Want some guides to tomorrow that are both entertaining and educational? Here are three new books that offer dramatically different perspectives on what comes next.
These are futurist-oriented books that came out in 2013 (100 Plus just came out in paperback), and they all deal with the ways human culture and biology will change in the coming decades.
The Nature of the Future: Dispatches from the Socialstructed World, by Marina Gorbis
Economic institutions have changed dramatically over time, often destroying wealth and lives with them. How can we prepare today to reap the benefits of tomorrow's new systems of value and exchange? Gorbis is the executive director of the Institute for the Future, and she's worked for years analyzing this question, while in conversation with people from Fortune 500 corporations and at small nonprofits and activist organizations. She believes that we're at a turning point where the old industrial economy is giving way to what she calls a "socialstructed" economy characterized by peer-to-peer organization and crowdfunded projects. She compares it to the informal, non-monetary economy she grew up with in the Soviet Union, where people avoided government scrutiny by exchanging goods and services through informal networks of friends. But the socialstructed future won't be a response to repressive regimes. Instead, she explores early signs that humans are moving away from heavy, top-down institutions toward more nimble, temporary structures in economics, government, education, and even science. How do we navigate this new world of ever-shifting affiliations and moneyless exchange? Read the book to find out.
Frankenstein's Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech's Brave New Beasts, by Emily Anthes
To understand the future of Homo sapiens as a species, it's helpful to look at where science is taking our animal friends. In this fascinating book about cyborg rats, glowing cats, mutant mice and spider goats, science journalist Anthes takes us on a tour of cutting edge biology. Along the way, we come to understand how evolution works — and how we are changing its course by transforming the animals around us. The medical therapies and high-tech enhancements we reserve for animals today could become available to humans tomorrow. This isn't a litany of lab horrors. It's a profoundly hopeful and often funny book about how the dividing line between human, animal and machine isn't as clear as you might think. In the future, animals might be colleagues as well as companions. And we may bring more species back from the brink of extinction than ever before. This is a must for animal lovers, as well as anyone curious about the future of biology.
Though living a healthy life beyond the age of 100 would have been a crazy dream in the twentieth century, it's becoming an increasingly realistic scenario. Arrison is the founder of Singularity University, and takes a futurist's speculative point of view in this book. She brings together the latest scientific work on longevity with thought experiments about how longer lifespans will affect the economy, marriage, and even ethics. Taking issue with the Malthusian idea that humanity needs to curb its population to survive, she argues that we need to develop technologies that allow us to survive well at a larger population size. Eventually, she writes, the new longevity might spur new religions devoted to technological development — and will usher in the Singularity, when "our most basic conceptions of reality and existence fall to pieces." Arrison delivers a crazy brew of science and imagination that will change how you think about humanity's potential.