Please note: not to be confused with the two other books published by OUP by the same title.
There is a widely held conception that progress in science and technology is our salvation, and the more of it, the better. This, however, is an oversimplified and even dangerous attitude. While the future will certainly offer huge changes due to such progress, it is far from certain that all of these changes will be for the better. The unprecedented rate of technological development that the 20th century witnessed has made our lives today vastly different from those in 1900. No slowdown is in sight, and the 21st century will most likely see even more revolutionary changes than the 20th, due to advances in science, technology and medicine. Particular areas where extraordinary and perhaps disruptive advances can be expected include biotechnology, nanotechnology, and machine intelligence. We may also look forward various ways to enhance human cognitive and other abilities using, e.g., pharmaceuticals, genetic engineering or machine-brain interfaces – perhaps to the extent of changing human nature beyond what we currently think of as human, and into a posthuman era. The potential benefits of all these technologies are enormous, but so are the risks, including the possibility of human extinction. Here be Dragons is a passionate plea for doing our best to map the territories ahead of us, and for acting with foresight, so as to maximize our chances of reaping the benefits of the new technologies while avoiding the dangers.
1: Science for good and science for bad
2: Our planet and its biosphere
3: Engineering better humans?
4: Computer revolution
5: Going nano
6: What is science?
7: The fallacious Doomsday Argument
8: Doomsday nevertheless?
9: Space colonization and the Fermi Paradox
10: What do we want and what should we do?
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Olle Häggström is a professor of mathematical statistics at Chalmers University of Technology and a member of the Nobel Prize awarding Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. His most noted research achievements are in probability theory, but his cross-disciplinary research interests are wide-ranging and include climate science, artificial intelligence, and philosophy. He has more than 80 publications in scientific journals, and is a prolific science blogger.