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A Rough Ride to the Future [Format Kindle]

James Lovelock

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

 

“Arresting and disturbing . . . Lovelock writes wonderfully well. With the authority of age, his voice is that of an elder statesman . . . The result is mellifluous and fluent.” —Nature

 

“Though the subject matter could scarcely be more discouraging, Lovelock’s fluent prose and vast range of knowledge make it a surprisingly easy read. . . . His writing has enormous warmth and vitality.” —Financial Times

 

“The most important book for me this year . . . Lovelock is the most prescient of scientists. . . . He has given us a handbook for human survival.” —John Gray, The Guardian

"
In this way, Lovelock’s book becomes not simply another look at Mother Nature’s uncertain future, but a revealing glimpse at the life of an outspoken and accomplished man of ideas" —Publishers Weekly

"There is much to wrestle with in Lovelock's latests provocative rant." —Booklist

Présentation de l'éditeur

In A Rough Ride to the Future, James Lovelock - the great scientific visionary of our age - presents a radical vision of humanity's future as the thinking brain of our Earth-system



James Lovelock, who has been hailed as 'the man who conceived the first wholly new way of looking at life on earth since Charles Darwin' (Independent) and 'the most profound scientific thinker of our time' (Literary Review) continues, in his 95th year, to be the great scientific visionary of our age. This book introduces two new Lovelockian ideas. The first is that three hundred years ago, when Thomas Newcomen invented the steam engine, he was unknowingly beginning what Lovelock calls 'accelerated evolution', a process which is bringing about change on our planet roughly a million times faster than Darwinian evolution. The second is that as part of this process, humanity has the capacity to become the intelligent part of Gaia, the self-regulating Earth system whose discovery Lovelock first announced nearly 50 years ago. In addition, Lovelock gives his reflections on how scientific advances are made, and his own remarkable life as a lone scientist.



The contribution of human beings to our planet is, Lovelock contends, similar to that of the early photosynthesisers around 3.4 billion years ago, which made the Earth's atmosphere what it was until very recently. By our domination and our invention, we are now changing the atmosphere again. There is little that can be done about this, but instead of feeling guilty about it we should recognise what is happening, prepare for change, and ensure that we survive as a species so we can contribute to - perhaps even guide - the next evolution of Gaia. The road will be rough, but if we are smart enough life will continue on Earth in some form far into the future.



Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974, JAMES LOVELOCK is the author of more than 200 scientific papers and the originator of the Gaia Hypothesis (now Gaia Theory). His many books on the subject include Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (1979), The Revenge of Gaia (2006), and The Vanishing Face of Gaia (2009). In 2003 he was made a Companion of Honour by Her Majesty the Queen, in 2005 Prospect magazine named him one of the world's top 100 public intellectuals, and in 2006 he received the Wollaston Medal, the highest Award of the UK Geological Society.


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Amazon.com: 4.6 étoiles sur 5  11 commentaires
10 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 From the Ages of Gaia to the Anthropocene (1712-?), RRF is an iconic book 26 avril 2014
Par Chad M - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
As a reader of "The Vanishing Face of Gaia," I understood that society may radically change in the hot state climate. What surprised me about this new book is just how far the change, or evolution, may proceed.

For James Lovelock, the accelerated or inflationary evolution of modern human life is an advancement of the Earth System, or Gaia. This was allowed by the steady and high energy flows unlocked during the Industrial Revolution. Specifically, the invention of the Newcomen steam engine in 1712 provided a steady flow of about 1000 watts per square meter of land area. In this view, Lovelock is very close to the Harvard physicist Eric Chaisson and his "Epic of Evolution" concept. Here, a hallmark feature of evolution is increasing energy flows per area or mass, which Prof. Chaisson proves this in a highly precise way. Similarly, Lovelock's new focus on energy flow per square meter is directly related to Vaclav Smil's analysis of energy flows in nature and society, for example in "Energy at the Crossroads." Prof. Smil also shows that industrial civilization and power stations produce large amounts of power in geographically small land areas.

Lovelock goes on to link the access to large energy flows with a rapid increase in information processing. This may also be seen as the transition to being Gaia's first powerful information harvesters. Modern information processing is estimated to be about one million times greater than classic Darwinian evolution - a talent that will be crucial in maintaining the Earth System if geologic-scale heating is about to start. In other words, global heating and other risks are arising so quickly, only an advanced species with remarkable abilities to harvest information and duly respond will meet these challenges. Both invention and intuition will be essential to this new world of high-stakes challenge and response.

Among the responses to global heating are geoengineering technologies to cool the Earth, and reduce the level of sunlight received by the surface and secondly, sustainable retreat and the use of nuclear energy. First, the use of jets to disperse of sulfur dioxide in the upper atmosphere combined with ocean surface sea spray ships may reflect some of the incoming sunlight. This has the potential to restore most of the heat balance of the Earth. Second, the idea of urban redoubts or air-conditioned cities appears in this book. This view is similar to Stewart Brand's support of city living, but in a whole new level.

Finally, while Lovelock points towards heat-tolerant artificial intelligence as another Gaian adaptation, I think there are more scenarios worth writing about. Naturally, it would takes dozens or hundreds of additional pages to study these scenarios, and would be outside the scope of this already extensive and remarkable book. Still, it is good to think about positive, mixed, or negative outcome scenarios. For example, in the National Intelligence Council's "Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds" book there are a range of scenarios. Here's one that is inspired by "A Rough Ride to the Future" (RRF):

In the world of the late 21st century, geoengineering and population pressures mean that artificial intelligence (AI) has become central to the remaining human cities. Geoengineering, through high atmosphere dispersal of sulfur dioxide and ocean surface sea spray ships has managed to stabilize global heating. However, agriculture production is either level or falling. Many approaches to increase food production fail to work, and even have severe drawbacks on the biomes and the biosphere (just as these attempts did in the early 21st century, when tropical rainforests were leveled to create palm oil and biofuel plantations). In a world of rapidly and dangerous declines in essential resources people have typically resorted to war or migration. In order to maintain a civilized world when there are no longer enough resources, a new AI-human leadership council is established to be the arbiter between the elites, skilled personnel, working classes, and migrants to the remaining modern cities. This occurs in large part to stabilize city-state populations and then to apply pharmaceutically-based family planning (a sort of advanced variation of China's one-child policy). The AI creates plans and the human leadership council is there only to veto plainly unfair plans (like a U.S. Supreme Court type function). The AI is now crucial because the traditional human leadership councils at the state level usually failed to plan effectively for the biosphere in the early and middle 21st century.

In the hot state climate, the world actually cannot expand food production as it did in the 20th century. There is an urgent need to act in a civilized way to reach an ecologically feasible long-term world population of about one billion people. In a plan set forth by the city's AI, the incoming and worker populations must choose between urgently needed food and shelter in air-conditioned cities, or the option of raising large families in barbaric "Mad Max"-type regions. The workers and migrants almost always decide that their personal survival and prosperity is worth giving up the habit of having children in unplanned numbers (witness South Asia's early 21st century population dilemmas, flat or falling food production, and diminishing fresh water). As Lovelock points out several times, unlimited population growth will recurrently undermine a steady-state biosphere and agricultural resources and thus ultimately hurt the working classes. For those cities or confederations that achieve steady-state society and begin a symbiotic relationship with AI and nuclear energy, the future is bright. As AI becomes more important it also begins to plan for and implement heat shielding at all levels - the city, personal, and even planetary levels. Along with its long-running population planning task AI eventually becomes indispensable to human survival. However, AI is essentially a static infrastructure feature of the city, and depends on reliable and clean energy. As humans continue to provide this with nuclear power and sometimes with solar thermal power, the cycles of inflationary evolution continue.
9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A riminiscence, and radical suggestions 23 avril 2014
Par Brigham Klyce - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
We enjoyed many things about A Rough Ride to the Future. Lovelock reminisces about the development of the Gaia theory and the adversities it met; the invention of Daisyworld was his responses to one. It was good to be reminded of his role in the discovery of CFCs in the atmosphere and the eventual banning of them. Many similar episodes include mention of allies in his quest, Lynn Margulis most prominent among them.
A persistent theme is his status as an independent inventor/scientist, and not an employee of a large industry or university. He thinks both situations are necessary, but he clearly prefers his independence. And of course he cares about the environment, but he thinks that a lot of environmentalism is misguided. For example, without nuclear energy, we are left with coal as our main source of electricity.
He acknowledges that the direst predictions of global warming, including some of his own, have not come true. For one reason, everyone undervalued the thermal inertia of the oceans, at least a thousand times that of the land and air. But warming in the very long run is inevitable, because heat from the sun is increasing. Earth could become like Venus. To deal with this, he recommends air-conditioned cities, leaving the rest of Earth to respond without our interference. Even more radical, he thinks we might evolve a different life form, perhaps partially (or entirely?) electronic. This scenario is included in his observation that the whole planet evolves, and that this evolution accelerated drastically when the steam engine was invented. Humans are now the most influential participants in the evolution of Gaia.
We liked it mainly because we like Lovelock. The writing is easy-going and thought provoking. And if Gaia is new to you,the history told here is concise.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 "We are not yet sufficiently intelligent to control or regulate ourselves or the Earth" 15 décembre 2014
Par Stephen Pletko - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
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"This is not a book about climate change and what we should be doing to [decrease] our carbon footprints - climate change comes into it, and the recent storms and inundations here in the United Kingdom and the cold breath of the polar vortex in North America remind us of that.

What I am excited about, and write about in this book is the extraordinary event that happened around 300 years ago, which put the world into flight to a destination where everything we now know about ourselves, the Earth, and the universe will be different."

The above comes from the introduction of this book by James Lovelock. He is an inventor, author, researcher, environmentalist, and futurist. Lovelock has been the recipient of many scientific awards and other honours. He is 95 years old and lives in southwest England.

Lovelock is best known for the Gaia hypothesis where the biosphere is a self-regulating entity with the capacity to keep our planet healthy by controlling the interconnections of the chemical and physical environment. (Gaia is named after the goddess of Earth in Greek mythology.)

This book is a departure for Lovelock since it does not deal exclusively with climate change.

It's difficult to pick out a central theme to this book despite what the quote above says and even though it begins with a chapter entitled "What this book is about" & ends with a chapter called "So what was it all about" to try and clarify.

Still, the general idea seems to be this:

Evolution has proceeded along at its slow and steady pace, until humanity came along. Equipped with a large brain and agile hands, we became inventors, and the process of evolution suddenly had a new dynamic. Beginning in 1712, an extraordinary invention came along and the rate of change to the planet increased exponentially resulting in the Earth never being the same again. "The emergence of this crucial period [3 centuries ago] may change the Earth and its future as much as did the origin of life more than 3 billion years ago."

Lovelock calls this "evolutionary inflation" and this has ushered in the "Anthropocene epoch." This name refers to "the recent period of the Earth's history when mankind began to exert a noticeable effect on the living environment."

The problem with this book is that while many of Lovelock's ideas are fascinating, the book as a whole fails to match their clarity. There are disconnected chapters. There are even auto biographical tidbits throughout making it clear that Lovelock has had a fascinating life.

I found these discontinuities, although interesting, somewhat distracting. Some people may even find this book a frustrating read.

Finally, two things rescue this book from irrelevance:

(1) It's free of dogma.
(2) It's original. That is, it is packed with ideas that nobody else is saying.

Thus, this book manages to be worth reading despite that it is somewhat rambling and at times, conflicted.

In conclusion, despite some problems, this book provides the reader with some interesting ideas on human beings' contributions to our planet.

(first published 2014; list of illustrations; acknowledgements; introduction; 10 chapters; main narrative 170 pages; appendix; further reading; index)

<<Stephen PLETKO; London, Ontario, Canada>>

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3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 As a personal friend of the author I am unashamedly ... 26 octobre 2014
Par Mrs F.L.Clemmow - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
As a personal friend of the author I am unashamedly biased but, nevertheless, whether you endorse his views or not, his remarkable work stimulates and provokes the reader to think for him or herself. This, in age when we have information to regurgitate without having to process it ourselves, is valuable beyond measure.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 the Intrigue of Cimate Change 4 mars 2015
Par Steven - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Lovelock strikes again with what you need to know. From a science perspective and a rare intelligence along with a marvelous look back in history.
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