Book reviews by Futurists World host Mike Hill
Future reading: The Fountain of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke
I love the exotic setting and wildly ambitious premise of this novel. It is set in future Sri Lanka, on the site of an ancient civilisation’s temple located on the equator. And it just so happens this is also the perfect location to build a ‘space elevator’. For those who’ve never heard the term, a space elevator is exactly as it sounds – a gateway to space that doesn’t rely on expensive and dangerous rockets. The problem is how on Earth you build such an elevator… Clarke’s solution: don’t build it on Earth!
Instead, adjust the orbit of an asteroid so it comes to rest in geosynchronous orbit above the equator. Then mine that asteroid to create a super-strong crystalline cable and drop it down to the launch site. Easy! Right? Wrong! It wouldn’t be a Clarke novel without a series of nail-biting catastrophes. But seriously, just imagine the impact a space elevator would have in bringing down the barriers to entry and democratising space travel. I dream of ascending to the stars on a space elevator like the one Clarke describes in this novel (but without his signature catastrophes). Sign me up ACC!
One day, I would love to interview Elon Musk for Futurists World about what lies ahead for man’s next steps into the great beyond. In particular, I would like to ask him to respond to this observation by Clarke:
“The choice as Wells once said, is the Universe – or nothing… The challenge of the great spaces between worlds is a stupendous one; but if we fail to meet it, the story of our race will be drawing to a close. Humanity will have turned its back upon the still untrodden heights and will be descending again the long slope that stretches, across a thousand million years of time, down to the shores of the primeval sea”.
Future reading: Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov
I was first introduced to The Foundation series by Tod Swank the founder of Foundation skateboards. He told me how he loved Asimov’s series so much he named his company after it! So I read it and I too was hooked.
The Foundation series is set so far in the future that almost all of the hundreds of billions of humans spread out across the galaxy have forgotten about Earth! I love this origins story Prelude to Foundation in particular. It tells the story of a young mathematician Hari Seldon, just after he’s cooked up the mathematical theory of psychohistory, which argues that with sufficient data, a mathematical formula could predict future social trends with accuracy, such as the collapse of the galactic empire. As it turns out, this is a dangerous idea!
The story is set on a planet call Trantor, the galactic capital, which is completely covered by domes, other than the patch above the Emperor’s Palace. Like Valerian, Trantor is less a world, than a world containing many diverse worlds. In the story, our hero Hari travels through several fantastic civilisations in a detective story that brings him ever closer to Asimov’s great love of robots.
The series dovetails with Asimov’s Robots series which spun off famous films such as iRobot and Bicentennial Man. For some unfathomable reason, The Foundation series has taken 50 years to be adapted for the screen, but it’s now about to come to life on Apple TV+. Will it be any good? As Isaac would say, “The true delight is in finding out rather than knowing.”
Future reading: Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer
After recently listening to Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind I was prompted to re-read Robert J. Sawyer’s Hugo Award winning novel Hominids.
Spoiler alert. Stop reading now if you don’t want me to blow the first couple of chapters for you.
The premise of this book is so memorable. Scientists miles underground in an abandoned mine research neutrinos in a giant sphere-shaped detector filled with heavy water. Then suddenly, Shazam! There’s someone inside the sealed tank… drowning. After they save this unexpected visitor, it slowly dawns on the scientists that the intruder is actually not – how shall we say it – well, not quite human. In fact, it turns out he’s a technically-advanced and sophisticated neanderthal.
The story bounces back and forth between two parallel universes – ours and one that’s far more sustainable and utopian due to a distinct absence of us Sapiens. The novel contains several surprising twists, but what I like most is how eloquently it reminds us about that niggling question so many of us share… Did we, as a species, take a wrong turn somewhere along the evolutionary road? And, if so, is there still a path of redemption available to us that lies ahead?
This same line of investigation is at the heart of Futurists World. Humanity is at a crossroads. So how can we harness our amazing abilities, breathtaking power for good, and insatiable intellect to chart a path towards a better tomorrow… Robert J. Sawyer sums up the opportunity perfectly:
“Our job is not to predict the future. Rather, it’s to suggest all the possible futures – so that society can make informed decisions about where we want to go.”
Before you go, we need to ask you something…
We’re here to make a change, but we need your help.
The purpose of this series is to move humanity forward, think bigger and cast our minds into the future.
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