Our Final Hour Hardcover – Mar 19 2003
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Just when you've stopped worrying and learned to love the bomb, along comes Sir Martin Rees, Britain's Astronomer Royal, with teeming armies of deadly viruses, nanobots, and armed fanatics. Beyond the hazards most of us know about--smallpox, terrorists, global warming--Rees introduces the new threats of the 21st century and the unholy political and scientific alliances that have made them possible. Our Final Hour spells out doomsday scenarios for cosmic collisions, high-energy experiments gone wrong, and self-replicating machines that steadily devour the biosphere. If we can avoid driving ourselves to extinction, he writes, a glorious future awaits; if not, our devices may very well destroy the universe.
What happens here on Earth, in this century, could conceivably make the difference between a near eternity filled with ever more complex and subtle forms of life and one filled with nothing but base matter.
For many technological debacles, Rees places much of the blame squarely on the shoulders of the scientists who participate in perfecting environmental destruction, biological menaces, and ever-more powerful weapons. So is there any hope for humanity? Rees is vaguely optimistic on this point, offering solutions that would require a level of worldwide cooperation humans have yet to exhibit. If the daily news isn't enough to make you want to crawl under a rock, this book will do the trick. --Therese Littleton
From Publishers Weekly
Nano-machines stand poised to revolutionize technology and medicine, but what happens if these minuscule beasties break their leash and run amok? Rees, the U.K.'s Astronomer Royal and prolific author (Just Six Numbers; Our Cosmic Habitat), warns that the 21st century may well witness the extinction of mankind, a doomsday more likely to be caused by human error than by a natural catastrophe. Bioterrorists are the most widely publicized threat at the moment, but well-intentioned scientists, Rees says, are capable of accidentally wiping out mankind via genetically engineered superpathogens that create unprecedented pandemics, or even through something as weird as high-energy particle experiments that backfire and cause the universe to implode. Rees poses some hard questions about scientists' responsibility to forsake research that might lead to a malevolent genie being let out of its bottle and even to restrict the sharing of scientific information to prevent it from getting into the wrong hands. Ultimately, though, Rees sounds more alarmist than precautionary. Some may find him overly optimistic on what science will be capable of doing in the next quarter century. Rees makes some provocative points, but the book falls short of what readers expect from a scientist of his stature.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
With worst case scenarios he warns for threats without enemies (cosmological catastrophes) as well as for man-made threats (environmental degradation, nuclear weapons, bio-terror, robotics or nanotechnology).
He concedes that the technological future in our century is brilliant, where some mind-boggling artefacts like implants of computers in the human brain or the achievement of immortality should not be plainly dismissed. But there are darker sides at our scientific progress, making Huxley's 'Brave New World' a distinct possibility via designer drugs and genetic interventions.
This book deals also with demography, cosmological travel and space emigration, the future growth of the human (or new) twig(s) and (for the author a key challenge) the search for alien life.
Martin Rees did a tour-de-force by selecting and combining concisely vastly different fields in a small and easy understandable book.
With excellent notes, this work, like all his other books, is a must read for all those interested in the fate of mankind.
Carl Djerassi's autobiography 'The Pill, Pygmy Chimps and Degas' gives a lively picture of the political infightings in the organization of the here mentioned Pugwash conferences.
Rees begins with familiar threats from nuclear and biological weapons, noting Fred Ikle's view that only an oppressive police state could assure total government control over novel tools of mass destruction. Rees then turns to the implications of genetic engineering, including the creation of new forms of life that could feed off other materials in our environment. Thanks to genetic engineering, the nature of humans could begin to change within this century; human character and physique will soon be malleable. The potential threats may remind some readers of Frank Herbert's novel The White Plague, in which a lone scientist creates a spectacular method of revenge.
Rees is most effective when he describes the potential implications of scientific experiments, particularly in particle physics. He notes that some experiments are designed to generate conditions more extreme than ever occur naturally. Here readers will learn about the possible human creation of black holes and strangelets. Errors and unpredictable outcomes are a growing cause for worry; calculations of risk are based on probability rather than certainty.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Most of the book is simply a short summary of news events of the past few years, with a few 'shock and awe' highly unlikely events thrown in to amaze the reader. Read morePublished on Nov. 5 2003 by Gary Upshaw
Certainly interesting although very short and he disappears into
the stars toward the end and totally loses his focus toward the end.
It's strange how many "the world is going to end" books cross my desk. Our Final Hour: A Scientist's Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind's... Read morePublished on July 14 2003 by Fraser Cain
The book is dry but utterly convincing. Only a pollyanna could seriously disagree with the conclusions.
My point is a practical, compassionate one. Read more
Martin Rees asserts in Our Final Hour that the odds are no better than half that the human race will survive to the end of this century. Read morePublished on June 12 2003 by Midwest Book Review
If the 19th Century was The Industrial Age, and the 20th Century the Information Age, then Sir Martin Rees's 21st Century may well be The Asymmetrical Age, though he does not use... Read morePublished on June 7 2003 by DDW Reviews
Martin Rees, in Our Final Hour (A Scientist's Warning), gets his point across. Humanity's chances on earth have a 50/50 probablility, in the author's opinion, of making it into... Read morePublished on June 2 2003 by Ricky Hunter
This is a good book. If E.O. Wilson had not published "The Future of Life" or J. F. Rischard "High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve them", or Brian... Read morePublished on May 29 2003 by Robert David STEELE Vivas