The future of technology is the fountain of youth.
Our species is entering a new era. Millions of years ago, we created tools to change our environment. Caves became huts, fires became ovens, and clubs became swords. Collectively these tools became technology, and the pace of innovation accelerated. Now we’re applying the latest advancements to our own biology, and technology is becoming part of the process. But is that a good thing? Not if media scare pieces about government spying, limitless automation, and electronic addictions are to be believed. But veteran journalist and best-selling author Peter Nowak looks at what it means to be human – from the relationships we form and the beliefs we hold to the jobs we do and the objects we create – and measures the impact that those innovations have had and will have in the future. He shows not only how advancements in robotics, nanotechnology, neurology, and genetics are propelling us into a new epoch, but how they’re improving us as a species. Nowak has compiled the data and travelled the world to speak to experts. Focusing on the effects of technology rather than just its comparatively minor side effects, he finds a world that is rapidly equalizing, globalizing, and co-operating.
About the Author
Peter Nowak is the author of Sex, Bombs, and Burgers, and his work has appeared in the Boston Globe, New Scientist magazine, and elsewhere. He won the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance Award for excellence in reporting, and the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand named him technology journalist of the year. He lives in Toronto with his wife.
[I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher via NetGalley.]
Technology journalist Peter Nowak takes us on a tour of technology's recent history in an effort to illustrate the burgeoning epoch of a new age for mankind, aka Humans 3.0.
The writing in Humans 3.0 is clear and concise, with dashes of humor, and while the topic at hand is interesting enough, Nowak sticks to the more basic and obvious journalistic tracks of the present day. Rather than attempting high-levels of prognostication, he sticks to examples showing Moore's Law in full effect, which states that computing power will double every two years, and although there is some early quoting of Ray Kurzweil's prophecies on the singularity, such lofty, futuristic expectations take a backseat to the here-and-now.
Technology has obviously infiltrated every aspect of our lives, and Nowak examines the ways in which the digital age has shaped and altered our world, from globalization to movie production and the health industry, from the world's economic growth to the rise of individual entrepreneurs who are able to forgo traditional publishing deals and embrace the indie mindset, and app developers and indie gaming gurus, like Minecraft developer Markus Persson and the forty-some employees who comprise the game development studio of Media Molecule, which produced the hit game LittleBigPlanet.
Nowak has clearly done an incredible amount of research, interviewing a variety of subjects from Kurzweil to AshleyMadison.com founder Noel Biderman, author Anne Rice, who is best known for her novel Interview with the Vampire, and even a South Korean Buddhist monk. This bit of effort pays off quite well and helps round out Nowak's reportage with "in the field" sources. He also earns high marks for his adroit handling of topics involving privacy and the ways in which we have allowed technology to handle and parse many of our social commitments.
At only a little more than two hundred pages, the book is a quick read and Nowak's prose is well-paced, and livened up a bit with quotes from his sources and stories of his own experience in writing this book. His efforts at trying to find the Media Molecule studio was a small bit of unexpected entertainment, revolving around how this studio created one of Sony Playstation's biggest hits, and yet nobody, including staff at Electronic Arts and the studio's neighboring train station, seemed to know where the heck these developer's offices were at!
Humans 3.0 is a nice survey of recent technological history and the way it has shaped modern society, but it never feels terribly ground-breaking. While it's interesting, at times even insightful an intriguing, and there's plenty of neat facts to be gleaned throughout, the book's primary audience is unlikely to be utterly wowed.
Additionally, I can't help but think that the cover art, which displays the cybernetic infusion of Kurzweil's singularity, is a bit misleading, as this topic is far from the book's primary focus. This futurism-oriented art does a disservice to the writing, and causes a severe disconnect between what the product here actually is versus the way in which it is advertised.
If you're looking for a predictive model of where humanity will find itself in the later years of this century, look elsewhere. However, if you're seeking out a cogent examination of the way technology has influenced daily lives with some low-level educated guesses as to what's on the horizon in another five years or so, Humans 3.0 should fit the bill nicely.