Year Million: Science at the Far Edge of Knowledge By Damien Broderick

Leading and up-and-coming scientists and science writers cast their minds one million years into the future to imagine the fate of the human and/or extraterrestrial galaxy.
This volume of fifteen new, specially commissioned essays by notable journalists and scholars such as Rudy Rucker, Jim Holt, and Gregory Benford presents a series of speculations on the most radical but well-grounded ideas they can conceive, projecting the universe as it might be in the year 1,000,000 C.E. Their collective effort--first attempted by H. G. Wells in his 1893 essay The Man of the Year Million--is an exploration into a barely conceivable distant future, where the authors confront far-flung possibilities, at times bordering on philosophy of science. How would the galaxy look if it were redesigned for optimal energy use and maximized intelligence? What is a universe bereft of stars?
Contributors include Amara D. Angelica, Catherine Asaro, Gregory Benford, Robert Bradbury, Sean M. Carroll, Anne Corwin, Dougal Dixon, Robin Hanson, Steven B. Harris, Jim Holt, Lisa Kaltenegger, Wil McCarthy, Rudy Rucker, Pamela Sargent, and George Zebrowski. Year Million: Science at the Far Edge of Knowledge

This was not a great book. I found most of the chapters to be far fetched. Of course, it isn't easy to write about the far future.

Being an anthology, some chapters were better than others.

I thought the chapter written by Jim Holt was interesting. He use the Copernican Principle and a probability to find that, indeed, humans would be around in a million years, as well as, numbers and humor. However, while numbers, according to his logic, will be around, the same argument cannot find that something like calculus would be around. I find this weird when reading other chapters that would rely on advanced mathematics for the technology that the other authors posit.

One big problem I have with the chapters emphasizing advanced technology is that the authors do not consider present day circumstances. This includes what I would consider to be an exuberant cost in funding. Today, there are well worth things to explore and develop that can't find any source of funding. Or, they don't say how we could squeeze by the resource bottleneck. It could be, unless the will of humans changes drastically and soon, that there will be neither energy or materials to build and use the technology needed to springboard onto the advanced technology of the future.

Some of the last chapters I found interesting. This, I think, is because they stuck mostly to current physics to describe the future evolution (or de-evolution) of the universe.

So, overall, unless your a technophile you probably wouldn't find a lot to like about the book. 0977743349 This is a collection of essays which cover what things might be like 997,991 years from now (approximately) and beyond. This includes technology, astronomic and terrestrial phenomena, biological developments, etc. This includes assumptions of existence, extinction, or irrelevance of humans.

One of my favorite items from the book is the explanation of evolution as preferring fecundity and survivability for the sake of propagation to permanence, hence the non-existence of immortal life forms. It concludes that by the year 1,000,000 human mortality, should humans (or rather, post-humans) still be around will be a thing of the past.

As a writer, the book has served as a wellspring of ideas, which is exactly what I look for in a book like this. My only complaint is that some of the topics covered venture so far into the future as to become almost entirely irrelevant, even to the point of the book: they seem to be out of the scope.

Nevertheless, if you enjoy thinking about what might be, and exploring different possibilities for development in the future then this book would likely be worth your while. You probably won't be interested in all the topics discussed here, particularly because things of interest will happen in the scale of multiples of millions of years, rather than just one, but chances are you'll be interested, to some extent, in most. 0977743349 I only made it a little more than half way through this book. I should have known that speculating about the year million was just that, pure speculation. I was skeptical going in, and almost everything I read proved that skepticism true. The very first essay was the best I read. Unlike the others, it was actually based on current mathematical and philosophical principles to extrapolate information about the distant future. The rest basically made huge jumps, without any concrete evidence to back it up. For example, most writers considered it a forgone conclusion that we would eventually completely dismantle the entire solar system (as well as other systems) in order to create gigantic computers and or power stations. No one even addressed the idea that maybe most people might actually be opposed to completely destroying the beauty of the solar system just to feed an unending need for consumption.

Bottom line, there is very little that can meaningfully be said about events that far in the future. Very little of what I read actually used the scientific process to speculate. Instead there were just blanket statements like in a million years we will be able to manipulate matter as we see fit.
0977743349 These visions of the future were all surprisingly similar but all had interesting twists and were well thought out. Basically, the descendants of humans will probably be immortal super intelligences (if we don't kill ourselves) and we'll eventually live in something like a dyson sphere. There were interesting thoughts on whether we dismantle the universe and add to our dyson sphere or slowly colonize the universe (oddly none of the scientists were ready to realistically admit the possibility of faster than light travel). I also really enjoyed one of the essays that talked about future mathematics mainly because I love prime numbers. There was one quack in the group though that seemed to think all matter would one day become conscious (including rocks) with some vague reference to quantum mechanics. It didn't make any sense, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he couldn't explain his ideas well. I kind of found the last few essays a little depressing when they speculated about the end of the universe. Intelligent life will live in an ever expanding dark cold void feeding off of quantum fluctuations becoming more and more isolated, living within virtual realities that recreate the past for infinity. That was a downer... hopefully we'll have an infinite variety of infinite universes to explore, otherwise the future looks ultimately bleak and pointless, although, I guess infinity can seem bleak and pointless as well... crap! 0977743349 Disappointing. Aside from mediocre writing by most of the contributors, it was particularly annoying that the editor didn't take time to explain some of the terminology (computronium? Matroishka Brains?) given how many authors discussed the topics. Evidently this future in which we become the Internet, turn all matter to living computers, and exist as concentric shells of energy-capturing sails around a star or planet, was introduced by a fellow named Dyson and accepted by most as a foregone conclusion.

There are a handful of cosmic thoughts (If we live for 1,000 years, will we still marry for life? True the entire genome and the variations that make us individuals can be stored in a few MBs of data? Have aliens already discovered us but don't try to make contact because we are hopelessly primitive in their eyes?) ...but not enough to make up for the rest of the book. Only two essays were worth the read: one by Rudy Rucker (in which he argues we will NOT become the Internet, because why simulate a blade of grass when you already have the real thing?) and Jim Holt, who writes a charming and brilliant statistical defense of laughter.

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One of the few books I've read that literally deserves the awe-inspiring label. Looking forward to reading it again to squeeze more juice out of it. 0977743349 Variable chapters, but plenty to ponder. 0977743349 Having spent a whole lot of time thinking about the distant future as I write Ice King, set in 635,037 A.D., I was super-excited to read this compilation of fourteen noted scientists' take on what the world might be like in the year 1,000,000 A.D.

Although there's plenty of food for thought here, I come away feeling that Broderick's compilation was too limited in scope for my liking. The vast majority of the discussions either stay so deadly cautious with their grounding in present reality as to be of little interest, or they leap headlong into the half-century-old Freeman Dyson visions of man as a plundering wave of barbarians hurtling clumsily across the cosmos, answering to some implicit call of `manifest destiny'.

Hello! There are just a few other basic paths that futurists ought to be exploring! I took my own cue about the future from successful species on our planet. What will Year Million look like for sharks? For cockroaches? Well, unless the tech-drunken barbarians dismantle the whole planet in order to feed their insatiable, energy-gluttonous Matrioshka Brains, Year Million is going to be pretty much business as usual for any humans still around. I'm betting against the barbarians.

Yes, that is my biggest complaint: the lack of consideration of sustainablility is repeatedly rubbed in the reader's faces. There's Stephen B. Harris' concept of raping the universe to bring back deuterium for fusion fuel, or Robin Hanson's exploration of the escalating race to be the first to exploit new star systems, in which he explicitly refuses to consider what the settled culture behind the frontier might have to say about this state of affairs. Then there's this gem from Wil McCarthy: It's hard to say exactly what our descendants will use their energy for, but it's a safe bet they'll use a lot of it, and will be hungry--always insatiably hungry--for more. Some things never change. Safe bet? I'll take some of that action.

And what about the Dystopian and post-Apocalyptic alternatives in which the barbarians get their just deserts--totally missing from the discussion. My personal vision could be considered a post-Apocalyptic solution with a generally serene outcome: humans grow up and learn to live sustainably--that is, until our post-human rivals start stirring up trouble. So there's yet another topic utterly ignored: species radiation out of the parent human stock.

With all its shortcomings, the Year Million does occasionally stretch one's mind. Everybody is likely to find something worth more thought. I learned a few useful things about simulated reality. It turns out that our reality is not likely to be a simulation in somebody's Matrioshka Brain Virtual Reality game - thanks, Rudy Rucker. Then there was the realization--extrapolated from Sean M. Carroll's essay on entropy--that Complexity always seems to be at its peak in the present moment. If this idea can be elevated to an axiom, it implies some profound truths about the symmetry of past and future and their roles in our perception of reality. Quantum uncertainty insists that the past is just as malleable as the future--according to the Copenhagen Interpretation we define them both based on what we choose to observe and on what we choose to ignore or fail to observe. Ultimately, the Year Million is not just something for idle armchair speculators to toy with--it's a full-contact, participatory sport.



0977743349 Let me tell ya, this book is wild. Who ever thinks of the year 1,000,000? I mean come on, it’s 2018 as I write this. We might think of timeframes as far back as a few thousand years to the Ancient Egyptians or whatever. But the year 3000 sounds super futuristic and far off. The year 1000000 is hard to comprehend. It’s 997,982 years away! That’s insane.

And this book writes about it.

“Far Edge of Knowledge” for sure. The stuff in this book blew me away. It’s hard to even make predictions at this scale, but it had to touch on the science behind some prediction making to even justify what it was doing.

I hope I’m still around for the year One Million. 0977743349 Year Million is an anthology of essays about the far future, seeking to answer the question of what life will be like in the Year Million -- assuming life lasts that long. The essayists are mostly sci-fi and science writers; their writing is sometimes technical but always readable.

The central problem with the book is that a million years is an awfully long time. Asking a science writer to predict life in the Year Million is presumably a thousand times more unreasonable than asking William the Conqueror to predict the Internet. More than a thousand, actually, since technological progress is accelerating. None of the book's essayists quite overcome this hurdle of suspension of disbelief.

As a result, Year Million reads less like science fact and more like science fiction. Very, very hard science fiction without any interesting characters. Interesting quandaries, sure, but the human race doesn't make much of a character unless you explore its psychology, which some of the better essays do. Most essays, though, focused on our dismantlement of the solar system to build Dyson swarms and Matrioshka brains; it was surprising how monolithic this view of our future was. My favorite essay was Rudy Rucker's very different, cheerier vision of a hippie future full of telepathy and instant access to knowledge, but I also very much enjoyed Catherine Asaro's eminently approachable chapter on relativity and its consequences.

Overall, I'd say give it a pass unless this is the kind of subject matter that captivates you, in which case you might pick up a new thought or two from the accumulated essays. 0977743349

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