with reputable projections and modern day trends, and uses current R&D to try and understand what the future may be like. This means you will find plenty of interesting (and terrifying) statistics and facts. However, the book sufferes from a lot of repetition which can make it a chore I believe this is done to make the book more modular but it means a cover to cover read is discouraged.

But definitely worth a buy.
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on 5 January 2008
I really wanted to like this book, but I found it a big disappointment.

Yes, its heart is in the right place: it provides plenty of reasons why our current way of life is dangerously unsustainable, and it has a pleasing open mind towards some of the more radical options for solutions (as well as ideas such as rejuvenation medicine, the Singularity, transhumanism, and life extension). I also learned something new from nearly every chapter (though there's a lot of claims that lack sufficient references.)

However, there's a great deal of repetition and overlap between the chapters. The book could easily have been chopped down to half its size without losing value. Also, there's often a grand naivety in the hopes pronounced for the future.

For probably the best book on analysing the challenges of the 21st century, I recommend instead "The upside of down" by Thomas Homer Dixon.
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on 8 October 2006
This book should be required reading for everyone. It is easy to read and simple to understand. The author explains how we are plundering and ruining our beautiful planet which will have dire consdquences for our children and grandchildren. He does not lecture but merely informs without judgment.

The resources of our planet are finite. The book explains what they are, how we are using them carelessly and without responsibility and how we might put things right. There are no international laws to protect our environment. We need to put some in place which all countries will adhere to. When enough people request this of their leaders, things will start to change.

Evry thinking person on the planet knows that we are digging our own grave if we continue to ruin our beautiful natural world. We all need to take responsiblity for our own actions in any way we can, no matter how small. We need to be informed so that we can make the best decisions for the future. This wonderful book gives you all the basic information you need to begin to think differently about the world and to gradually change the way you live.

The planet is here for us to look after and nurture. No one of us is born 'entitled'. Every individual must take responsibility for agreeing change for only by a mass transition in human consciousness and resolve, will we be able to put in place the right solutions to give us a naturally sustainable future.

Read this book - and make a start on changing the way you think about the earth and all her beauty.
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on 28 November 2013
Dr James Martin's concern for the fate of the planet and its inhabitants is commendable. The "solutions" he is suggesting to the world's problems are the exact opposite.

In this book, he makes the extraordinary claim that multinational corporations are "the only human organisation capable of achieving the complex and difficult tasks that are ahead," which is why they must take a greater role in the world's affairs. This after stating that corporations already have "more impact on people's lives than government."

What multinational corporations Dr Martin is talking about is clear from his background and the organisations he has set up. Dr Martin started his career as a computer scientist with Rockefeller-controlled IBM where he worked for nearly 20 years.

With the assistance of Rockefeller associate Bill Gates and fellow billionaire George Soros, the futurologist Dr Martin - by then a multi-millionaire in his own right - founded the Oxford Martin School (OMS) to "address the most pressing challenges and opportunities of the 21st century."

The School is run by former World Bank vice-president Ian Goldin and has an advisory council controlled by the World Economic Forum, whose participants Dr Martin praises for their alleged concern for "sustainable development" and "the future of the planet."

The World Economic Forum ("Davos set") is dominated by Rockefeller-controlled multinational corporations and associated interests like Saudi Aramco (originally a Rockefeller-Saudi joint venture), Chevron, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and the Rockefeller Foundation.

With the leaders of the global corporate community firmly behind it, the OMS has virtually taken over Oxford with a budget of millions of pounds and 38 institutes with 400 academics beavering away on corporate-friendly projects ranging from the economy to immigration.

While the problem of "shaping humanity's long-term future" is being taken care of by the School's Commission for Future Generations and associated Future of Humanity Institute, the world's economy is being fixed by George Soros' Institute for New Economic Thinking and migration is being sorted by the pro-immigration Migration Observatory and International Migration Institute.

Apart from being a member of the Rockefellers' notorious Council on Foreign Relations, Soros has a long track record as speculator and gold market manipulator who reportedly broke the Bank of England and was involved in a plot to cash in on the fall of the euro by placing large bets against the currency. Notably, he has been accused of ruining Eastern Europe's economies by hijacking their privatisation programmes after the fall of communism.

Soros' collaborator, OMS director Ian Goldin, is an immigrant from South Africa who, in his own words, has made immigration his life-long passion. His belief that open borders are "an ideal to work towards" and that large movements of immigrants are "good for the economy" has led him to announce that immigration will "define our future" and to call for more of it.

With self-appointed "problem solvers" like the above in charge of drafting the blueprint for our future, the world can look forward to its troubles getting a great deal worse rather than better.
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