What the Future Looks Like: Scientists Predict the Next Great Discoveries – and Reveal How Today’s Breakthroughs Are Already Shaping Our World
Author: Jim Al-Khalili (wiki link). Publishing year: 2018.
What the Future Looks Like is a collection of essays. They paint the future from a technological point of view. Each essay is written by a specialist in its field. The book starts from our current technological reality. Later, it moves on to explain more general, theoretical subjects. In the end it covers a large array of subjects, all of them grounded in our current technical knowledge despite the feel of speculation and prediction.
Predicting the Future
Speculating on the future is never easy. More often the predictions do not come true. Even more, we miss good opportunities to predict some obvious after the fact, technology.
The speculations in this book are based on our current technology and knowledge. Furthermore, it takes into account current trends and popular interests in our theoretical field and research.
The reader needs to approach this book as a scientific paper, and not as a science fiction book. Even if the authors try to step into predictions and speculations, they remain grounded in our current understanding of physics and laws of nature.
What the Future Looks Like contains both very popular, mainstream subjects and more peripheral, eccentric and unfamiliar issues and ideas.
The Immediate Future
As an introduction to predicting the future, we first dip our toes in demographics predictions, biosphere analysis and, of course, climate change.
Global Warming is dominating both popular and scientific media. It is the main topic of our century, and according to this book, it will be the defining characteristic:
“Climate change will be one of the defining challenges of the twenty-first century; how we respond will determine our future prosperity, health and well-being, and the sustainability of Earth’s natural environment.”
We can read in depth explanations about the current status of climate change and the diminishing biodiversity.
A book on future prediction is not complete without a word on Artificial Intelligence and the more recent Internet of Things. We can treat this two as the same subject as millions of interconnected devices are predicted to greatly enhance intelligent networks.
What the Future Looks Like for Mainstream Science
Quantum computers are also a hot topic nowadays. With different research institutes and teams fighting over the ultimate price: developing the quantum computer. This computer will not only give us greater computing power, but it will shift our understanding:
“In fact, using quantum computers to understand reality itself constitutes and unprecedented approach and thus may well drastically change our understanding of the universe, and even life itself.”
Transhumanism is another idea we can read about in this book. According to this philosophy, human beings will evolve into something ‘better’ using technological enhancements:
“Imagine a future world populated by a new species of post-humans who are far happier, more virtuous, more intelligent, and whose lives are measured in centuries rather than decades. This is the future transhumanists imagine and work toward.”
Other subjects we can read about are for example future of medicine and clean energy.
How the Future Looks Like for Less Common Fields
Maybe a not so popular subject is DNA Computing. This is a new computing technology predicted to surpass our current capabilities:
“In the decades to come, DNA computers will create new and better DNA devices that can act as biosensors, be used in diagnosis, for nanofabrication, or to gain programmable control of our own cells biology.”
The chapter dealing with this subject explains in great detail what DNA Computing is, making it a great introductory step for those who have no in depth knowledge on the subject.
Other subjects less known are: synthetic biology, smart materials, shape shifter transport vehicles and smart energy consumption systems.
The authors wrote their essay for a general audience. It is an accessible and engaging book. Each chapter is written by a scientist specialist in the field. Some of the subjects are less known to the general public, and at times, the subjects get complex but remain accessible.
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