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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.
17 of 17 people found this review helpful
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.
16 of 16 people found this review helpful