A bold and all-embracing exploration of the nature and progress of knowledge from one of today's great thinkers. Throughout history, mankind has struggled to understand life's mysteries, from the mundane to the seemingly miraculous. In this important new book, David Deutsch, an award-winning pioneer in the field of quantum computation, argues that explanations have a fundamental place in the universe. They have unlimited scope and power to cause change, and the quest to improve them is the basic regulating principle not only of science but of all successful human endeavor. This stream of ever improving explanations has infinite reach, according to Deutsch: we are subject only to the laws of physics, and they impose no upper boundary to what we can eventually understand, control, and achieve. In his previous book, The Fabric of Reality, Deutsch describe the four deepest strands of existing knowledge-the theories of evolution, quantum physics, knowledge, and computation-arguing jointly they reveal a unified fabric of reality. In this new book, he applies that worldview to a wide range of issues and unsolved problems, from creativity and free will to the origin and future of the human species.
Filled with startling new conclusions about human choice, optimism, scientific explanation, and the evolution of culture, The Beginning of Infinity is a groundbreaking audio book that will become a classic of its kind.
©2011 David Deutsch (P)2011 Gildan Media Corp
"Provocative and persuasive...Mr. Deutsch's previous tome, The Fabric of Reality, took a broad-ranging sweep...The Beginning of Infinity is equally bold, addressing subjects from artificial intelligence to the evolution of culture and of creativity; its conclusions are just as profound." (The Economist)
David Deutsch is a genius. As the father of modern quantum computing, he has an exceptional mind, and I found this book full of stimulating ideas and arguments going well beyond the reach of Physics.
His thesis, based on a synthesis of Popper, Dawkins and Hilbert, as well as his own interpretation of the Many Worlds theory of QM, is that through creativity, and the continuous search for "good explanation", we are able to shape our environment in ways no other force of nature is capable, and the reach of that ability is infinite.
At times his arguments are really hard to follow, and I suspected he may be slipping in some slightly dubious logic. For instance, his argument against the "Anthropic Principle" explanation for the "fine tuning problem". However, his early chapters e.g. on Hilberts "Infinity Hotel" and on "fungible" universes in QM are exhilarating.
However, as the book went on, I became increasingly irritated. Having persuaded us of the power and reach of "good explanations", he betrays these very values. In his chapter on aesthetics, he specifically rejects the explanation that we find flowers beautiful for biological reasons (e.g. bright colours as a super stimulus for a species once adapted to seek brightly coloured ripe fruits), and instead opts for an "objective beauty" explanation, which explains nothing.
To add insult to injury he follows this by a lengthy explanation of cultural evolution based on Dawkins "meme" theory, (which itself is a poor explanation, which even Dawkins has not bothered to develop). Deutsch's conclusion that in the past creativity was used to suppress innovation is bizarre. "Dual Inheritance Theory" (which includes memes), provides a better explanation, contrasting vertical (traditional) and horizontal (progressive) modes of cultural information transmission, each of which carries benefits and dangers. His final chapters on ecology, were therefore unconvincing.
Overall, very interesting, often complex, sometimes flawed.
Like some other reviewers I wasn't convinced by the author's interpretation of a few issues such as the description of objective beauty and arguments leading on from it. However, for the most part this is fantastic with some very thought inducing analogies, including Startrek teleporters in parallel dimensions. The bit about political systems and fair political representation was also incite full.
The book is also very well narrated, one of the best I've heard. I listened to it in 1.25x speed.
A sometimes difficult book that helps to explain how science works, and why it does. My favourite chapter is an ancient Greek philosopher having a conversation with a god, because this is where most of the difficult concepts fall into place, and because it reads a bit like Terry Pratchet :P The rest of the book is heavy philosophical reasoning, with each chapter building on what has been explained in the previous.
This is a weird grab-bag of ideas all jumbled into a book and tenuously brought under a single title.
It starts badly. After listening to the first couple of chapters I was close to abandoning it. Firstly it seemed like this was going to be Yet Another Neo-Atheism book. That's fine, but it's covered better elsewhere and it isn't why I bought this book. I got the impression his publisher had told him to put in concepts X, Y and Z liberally to appeal to a particular book-purchasing audience. Yawn.
One of his foundational concepts is nonsense on its face: he argues that to say there is a limit to human understanding is to invoke the supernatural. But any concept which can't be expressed in the number of particles in a brain can't be understood by it, so a limit obviously exists. You might have an interesting discussion about what it is, but he denies the possibility. He even comes back to it many times, which is disappointing.
Also, the multiverse. Don't get me wrong, this chapter was actually pretty interesting, but what's it doing in this book? I think it's his pet theory or something. He tries to argue to reject the multiverse explanation is bad philosophy. This just comes across as sour grapes.
There were many good things in this book, and on balance I'm glad I finished it. His theory of explanations is interesting and well expressed. The chapter involving the discussion between Socrates and Hermes was initially weird, but I ultimately really enjoyed where he went with it and appreciated the style. Also, despite having nothing to do with the rest of the book his exposition on the multiverse is worth a listen.
Narrator was excellent, very easy to listen to.
Amazingly well written and logical guide to the past, present, and future of explanation, and knowledge. Don't read another book without it. Listen and then listen again.
"Brilliant but difficult to understand"
I'd HAVE to listen to it again if I want to understand some of the many highly abstract intellectual concepts introduced by Deutsch. I think this is a compelling read anyway. I will listen again.
No. I wouldn't say they were too technical, just above my intellectual and cognitive "pay grade" in some areas. I suspect most listeners will feel the same way. Though I personally have a PhD in an admittedly unrelated-to-physics but nonetheless a very analytical and technical field, I simply could not follow certain discussions, such as the one relating to Quantum Mechanics.
He was competent and a clear enunciator. However, I think actually READING a physical book would be better in this case: It would enable one to go back to prior sentences or pages to reread them. The nature of his book is such that if you didn't understand the initial paragraphs of a topic he introduces, the odds are good that you won't understand the rest of the discussion. His arguments are like building blocks.
Yes, "Infinity Hotel" was one. Another was a discussion of his views, which I share, on how mankind should deal with the prospects of global warming.
Deutsch is absolutely a genius. I am not convinced he is necessarily right when he tries to extend his scientific reasoning to completely unrelated fields, but he definitely makes you think in a completely new light. I'd say "Bravo". This is a very important book.
The Beginning of Infinity delivers a wonderfully dizzying display of intellectual virtuosity. I find it hard to conceive of the depth of preparation that must have gone into preparing the amazing synthesis that is provided by Deutsch in this light hearted, weightily significant masterpiece. At many points in the book, its depth of insight, its level of surprise, its ability to reach for the important in phenomena from sub-sub-sub-microscopic through to ultra-cold of deep space, from the soul-crushing impact of static societies through to the freewheeling exploration of world-views and universes had me exclaiming (sometimes to the surprise of others as I lived the book between my ear buds over several days). Deutsch tackles giants (Dawkins, Hofstadter and Dennet and many many more) without perceptible fear of authority - addressing the magic of their insights and the folly of their oversights with candid and calculated precision. I loved his portrayal of people as universal explainers / makers of meaning. I loved the picture he creates of the acceleration of possibility now that evolution is released from the constraints of the biological. I loved his firm hold on the possibility for repeatedly stepping beyond gloom that is available only to participants in dynamic society. I loved the brightly lit lobby of Infinity Hotel and its implications for metaphor in learning. And I was frustrated to all hell that Deutsch still failed to convince me on multiverses despite clearly thinking in the spaces where I always find objections (over the blithe extrapolations over orders of magnitude between observed phenomena in the quantum world to make proclamations about implications in the world of emergent phenomena we inhabit in our macroscopic lives) - perhaps I just need to listen to that section three more times ....
Dixon's consistently fresh presentation throughout this gargantuan task is a credit to him - a really great read.
My strong impression is that this is an audiobook that no English-speaking person anywhere should fail to listen to and luxuriate in - in this case, "life changing" is for real. Thank you both for slipping its explosive reality into my unsuspecting June 2015.
"A Perspective Shifter"
This book has flaws. Dr. Deutsch makes a few generalizations that I found a bit unfair -- related to physiological research and sustainability as it relates to environmentalism.
It's a perspective shifter.
I think about progress and humanity and our place in the universe differently.
I think about science and the scientific method differently.
It gave me glue to connect concepts I've found and liked from other books.
It's deep. It's complex. It's not "easy".
But certainly valuable.
"Covers nothing to everything"
One of my favorite books and provided me with many insights into our place in the universe and how we know the things we know. Deutsch explains the very small to the very large. He provides a reasonable explanation of the measurement problem in physics and a consistent theory on multiple universes. His survey of different schools of philosophies is one of the best I've read. He even has a detailed chapter on developing the most efficient election process which doesn't fully fit the theme of the book, but he explains it so well it becomes an intriguing chapter.
After reading the book, you will have an appreciation for the infinity and understand what is meant by 'everything possible will happen with certainty".
"This book is a wild ride!"
Wow. I do not pretend to understand even the 20th part of the ideas in this book. Who would have thought that a physicist and mathematician could express himself so eloquently on so many disparate subjects? This book is all over the map; it's a wild romp through an amazing mind. David Deutsch's ego must be at least the size of the Milky Way Galaxy--no, wait, that's too "parochial", too provincial by N orders of magnitude! Well, I guess it does take some bravado to take on evolution, quantum mechanics, history, universality, even knowledge itself, and still find time for politics, philosophy, artificial intelligence, and a conversation with Socrates. Along the way, as Deutsch manages to drop an amazing idea you never heard before into just about every paragraph, his major theses boils down to two things: first, good explanations lead to an infinity of knowledge, while bad explanations have only the power to fool us; and secondly, there will always be problems, but they can be solved if we can separate the good explanations from the bad ones.
Doing that in the real world we live in every day is hard, way harder than I think Deutsch realizes. We are fallible human beings who more often than not ignore even the most elegant of explanations with impunity. That said, being inside his head for the last couple of days was a privilege indeed.
By the way, the reader did a great job of not being in the way!
Not what I'd call an easy read, but some very compelling ideas and new ways of thinking about not only scientific inquiry, but inquiry in general. I must say I've come away from this book having a fundamentally different concept of the universe and the knowledge within it.
"Perhaps the most important book written so far."
Accessible language, a joy to listen to across the multitude of fascinating subjects. A complete software upgrade for your brain.
"i really lik the book. well narrated ."
loved it. very intersting and well built.
touches many aspects of 'life' and grow with the chapters. i learned a lot and it opened my mind to new thoughts and fields.
"Optimism can lead us to infinity"
Gave me some core new avenues to think on. Well thought out and carefully explained. Perhaps the only improvement would have been a performance by the author, but nevertheless felt the reader had a strong grasp of the author's intent.
"Genius-level grand unifying theories"
Psychology, AI, and the neo-Darwinian process of evolution are all emergent level phenomena that are products of physics. They each, in turn, lead to the creation of a beginning of infinite knowledge. And you are always at the beginning of infinity.
Take your time, give this book the time it deserves! Amazing.
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