Berleant, Daniel. “The Human Race to the Future: What Could Happen – and What to Do”, A Lifeboat Foundation Book, 2013.
Looking to the Future
All of us wonder about the future and it seems we do so more than ever now with all of the changes in technology that we experience on an almost daily basis. It seems to be harder all the time to keep with what is happening and we know that is even more in store. I wonder if we might need a new name for future change since it is happening so quickly.
As impossible it may seem to know what is coming, Daniel Berleant looks at some possible answers which may seem imaginative to many, actually are scientifically possible. He gives us possible future scenarios in which we, as humans, play a part and this is fascinating reading. I actually looked through the entire book but decided to start reading with chapter 31, “Questions” since this is not the kind of book I usually read to review. I thought that the questions would actually be a good jumping-off place but I soon realized that this might not have been such a good idea since the questions posed are physical, philosophical and psychological so I went back and started at the beginning. The more I read, the more I wanted to know. Before I even realized it, Sunday was gone and here I was engrossed on Memorial Day when everyone I knew had either gone to the Cape or Provincetown and I had read right through the Provincetown ferry launch. I also discovered that as a Liberal Arts person, I was now intrigued by science—something that had always eluded me before.
I would not have expected a book of this kind to be so readable so it really was a surprise to see how much time I actually spent with it.
How many of us have thought about an empire in outer space? Berleant claims that prospects for human survival are higher if we live on two planets instead of just earth. He tells us that theoretically, all planets are habitable then goes on to tell us which are the best and which will require a lot of work to colonize (for lack of a better word).
What about the threat of artificial intelligence? Berleant says that it will continue to improve and adds (tongue-in-cheek) that first it will master chess and Jeopardy!
Even as technologically challenged as I am, the more I read the more excited I became about what the future might bring. Using the ideas that evolution can be speeded up and that space is a vacuum that is not empty, forms of energy will change and civilization will change with it even though this is not going to happen in the near future. One of the things that Berleant does is remind us that there are several different kinds of future ahead and this means millions of years. Referring back to history and looking at where we have been gives us a bit of an idea of where we are going.
There is just so much here that it is impossible to cover it all in a review. I recommend that you get a copy—or even better, I challenge you to read this book and then let’s sit down and talk about it. I can imagine what fun book clubs will have with it. Let me just close with these topics quoted in the discussion of the book:
“Who doesn’t wonder about the future… what things will be like some day, how long it might take, and what we can do about it?
This book gives possible answers, spanning from the current century to nearly eternity. Imaginative yet scientifically plausible, most chapters offer a concluding section discussing actions to take in view of the predicted future scenarios. Some of these actions can be done by individuals, others by nations or other groups, and still others by the entire world.
Find out what it means that an Hour’s Work Yields a Week’s Food in chapter 1. Foresee the Teeming Cities of Mars (chap. 21). Learn why it’s Keyboards Yesterday, Mind Reading Tomorrow (chap. 3). Have you wondered — Will Artificial Intelligence Threaten Civilization? (See chap. 12.) What happens When Genomes Get Cheap (chap. 6)? Prepare for an Asteroid Apocalypse (chap. 25). Why you would benefit from Wiki-wiki-wikipedia (chap. 4). How we will Live Anywhere, Work Anywhere Else (chap. 2). How the future tastes Like the Singularity (chap. 15). Get smarter with Smart Pills’n Such (chap. 5). Experience a Soylent Spring (chap. 9). Understand nukes better by Deconstructing Nonproliferation (chap. 13). Get ready for a Space Empire (chap. 14). There’s global warming, and there’s Warm, Poison Planet (chap. 17). But let’s not forget about Big Ice (chap. 22). Things may really grow on trees with New Plant Paradigms (chap. 24). What is Sic Transit Humanitas: The Transcent of Man (chap. 26)? We all have Questions (chap. 31). And much more”!