The Meaning of the 21st Century: A Vital Blueprint for Ensuring Our Future

James E. Martin, Author . Riverhead $26.95 (431p) ISBN 978-1-57322-323-2

A freewheeling, sometimes scatterbrained romp through the technological challenges, dangers and opportunities facing the human race in the new century, the newest book by information age guru Martin is in equal measures exhilarating, thought provoking and just plain crazy in its zeal for emerging technologies. Martin, known for his influential The Wired Society (1978), believes that nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering and other advances could not only moderate but eventually reverse the effects of global warming while giving us superhuman strength, superior intelligence and the possibility of living to 1,000 or beyond. On the potentials of supercomputing, Martin writes, "Human intelligence is very broad but relatively shallow, while machine intelligence is very narrow but can be miles deep." The first half of this assertion is well borne out by his book, which skips lightly from sobering discussions of cataclysmic climate change, massive natural disasters and terrorism to breathless riffs on hydroponics, pebble-bed nuclear reactors and "transhumanism." Often reading like a course catalogue for Oxford University's new James Martin Institute for Science and Civilization, the book should arguably have been split into two or three installments, but tech enthusiasts will find much to spur debate. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 05/15/2006
Release date: 09/01/2006
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