The Sun, the Genome and the Internet

The Sun, the Genome and the Internet : Tools of Scientific Revolutions

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Description

In this visionary look into the future, Freeman Dyson argues that technological changes fundamentally alter our ethical and social arrangements and that three rapidly advancing new technologies-solar energy, genetic engineering, and world-wide communication-together have the potential to create a more equal distribution of the world's wealth. Dyson begins by rejecting the idea that scientific revolutions are primarily concept-driven. He shows rather that new tools are more often the sparks that ignite scientific discovery. Such tool-driven revolutions have profound social consequences: the invention of the telescope turning the Medieval world view upside down, the widespread use of household appliances in the 1950s replacing servants, to cite just two examples. In looking ahead, Dyson suggests that solar energy, genetics, and the Internet will have similarly transformative effects, with the potential to produce a more just and equitable society. Solar power could bring electricity to even the poorest, most remote areas of third world nations, allowing everyone access to the vast stores of information on the Internet and effectively ending the cultural isolation of the poorest countries. Similarly, breakthroughs in genetics may well enable us to give our children healthier lives and grow more efficient crops, thus restoring the economic and human vitality of village cultures devalued and dislocated by the global market. Written with passionate conviction about the ethical uses of science, The Sun, the Genome, and the Internet is both a brilliant reinterpretation of the scientific process and a challenge to use new technologies to close, rather than widen, the gap between rich and poor.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 142 pages
  • 147.32 x 220.98 x 20.32mm | 294.83g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195129423
  • 9780195129427

Table of contents

INTRODUCTION; SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS; TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE; THE HIGH ROAD; EPILOGUEshow more

Review Text

Just in time for the millennium, elder statesman Dyson (Physics/Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; From Eros to Gaia, 1992, etc.) sounds off on three technological revolutions that could radically transform human social arrangements - if we play our cards right. A big "if," since some people may not like the cards, and Dyson's ideas are still on the drawing boards. As the tire suggests, one of his visions involves harnessing solar energy. Dyson's proposal is to breed plants that will convert radiant energy into liquid fuel, which could feed directly into local pipelines. On the human genome, Dyson has no doubt that its data will be used, initially by the rich, for "reprogenetics" - tailoring the genes of the unborn to confer whatever traits parents deem advantageous. (Cloning is a minor issue by comparison, Dyson believes.) Eventually, such gene tinkering could lead to speciation, dividing not just rich and poor but social groups according to lifestyle or philosophical beliefs. To avoid the inevitable intergroup hostilities, we will seek what Dyson calls "the high road" to space (he believes that, by the end of the 21st century, space travel will have become far more practical). The Internet, not confined (as it is today) to the computer-literate, but as a universal source of knowledge and communication, reaching rural villager and city slicker alike, is another of Dyson's dreams for the future. Dyson argues that the technologies can be used to advance social justice and lessen economic disparities (though he never explains how reprogenetics jibes with that ideal). Dyson admits he was wrong about (the latter) two of the three technologies he had hopes for back in the 1980s: genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, and space travel, so one may take his current scenarios not as prophecies but as one man's hopes. Adding to the book's value, however, are Dyson's authoritative commentaries on how past technologies have changed society and, as always, his exemplary prose style. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About Freeman J. Dyson

Freeman Dyson is Professor Emeritus of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University. He is the author of Disturbing the Universe, Infinite in All Directions, Weapons and Hope, and many other books. He is a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award and The Phi Beta Kappa Award in science, among many other honors. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.show more

Rating details

141 ratings
3.67 out of 5 stars
5 20% (28)
4 37% (52)
3 35% (49)
2 8% (11)
1 1% (1)
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