Aimlessly Going Forward

blog by Tomas Sedovic

The Skeptics' Guide to the Future by Steven Novella

book, review

4/5 stars

This is a book about futurism, a genre that always seems to find me, but I never seek out specifically. I am deeply interested in science and technology, but I don’t tend to find people speculating or trying to seriously predict things that interesting.

It’s so easy to get swept up with your own ideas and biases, miss crucial aspects that will render the prediction irrelevant even if technically accurate or not putting the technology in a societal context.

So what I really liked most about this book is that it addressed this exact thing head-on. They highlighted the common futuristic pitfalls and tried to steer clear of them or being explicit when they were doing far-out speculations versus a sensible interpretation of the current technological progress and pace.

The topics cover space travel, various biology and medical advances, artificial intelligence, robotics, material science, fusion, space elevators and more.

The final section goes over the technologies that form the staple of science fiction — faster-than-light travel, time travel, teleportation, lightsabers etc.

The book is explicitly cautious around commonly-made extrapolations that simply don’t have the evidence to bear out (and provides many examples of this folly from the past) about things that simply won’t ever happen unless we discover new laws of physics or elements and/or combinations thereof. And puts the likelihood of that in the right context.

Whenever they touched upon an area where I had some deeper knowledge, I haven’t found any glaring issues — more simplifications that weren’t technically correct, but were probably right in the context of the book and didn’t change the final outcome anyway. That makes me think that the rest of their research is similarly solid although the authors are not expects in most of the areas they’ve researched.

Overall, it is a great and easy-to-read overview of where we are right now, what’s likely to expect in the relatively near future and what might come in the longer term.

This review was originally posted at Goodreads and imported here later on with next to no spell/grammar checking.

Screenshot and link to the website for the Dose Response game

Hi! I wrote a game! It's an open-world roguelike where you play an addict called Dose Response. You can get it on the game's website (pay what you want!), it's cross-platform, works in the browser and it's open source! If you give it a go, let me know how you liked it, please!