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02/26/2022

Have you ever wondered why you can’t catch a rocket to Mars? Or Jupiter, or Pluto, or the nearest star? The latter is an exciting prospect, since it is orbited by an ‘exo’ (earth-like) planet that might support life. This richly illustrated book will explain why getting there is not as crazy an idea as you might think. It will also help you understand what has been holding back science and technology for many years, or decades, and what we can do about it; as well as providing a fascinating glimpse into a wide range of fantastic future possibilities. Artificial intelligence, or AI, which is presented as a key means for us to achieve these goals, is discussed in depth. The author, Lyndon N. Smith, is a professor in AI at a major UK university, with a background in physics and engineering, and over 25 years of research experience (on both sides of the Atlantic). After publishing 180 scientific papers and a number of academic books, he explains in this unique, provocative, and accessible book, not only what amazing tasks can be achieved by modern AI techniques such as ‘convolutional neural networks’ – but also how they actually work! This is followed by an enlightening survey of potential and definite threats that we all face (with possible responses), that include Brexit, contact with extra-terrestrials (ET), near Earth objects (NEOs) colliding with the Earth, viruses, and global warming. There is then a discussion of fascinating technological developments that we may expect to see in the near, and far, future. Here topics addressed include: transport, robotics (from Robby the Robot through to Data), elimination of the need for instrumentalities, prospects for abundant power, manufacture of any objects we desire, as well as the likelihood of a number of miscellaneous miracles that include: invisibility, truly useful nanotechnology, and space elevators.

The author goes on to discuss the effects we may expect such advanced technologies to have on our lives, including the prospects for eternal life and attainment of velocities in excess of that of light for interstellar travel; with all the astonishing implications the latter would have for overcoming the previously mentioned threats, as well as facilitating human exploration and possible colonisation of the Milky Way Galaxy and beyond. As though this wasn’t enough, a range of predictions are then given of the amazing technological developments expected in the far future. The author encourages us to ‘reach for the stars’ and concludes that we have it in our power to realise a new Golden Age for humanity - providing we can find the wisdom to avoid destroying ourselves in a nuclear Armageddon and instead focus our efforts on the powerful potential of future research and development.

If you have any interest in science and technology, and its effects on society - and more specifically your future life (and who hasn’t?), you will find this book engrossing and enlightening. As well as employing a highly accessible and breezy style, the author makes liberal use of quotations and allusions to well-known figures from popular culture. The result is a very engaging book that you will not be able to put down nor stop thinking about. You will wonder why we don’t hear more about how all the technologies that surround us can and should help improve our quality of life (much more than they currently do), both now and in the future. You will understand why we need to spend more time and effort on looking to the future rather than agonising over the past. And, you will never view Sherlock Holmes or Star Trek in the same way again!

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