Video Length 2:27
Who Should Read It
Science aficionados, futurists, and technology enthusiasts
Why Should We Read It
This is the most humorous and entertaining book I've found to date on emerging technology
What Will We Learn
How technology will change how we get to space, build our world, and improve our health
"...a zany yet informative book..."
I don’t spend too much time thinking about the future. Of course, I save for retirement and my infant kid's college fund, all the while paying this month's water bill. When I go on trips, I know exactly which tourist attraction I want to see, when I want to see it. But that's not the future- that's adulthood with a sprinkling of neuroticism. I'm talking about the future, and the new technology it may bring. No, not the next iPhone 1000 (or whatever number we are on). I'm talking about technology so transcendent it will be like the very first iPhone- irrevocably changing the entire world as we know it. Fortunately, there are two people who have thought about "ten emerging technologies that'll improve and/or ruin everything": Dr. Kelly Weinersmith and Mr. Zach Weinersmith, a husband/wife team who have co-authored a zany yet informative book called Soonish.
"...[no] heavy-handed predictions about the future with respect to when it will arrive. They simply say the technologies will mature…Soonish"
Predicting the future, at best, seems like an exercise in imaginative hocus pocus, akin to saying one day we'll have time machines with wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff. At worst, it seems like a medieval alchemist trying to pawn off coal as gold; it just can't be done in any convincing way. As it turns out, the Weinersmiths came up with a rather ingenious method to predict our future with a healthy dose of realism- interviewing the university professors who are at the center of cutting edge research in robotics, chemistry, and biology. The Weinersmiths never make any heavy-handed predictions about the future with respect to when it will arrive. They simply say the technologies will mature…Soonish. Instead, they focus on the technical difficulties behind the research, and explore societal, economic, and geopolitical implications if and when those technical difficulties are overcome.
"On any given page, we find prose that is educational yet bursting with personality."
There is a way to communicate science in a clear succinct manner, and there is a way to communicate science in a clear succinct manner that is hilariously captivating. Soonish falls into that second category. On any given page, we find prose that is educational yet bursting with personality. Let me open the book to transcribe a random bit right now: "An early mantra of the Internet was 'information wants to be free.' That sounds nice, but it's a problem if the information is how to make smallpox from scratch." This comes from their section on synthetic biology, where they also use jargon like "CRISPR-Cas9" and "porcine endogenous retroviruses". Somehow it's still fun. But the most fun are the comics, drawn by Mr. Weinersmith (check out his stuff here!). In isolation, his drawings are cute, as you can see in this blog post. As a supplement to Soonish, the cartoons illustrate concepts worth a thousand words like "xenotransplantation" (also used).
"'...the rare science book that does not need to be read twice to comprehend..."
Soonish is the rare science book that does not need to be read twice to comprehend. On the other hand, I have found that I return to flip through this book on a regular basis because it continues to be very fun reading their explanations of emerging technologies. And the cartoons. Do not discount the cartoons. Somehow, they remain as entertaining and informative as the first time I read them. I still don’t think too much about the future, not in the way the Weinersmiths do. But at least now I know a lot more about the future, and thankfully the future is not the iPhone 1000. Or porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERVs)- unless something goes wrong. Trust me, or read Soonish- we do not want future where we worry about PERVs.