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.
This was, in retrospect, critical for me to listen to. It provides a framework for understanding complex natural systems.
Network theory has seen a boom recently and this book by one of the founders of modern day 'scale free network topology' theory lays it out in plain english (except for the name, I guess). Beginning with Euler's theorems he follows through his own research and that of others to construct a picture of how network architecture arises, what factors affect it, and it's strengths and vulnerabilities. The theory is supported with examples of real networks (businesses, hollywood stars, the brain, the internet, and the spread on AIDS).
The theories also make sense, there's a real feeling of 'ah-haa' in every chapter as layers of complexity are added on. This seminal work describes the basis of a theroy that will be the starting point for a deeper understanding of the world around us.
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