cover image On the Future: Prospects for Humanity

On the Future: Prospects for Humanity

Martin Rees. Princeton Univ, $18.95 (136p) ISBN 978-0-691-18044-1

The latest work from Rees (From Here to Infinity), who has served as the U.K.’s astronomer royal since 1995, offers forecasts of impending technological developments and words of hope for the human ability to use science to repair a wounded planet and improve lives. Rees begins with a look at how “clean” technology can help reduce carbon emissions and diminish the immediate problems of climate change. He proceeds to the provocative changes coming with improvements in genetic analysis and gene-editing technology. Rees also examines how a workforce largely replaced by automation and artificial intelligence could find itself freed to pursue lifelong learning and even space exploration, eventually choosing to abandon human shape for “post human” bodies modified through genetic and cyborg technologies to be better suited to hostile new environments. Reaching far ahead, Rees even considers how contact with alien life might change the human race. This far-ranging but easily understood collection of ideas shares and communicates the enthusiasm of Rees’s “techno-optimist” view of the prospects for humanity. (Oct.)