I just finished On The Future, by Martin Rees, U.K. Astronomer Royale. This short 200-pager is Rees’s take on the technological perils and promises that humanity faces, both in the near and far-future. The book touches on many scientific topics, including artificial intelligence, space exploration, post-humanism and biotech. He explores existential threats like climate change, nuclear proliferation and biological warfare, then pivots to more philosophical questions about the role of science and religion, science and academia, government funded explorations vs. private sector missions.
This book is aimed at the more casual reader and is more of a light read than other science books I’ve read in the past. It covers a lot of ground without delving too deep into the actual science, which makes for a light read through most of the chapters. I think I may have skimmed through the first two thirds of the book, as I was familiar with most of what was being covered. It wasn’t until the latter portion of the book that Rees got into more of a personal discussion about the way science is funded and how the members of the scientific community operates.
It’s clear that Rees is thinking legacy here. He’s in his late 70’s, and it’s clear that he felt compelled to write this book as a drop of knowledge to younger generations. It’s clear that this book isn’t written for his colleagues and peers, but toward the younger generation of aspiring scientists. This book may make a good addition to a high school summer reading list, but those with a more of a background in science may find Rees’s Prospects for Humanity a bit elementary.