The Next Fifty Years

  • by John Brockman, Editor
  • Narrated by Henry Leyva, Jennifer Wiltsie
  • 8 hrs and 44 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A brilliant ensemble of the world's most visionary scientists provides 25 original never-before-published essays about the advances in science and technology that we may see within our lifetimes.
Theoretical physicist and best selling author Paul Davies examines the likelihood that by the year 2050 we will be able to establish a continuing human presence on Mars.
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi investigates the ramifications of engineering high-IQ, genetically happy babies.
Psychiatrist Nancy Etcoff explains current research into the creation of emotion-sensing jewelry that could gauge our moods and tell us when to take an anti-depressant pill.
Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins explores the probability that we will soon be able to obtain a genome printout that predicts our natural end for the same cost as a chest x-ray. (Will we want to read it? And will insurance companies and governments have access to it?) This fascinating and unprecedented book explores not only the practical possibilities of the near future, but also the social and political ramifications of the developments of the strange new world to come.Includes original essays by: Lee Smolin, Martin Rees, Ian Stewart, Brian Goodwin, Marc D. Hauser, Alison Gopnik, Paul Bloom, Geoffrey Miller, Robert M. Sapolsky, Steven Strogatz, Stuart Kauffman, John H. Holland, Rodney Brooks, Peter Atkins, Roger C. Schank, Jaron Lanier, David Gelernter, Joseph LeDoux, Judith Rich Harris, Samuel Barondes, and Paul W. Ewald.The Next Fifty Years is also available in print from Vintage.

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What the Critics Say

"The intellectual adventures collected here point to a future that is dazzlingly bright." (Publishers Weekly)
"These science-authors, many premiere in their field, are clear, provocative, and sure to interest science readers." (Booklist)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Fascinating

The Next Fifty Years provides a fascinating insight into the future of science from the eyes of the leading scientists. For example, Richard Dawkins provides us with "Son of Moore's Law", based on the historical drop in the cost of DNA sequencing. If it continues to hold true, then by 2050 we can expect to sequence a human's 3 billion DNA pairs for about $50, cheap enough for individuals to afford their own. Dawkins then discusses the ramfications of this.

The final piece give another fascinating prediction, that most of the world's major diseases, including breast cancer, alzheimer's disease, heart disease, and others will be demonstrated by 2050 to have infectious, microbial origins. Already this is demonstrated for several forms of cancer, and only 10% of cancer forms can currenly rule out infectious origins.

Generally the book translates well to the audio format. If I have any complaint with the book, it is that there is tremendous emphasis on genetics and human pathology, especially in the latter half. The listener could be forgiven for concluding that most advances in science will occur within this field; however I do not believe that to be the case. Though somewhat brainy at times, reasonably intelligent listeners should have no trouble getting something out of all the essays.
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- G Tucker

I'm very glad I got this

These essays are full of predictions, and as a bonus serve as a survey course on the state of the art as well as history of several scietific disciplines. The predictions range from the predictable (computer memory will become cheap and ubiquitous) to the radical (schools and universities will become obsolete). The topics include psychology, computer science, astronomy, physics, biology, chemistry, and genetics as well as mixtures of these more pure disciplines, such as cognitive science. The sociological implications of expected advances in these fields are discussed. There are also some great one-liners, such as "A virtue at its extreme becomes a vice."
I would recommend some familiarity with whichever topic you are interested in, but I'm sure you could learn a great deal without prior study. If you enjoy Scientific American, or even Popular Science, you should enjoy this.
This set of essays would be useful to investors, scientists and engineers looking to broaden their view of what's going on in other disciplines, or someone with a casual interest in science looking for recommendations for further reading.
For my own part, I thought most of the predictions were optimistic and based on the more stable pre-2000 geopolitical situation. If I could pick a theme from the essays, it would be that a greater understanding and exploitation of distributed systems will lead to the next round of scientific and technological advances.


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- Alex

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-17-2002
  • Publisher: Random House Audio