sexta-feira, maio 08, 2015

Follow your Weird: "Tomorrowland: Our Journey from Science Fiction to Science Fact" by Steven Kotler




Disclaimer: I received an advance reader's copy (ARC - Uncorrected Manuscript Proof) of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, and no monetary compensation was received for this review.
(The book is due to be published on May, 2015; review written on 08/05/2015).


“Follow your weird.”
(Bruce Sterling)

By means of communications and implant technologies we are simultaneously here and there. Using graphs and prostheses, we blend our physical being with that of others and with artifacts. By extending our knowledge of the body and the ancient arts of nutrition, we have devised hundreds of ways of constructing and remodeling ourselves. We can change our individual metabolism through the use of drugs and medicaments, which serve as physiological agents. And the pharmaceutical industry continues to discover new active principles. Kotler states: “In 1935, veterinary nutritionist Clive McCay found that limiting caloric intake in lab animals – which slows metabolic rate – decreased and delayed the onset of age-related diseases and significantly extended life span. [ ] Denham Harman postulated in 1954 that oxygen radicals or free radicals are both byproducts of metabolism and responsible for the damages associated with aging and death.”, i.e., our physical a and physic life is now filtered to an even greater extent through a complicated outer layer in which economic, institutional, and techno-scientific forces us to consider current developments in all body-related sciences. Kotler’s take on this aims at summarizing the most important facts coming from the SF field, but instantiated into Science Fact. Some of them are truly revolutionary, the writing not so much.


The list of essays contained therein is a potpourri of Computer Science, Technology, Biology, Physics, Robotics, AI, etc:


The themes in themselves are interesting and some of them mind-boggling, but unfortunately the writing style adopted in the essays are not conducive to a more rigorous discussion of the themes. I’m a sucker for a good science book, but I’m always looking for something to dig my teeth in so to speak. I didn’t find here deep explanations of the underlying physics of robotics, prosthetics, brain chemistry or fission/fusion reactions, to name just a few.

The most interesting is pieces are “Bionic Man” wherein Kotler explores the interface between man and machine, and “Vision Quest”. “The God of Sperm” seemed a trifle biased, but that’s always the problem when reading science/technology” pieces out of context in a collection (the essay was first published in LA Weekly, not really a magazine dedicated to promote scientific deep thought…). The tone seems quite unbalanced when compared with the other essays.

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