Sunday, May 1, 2011

Book Blog 5: 50 Years from Today

I've been slowly reading the book called 50 Years from Today. It is an interesting collection of short writings by 60 influential people in the world in 2008.

I like the book because it shows a glimpse into the minds of intellectual people when they think about what life in the near future might be like.

Many of the writers predict that technology will play a huge part in transforming many different areas of life including healthcare, transportation, international relations, and commerce.
In chapter 58, John C. Mather predicts that we will discover other earth-like planets elsewhere in the galaxy.  He also warns us that we may lose our way, as the people of ancient Alexandria, Egypt lost their way when their great library was burned, and the progress of knowledge was significantly slowed.  He admits that it would be much more difficult for us to lose our accumulated scientific knowledge today because of the internet.

In chapter 59, Ahmed Zewail reminds us that predictions of the future have often failed.  For example, Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, predicted in 1943 that the world had a market for about five computers.  Due to progress in nanotechnology, Zewail predicts that we may have recreated a biological cell with all its intricacies in the form of a nano-machine.  Also, Zewail warns us that cheap and powerful technology will be accessible to more and more of the impoverished people of the world.  This may result, he says, in violent conflicts of a type that we have not seen before.  Lastly, Zewail highlights the importance of faith as a significant source of meaning of life.  This point of his was an uncommon one in this book. 

In chapter 60, Ross Gelbspan mentions that three prominent environmental scientists have said that humanity is either close to or beyond the point of no return in terms of staving off major climate impacts.  He fears that we will deal with these impacts by resorting to totalitarianism.  He hopes that these impacts will cause us to reform the energy sector of the world economy, thus bringing about a realization of our outdated and toxic nationalism that we have long outgrown.  He rounds out the last chapter of the book with a call to balance ourselves between the extremes of totalitarianism and laissez faire capitalism. 

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