The Beginning of Infinity

The Beginning of Infinity

Explanations That Transform the World

Book - 2011
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"A bold and all-embracing exploration of the nature and progress of knowledge from one of today's great thinkers. Throughout history, mankind has struggled to understand life's mysteries, from the mundane to the seemingly miraculous. In this important new book, David Deutsch, an award-winning pioneer in the field of quantum computation, argues that explanations have a fundamental place in the universe. They have unlimited scope and power to cause change, and the quest to improve them is the basic regulating principle not only of science but of all successful human endeavor. This stream of ever improving explanations has infinite reach, according to Deutsch: we are subject only to the laws of physics, and they impose no upper boundary to what we can eventually understand, control, and achieve. In his previous book, The Fabric of Reality, Deutsch describe the four deepest strands of existing knowledge-the theories of evolution, quantum physics, knowledge, and computation-arguing jointly they reveal a unified fabric of reality. In this new book, he applies that worldview to a wide range of issues and unsolved problems, from creativity and free will to the origin and future of the human species. Filled with startling new conclusions about human choice, optimism, scientific explanation, and the evolution of culture, The Beginning of Infinity is a groundbreaking book that will become a classic of its kind"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Viking, 2011
Edition: First American edition
ISBN: 9780670022755
0670022756
Branch Call Number: 501 De
Characteristics: vii, 487 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm

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lifetoward
May 28, 2013

Currently one of the most comprehensive and useful views of humans' place in the cosmos. His explanations about the fungibility of pre-quantum potentials is fantastic. His theory of the power of "hard to vary explanations" is enlightening and very useful. He identifies knowledge, being accurate working models of the nature of the universe, as essential components of the cosmos, and humans' facility with knowledge as what makes them so special on the planet and in the grand scheme. While great, the book is weak in its lack of distinction between essentially subjective aspects of being and those objective features of the universe which science can access. He also doesn't clarify the important distinction between "designed" complex beings (including artifacts like computers) and "deeply derived" complex beings (like animals and people). Lacking this distinction I think he overestimates the achievability of a meaningful form of artificial intelligence, but even with this said the whole of the book seems to me to loudly suggest these important distinctions between the lines. Comprehensive, very readable, and extremely interesting, this book is a page turner and will occupy a spot among my "top shelf books" for many years I'm sure.

j
John_M
Jul 19, 2012

I borrowed it in hopes of learning a bit about quantum computing, but alas I learnt a lot about politics, philosophy, the process of science. All just about as satisfying as learning about quantum computing.

g
go4dancer
May 09, 2012

This book contains quite a mix of things from substantive quantum mechanics and physics, to history of science, philosophy, criticisms of various ideas and ways of thinking, a very nice dialogue between Socrates and Hermes. Excellent in parts. Makes one think but I found it both too long and too encompassing. Material might have worked best in 3 or 4 smaller more focused books.

l
laudablepus
Feb 14, 2012

No bullshit by a non-idiot. An entirely worthwhile read dealing mostly with modern(ist) epistemology. I felt some of his arguments were a bit sneaky, a good stimulus to critical thought, and I kept having these niggling doubts that Deutsch doesn't address sufficiently the nihilistic horror that was the 20th century (look, he took "the enlightenment" for his subject). I certainly appreciate his optimism and the key idea of intelligent creativity. Problems have solutions if the frame is found. In the future we will know more.

m
mcmbpl
Nov 22, 2011

recom by economist

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