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Book Review: by Lang Reid

50 Ideas

This week’s book is very different from the more usual ones reviewed in this column. Richard Watson, a futurist, has put together a very thought-provoking book titled 50 Ideas you really need to know, The Future (ISBN 978-1-78087-159-2, Quercus Science, 2013).
The book is part of the Quercus 50 Series, covering architecture, art, economics, genetic ideas and more. Watson’s previous book was “Future Files” with the graphic representation of future trends, for which he is best known.
The 50 ideas include such provocative titles as “Is God Back?”, “Alien Intelligence”, “Feral Slums”, “Regenerative Medicine,” and another 46 to make up the total.
Let’s get God out of the way first. There appears to be some pessimism amongst the Christian faithful, with the burgeoning numbers of followers of Islam. Watson is not so pessimistic, proposing that by 2050 there will be 220 million Christians in China alone. As an aside he expects that in 2030 we will see the first female pope and 20 years later the return of a Messiah but this time she is called Kylie. (As long as her surname isn’t Minogue…)
Dotted throughout the book are breakout boxes with interesting points to ponder, such as around 30 jobs that do not exist yet … These include a Climate Reversal Consultant, Chief Privacy Officer and the Head of Corporate Ethics.
In the chapter on Artificial Intelligence, Watson finishes with, “Welcome to the future. It’s metallic and uses lots of batteries. Hopefully it’s not angry and it won’t work out a way to enslave the human race.” Watson has a finely developed sense of humor, which comes through in the common-sense style of writing.
The timeline along the bottom of the pages make for almost as much discussion as the text itself.
The entire book is written in lay terms, and the 50 messages are easily understood, with Watson even handling scientific terminology with aplomb. He shows regret that in the future ‘thank you’ notes will be obsolescent and nobody will thank you face to face, and the best you can hop for is an SMS with a gold star or a smiley face “like you did back in primary school”.
It becomes very obvious that the world will continue to change, and personal relationships will be nothing like they are today. As mentioned in the flyleaf, he opines that science, technology and our own behavior could influence human destiny over the next century and beyond.
One very interesting sidebar relates to brain surgery where microscopic robots can be injected into the bloodstream, where they propel themselves along using tiny piezoelectric motors carrying out internal surgery!
At B. 545 and a hard back book, it is built to last, so hopefully you can tick off his predictions and see if in 2052 the world stops, with its first major internet failure, or the world gets its first trillionaire by 2080 (unfortunately, I won’t be able to hang around that long, I fear).
The fly almost says it all, A “provocative survey of the wonders and terrors that await us and the legacy we are leaving for the next generation.”

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50 Ideas