By Bryan Caplan
I’m delighted to report that my co-author – Zach Weinersmith – and his co-author – Kelly Weinersmith – have hit the New York Times Bestseller list with their Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything. It’s a fascinating work, packed with scientific insight, humor, and spot-on comicking.
Substantively, my main reaction is that most of the technologies they explore are still a long way off. Space travel in general, and asteroid mining in particular, won’t improve or ruin anything for decades – or centuries. Robin Hanson might find some cause for hope in the chapter on brain-computer interfaces, but even that’s not clear. Augmented reality is the only technology on the Weinersmiths’ list that’s making the world more exciting without delay.
Needless to say, the remoteness of radical technological change is not the authors’ fault. They are only the messengers. But their analysis strongly reminded me of Zach’s earlier (and also excellent) Science: Ruining Everything Since 1543. Science dashes natural hope as readily as supernatural hope.
Personally, the one future technology I’m excited about is the driverless car. It didn’t get its own chapter in Soonish, but probably should have. Saving tons of time, boredom, and frustration on Earth lacks the romance of soaring to the stars. But I firmly expect to see a world transformed by driverless cars in my lifetime – and for me, the stars are forever out of reach.
That said, my heart continues to skip a beat whenever I hear about a new exoplanet. Space opera is coming, though perhaps not for a few millennia…