counter create hit The Visioneers: How a Group of Elite Scientists Pursued Space Colonies, Nanotechnologies, and a Limitless Future - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

The Visioneers: How a Group of Elite Scientists Pursued Space Colonies, Nanotechnologies, and a Limitless Future

Availability: Ready to download

The story of the visionary scientists who invented the future In 1969, Princeton physicist Gerard O'Neill began looking outward to space colonies as the new frontier for humanity's expansion. A decade later, Eric Drexler, an MIT-trained engineer, turned his attention to the molecular world as the place where society's future needs could be met using self-replicating nanosca The story of the visionary scientists who invented the future In 1969, Princeton physicist Gerard O'Neill began looking outward to space colonies as the new frontier for humanity's expansion. A decade later, Eric Drexler, an MIT-trained engineer, turned his attention to the molecular world as the place where society's future needs could be met using self-replicating nanoscale machines. These modern utopians predicted that their technologies could transform society as humans mastered the ability to create new worlds, undertook atomic-scale engineering, and, if truly successful, overcame their own biological limits. The Visioneers tells the story of how these scientists and the communities they fostered imagined, designed, and popularized speculative technologies such as space colonies and nanotechnologies. Patrick McCray traces how these visioneers blended countercultural ideals with hard science, entrepreneurship, libertarianism, and unbridled optimism about the future. He shows how they built networks that communicated their ideas to writers, politicians, and corporate leaders. But the visioneers were not immune to failure--or to the lures of profit, celebrity, and hype. O'Neill and Drexler faced difficulty funding their work and overcoming colleagues' skepticism, and saw their ideas co-opted and transformed by Timothy Leary, the scriptwriters of Star Trek, and many others. Ultimately, both men struggled to overcome stigma and ostracism as they tried to unshackle their visioneering from pejorative labels like fringe and pseudoscience.? The Visioneers provides a balanced look at the successes and pitfalls they encountered. The book exposes the dangers of promotion--oversimplification, misuse, and misunderstanding--that can plague exploratory science. But above all, it highlights the importance of radical new ideas that inspire us to support cutting-edge research into tomorrow's technologies. -- "Library Journal"


Compare
Ads Banner

The story of the visionary scientists who invented the future In 1969, Princeton physicist Gerard O'Neill began looking outward to space colonies as the new frontier for humanity's expansion. A decade later, Eric Drexler, an MIT-trained engineer, turned his attention to the molecular world as the place where society's future needs could be met using self-replicating nanosca The story of the visionary scientists who invented the future In 1969, Princeton physicist Gerard O'Neill began looking outward to space colonies as the new frontier for humanity's expansion. A decade later, Eric Drexler, an MIT-trained engineer, turned his attention to the molecular world as the place where society's future needs could be met using self-replicating nanoscale machines. These modern utopians predicted that their technologies could transform society as humans mastered the ability to create new worlds, undertook atomic-scale engineering, and, if truly successful, overcame their own biological limits. The Visioneers tells the story of how these scientists and the communities they fostered imagined, designed, and popularized speculative technologies such as space colonies and nanotechnologies. Patrick McCray traces how these visioneers blended countercultural ideals with hard science, entrepreneurship, libertarianism, and unbridled optimism about the future. He shows how they built networks that communicated their ideas to writers, politicians, and corporate leaders. But the visioneers were not immune to failure--or to the lures of profit, celebrity, and hype. O'Neill and Drexler faced difficulty funding their work and overcoming colleagues' skepticism, and saw their ideas co-opted and transformed by Timothy Leary, the scriptwriters of Star Trek, and many others. Ultimately, both men struggled to overcome stigma and ostracism as they tried to unshackle their visioneering from pejorative labels like fringe and pseudoscience.? The Visioneers provides a balanced look at the successes and pitfalls they encountered. The book exposes the dangers of promotion--oversimplification, misuse, and misunderstanding--that can plague exploratory science. But above all, it highlights the importance of radical new ideas that inspire us to support cutting-edge research into tomorrow's technologies. -- "Library Journal"

30 review for The Visioneers: How a Group of Elite Scientists Pursued Space Colonies, Nanotechnologies, and a Limitless Future

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brian Clegg

    It may sound like a job at a Walt Disney theme park (where designers are called imagineers), but ‘visioneer’ is Patrick McCray’s portmanteau word combining ‘visionary’ and ‘engineer’ – not a hand-waving futurologist, but a scientist or engineer who is coming up with blue sky ideas that are, nonetheless, based on the projection of solid science and engineering. The two key figures here are physicist Gerard O’Neill, who devised space colonies, and engineer Eric Drexler who was at the forefront of t It may sound like a job at a Walt Disney theme park (where designers are called imagineers), but ‘visioneer’ is Patrick McCray’s portmanteau word combining ‘visionary’ and ‘engineer’ – not a hand-waving futurologist, but a scientist or engineer who is coming up with blue sky ideas that are, nonetheless, based on the projection of solid science and engineering. The two key figures here are physicist Gerard O’Neill, who devised space colonies, and engineer Eric Drexler who was at the forefront of the nanotechnology movement, both dating back to the heady days of the 1970s. Their ideas are put in the contrasting context of limits – an influential group, the Club of Rome had recently published dire warnings of the limited resources available to human beings, and arguably both these threads were about ways to escape the limits, either by reaching outside the Earth, or into the microcosm. The opening of the book promised a lot – it looked as if it was going to be really exciting and engaging. But overall McCray doesn’t really deliver. The problem is that this is essentially a social history rather than a piece of popular science writing. Historian McCray makes it clear early on he isn’t going to be dealing much with the actual science and technology (which is perhaps just as well when one the few mentions he has of actual science is a distinct blooper in saying ‘Unlike time travel, designing a space colony violated no obvious physical laws’ – if the author would care to take a look at How to Build a Time Machine, he’d discover time travel violates no physical laws either). And that is a big shame. While what we read provides interesting context (if spending far too long on, for instance, Omni magazine) there really is very little about the actual ideas and the science behind them – just glancing references that intrigue but never clarify. I appreciate this was what McCray was setting out to do, but it is frustrating as the book would have been so much better if had been significantly beefed up on the science side. If you are looking for a social history of these two big ideas that still seem as far away as they did in the 1970s (and a book with the longest index I’ve ever seen), go for it. But don’t expect to have any detailed grasp of what the ideas actually were. Review first published on www.popularscience.co.uk and reproduced with permission

  2. 5 out of 5

    Fred Beshears

    The Visioneers by Patrick McCray traces the careers of two visionary engineers: Gerard Kitchen O'Neill (1927 - 1992) and K. Eric Drexler (1955). Since both men were strongly influenced by the 1972 classic Limits to Growth, McCray sets the stage with a detailed account of the Malthusian vision set forth in Limits in the first chapter: Utopia or Oblivion for Spaceship Earth? In the first chapter, McCray give Kenneth Boulding credit for coining the term Spaceship Earth, which first appeared in print The Visioneers by Patrick McCray traces the careers of two visionary engineers: Gerard Kitchen O'Neill (1927 - 1992) and K. Eric Drexler (1955). Since both men were strongly influenced by the 1972 classic Limits to Growth, McCray sets the stage with a detailed account of the Malthusian vision set forth in Limits in the first chapter: Utopia or Oblivion for Spaceship Earth? In the first chapter, McCray give Kenneth Boulding credit for coining the term Spaceship Earth, which first appeared in print in his classic 1966 article: The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth . In this article, Boulding contrasts the "cowboy economy" which he associates with "reckless, exploitative, romantic, and violent behavior" with the "spaceman economy" where the earth is a "single spaceship, without unlimited reservoirs of anything." Boulding, however, did not claim that the Earth was a closed system, since it constantly receives a tremendous energy input from the Sun which explains, in part, why we witness the growth of knowledge both in Earth's ecosphere (the gene pool made up of DNA fragments) and in the noosphere (the knowledge stored in brains and human artifacts such as books and computers). But Limits authors Donella and Dennis Meadows did tend to model the Earth as being analogous to a closed system, and accordingly their famous World3 model emphasized the exponential growth of population and economic consumption of finite resources. Although the Meadows' did factor in the growth of knowledge, they made the conservative forecast that it would only grow at a linear pace. Limits was attracted by mainstream pro-growth economists for failing to place sufficient faith in new technologies that would enable society to make "resource substitutions" that would make economic growth - if not population growth - feasible for the indefinite future. According to Robert M Solow: "The authors load their case by letting some things grow exponentially and others not. Population, capital and pollution grow exponentially in all models, but technologies for expanding resources and controlling pollution are permitted to grow, if at all, only in discrete increments" But Boulding and the followers of the Meadows were not persuaded, and the debate continues on to this day. The problem is, perhaps, best summarized by Boulding's observations: "Anyone who thinks that exponential economic growth can go on forever on a finite planet must either be a madman or an economist." But as well educated engineers O'Neill and Drexler did see an unlimited future. To a large extent, Limits provided the catalyst to both men to find answers to the grand challenges introduced by that book. For O'Neill, the answer to Limits would be the humanization of space. Although he repeatedly denied that space colonization would be an answer to all of societies ills, his best know work - The High Frontier - is often seen as yet another technological utopia. But most tech utopias are mere literary blueprints; O'Neill's vision provided much more: detailed designs, machinery schematics, engineering studies, and cost analyses. In addition to the High Frontier, O'Neill wrote numerous articles such as "Space Colonies and Energy Supply to the Earth", which appeared in Science in 1975. In this article, he lays out his vision for space based power stations that would not only provide energy to space colonists they would also beam power back to earth. For O'Neill's graduate student K. Eric Drexler, the answer to Limits would come not only from the very large, but also from the very small. Inspired by Richard Feynman's 1959 article "Plenty of Room at the Bottom", Drexler became interested in nanotechnology, a concept he popularized in his 1987 classic Engines of Creation. However, the term nanotechnolgoy does not appear in Engines, but it does in later works such as The Unbounding Future: The Nanotechnology Revolution - The Path to Molecular Manufacturing and How It Will Change Our World, published in 1991. Drexler's 1991 doctoral thesis at MIT was published as a book Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation (1992). According to Patrick McCray, these two men deserve the title "Visioneer" in part because they used their science and engineering to develop detailed design and engineering studies to explain their expansive vision of the future. But in addition to this, they also promoted their ideas by building communities and organizations that connected writers, politicians, business leaders, interested citizens, and sometimes some unwelcome true believers. They also attracted critics. In Drexler's case, there were critics who offered a different vision of how nanotechnology would come into being. Conrad W. Schneiker, for example, believed that the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) and its cousin the Atomic Force Microscope could be used as a tools to arrange matter at the molecular level. Also, Nobel laureate Richard E. Smalley offered yet another approach to nanotechnology that was "rooted much more in chemistry, physics, and material science." (p. 223) O'Neill attracted both critics and a few true believers that wanted to ride his coat tails. One true believer - Timothy Leary - embraced O'Neill's vision of space colonization, but saw it as part of his larger vision that included: Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, and Life Extension. Leary banded this combination of themes as "S.M.I^2.L.E". In 1988, Leary's ideas would be picked up by the transhumanist magazine Extropy, which covered topics such as intelligence-increase technologies, life extension, cryonics and bio stasis, nanotechnology, space colonization, economics and politics (especially libertarian), cybersex and sexbots, and the intelligent use of psychochemicals. By the late 1990s, transhumanists started to embrace a radical concept called the "Singularity." The term was first introduced to the general public, however, in 1983 in an Omni article by science fiction writer Vernor Vinge where he considers a future in which technological change accelerates at an exponential rate. He states: "When this happens, human history will have reached a kind of singularity, and the world will pass far beyond our understandings." McCray believes that Ray Kurzweil is the visioneer who is currently bringing the Singularity vision into being. Like O'Neill and Drexler, part of Kurzweil's motivation is to push back against the pessimistic vision set forth in Limits. But, to his credit, Kurzweil makes a point of bringing Limits supporters such as environmentalist Bill McKibben to speak at events organized by the Singularity Summit and Singularity University. The latter was organized in 2009 by Kurzweil and X Prize founder Peter Diamandis with financial backing from Google. Their curriculum is based on a core set of books to help students understand the "development of exponentially advancing technologies" and how they can be applied "to address humanity's grand challenges." So, whereas O'Neill advocated the "humanization of space" Kurzweil's followers advocate the "transhumanization of space." Now that I finished reading McCray's book, I'm still struck by Boulding's remark: "Anyone who believe that exponential economic growth can go on forever on a finite planet must either be a madman or an economist." To mainsteam society and to most environmentalists, space colony buffs, nanotech nerds, and transhumanists probably do seem to be mad. However, as I recall Boulding had a very balanced view of the need for both social and scientific engineering. Furthermore, his vision of the spaceman economy extended into space. He believed that we would eventually reach for the stars. My hope is that we are able to do so not out of desperation but out of curiosity.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alistair

    Portuguese Translation Escrito por Patrick McCray, um historiador da ciência, que escreveu livros sobre o avanço inovador da alta tecnologia por cientistas e engenheiros excepcionais. Neste livro, ele examina as promoções do pós-guerra e marketing do governo, pesquisadores corporativos e universitários para popularizar a promessa futurista. Ele sites Gerald O'Neill, que defende a órbita de colônias espaciais e Eric Dexter, que promoveu a utopia da nanotecnologia. California futurista engraxou a Portuguese Translation Escrito por Patrick McCray, um historiador da ciência, que escreveu livros sobre o avanço inovador da alta tecnologia por cientistas e engenheiros excepcionais. Neste livro, ele examina as promoções do pós-guerra e marketing do governo, pesquisadores corporativos e universitários para popularizar a promessa futurista. Ele sites Gerald O'Neill, que defende a órbita de colônias espaciais e Eric Dexter, que promoveu a utopia da nanotecnologia. California futurista engraxou a mídia com a publicação de tecnologia que seria parte da humanidade manifesto destino para explorar o espaço. O Sonho da Califórnia foi a criação de colônias de fantasia com estilos de vida muito diferentes daquele da Terra. Stewart e McCray e os visionários da Califórnia, em seguida, viu a desolação possível da militarização do espaço. No entanto, a visão da tecnociência por Dexter, Kunhnian, Feynmann e von Braun levou a corrida da década de 1960 para a lua, pousando um homem lá para deixar suas pegadas na lua poeira forma ano de expedições. A humanidade enviou sondas e rovers para Marte e voar passou por Plutão, mas o homem não foi mais longe do que a lua. Desde a corrida espacial da década de 1960 até agora, apenas um punhado pode ser acomodado na Estação Espacial Internacional na virada de 2019. English Translation Written by Patrick McCray, a historian of science, who wrote books on the ground breaking advancement of high technology by exceptional scientist and engineers. In this book he examines the post-war promotions and marketing of the government, corporate and university researchers to popularize the futuristic promise. He sites Gerald O’Neill who advocates orbiting space colonies and Eric Dexter who promoted the utopia of nanotechnology. California futurist glossed the media with publication of technology that would be apart of mankind manifest destiny to explore space. The California Dream was the setting up of fantasy colonies with vastly different life styles from that of earth. Stewart and McCray and the California Visionaries then saw the possible bleakness of the militarization of space. Yet the vision of techno-science by Dexter, Kunhnian, Feynmann and von Braun drove the race of the 1960’s to the moon, landing a man there to leave his footprints in the moon dust form year of expeditions. Mankind has sent probes and rovers as to Mars and flying passed Pluto but man has gone no farther than the moon. From the space race of the 1960’s to now, only a handful can be accommodated in the International Space Station at the turn of 2019.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chunyang Ding

    An excellent history of science focusing on space exploration and nanotechnologies, that is, for better or for worse, very much a research manuscript. The work is done well and is meticulous in its research, but it is very, very dry. However, what it excels in is its analysis of Drexler and O'Neil. I found it fascinating how the creation of a new kind of technology would rapidly outpace and consume the founders of the idea, as well as the critical junction of popularizing a scientific field. Wor An excellent history of science focusing on space exploration and nanotechnologies, that is, for better or for worse, very much a research manuscript. The work is done well and is meticulous in its research, but it is very, very dry. However, what it excels in is its analysis of Drexler and O'Neil. I found it fascinating how the creation of a new kind of technology would rapidly outpace and consume the founders of the idea, as well as the critical junction of popularizing a scientific field. Working in quantum computing myself, I cannot help but imagine the difficult balancing act by the founders here - Devoret and Schoelkopf among them - that is required to gain research funding and public interest while avoiding the pittraps of over-simplification of a complex term. Drexler, in particular, seemed like a pariah or a scapegoat, forced to bear the shortcomings of the overenthusiastic public. Read this if you want to better understand the complex role between cutting edge science and society. This isn't a simple biography, but a much more nuanced history.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nicky

    I really enjoyed this book! McCray looks at different figures he deems “visioneers,” or people who have a vision of the future and use their resources, in most cases, to enact it. The focus of the book is 1960s-1980s, with a little bleed over in either direction. I would have liked a little more present-implications of this work to be explored, but I thought that this idea was interesting. His last section explaining the mostly whiteness and maleness of his visioneers was also useful.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ietrio

    I was intrigued by the title. Only the title is a lie. It's not about an elite group of governmental bureaucrats pushing papers to justify their large pension plans. 2019. And the decades are slowly increasing since humans have went further than the lower orbit.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten Zirngibl

    Though I wish this book had done more than gloss over the 21st century transhumanism/singularitarianism, it provides an excellent historical context for today's brand of futuristic idealism. The book doesn't focus on science fiction authors, but instead real scientists and engineers from about the 1960's to the early 1990's, which I appreciate since that sphere tends to be overshadowed. I found sense in its explanation for why America lead the visioneering movements (though I'm sure that's less o Though I wish this book had done more than gloss over the 21st century transhumanism/singularitarianism, it provides an excellent historical context for today's brand of futuristic idealism. The book doesn't focus on science fiction authors, but instead real scientists and engineers from about the 1960's to the early 1990's, which I appreciate since that sphere tends to be overshadowed. I found sense in its explanation for why America lead the visioneering movements (though I'm sure that's less of a trend today). I may have given it a higher rating than it warrants, because most of the history took place before I was born. Much of the information was new to me. Someone who grew up following these movements during the 70's and 80's may not have gotten as much out of it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cyrus

    I was a big fan of Dr. O'Neil's High Frontier and have always been intrigued by Drexler's ideas about nanotechnology. This book discusses the two of them and describes their roles as both engineers and visionaries, coining the term "visioneer" to describe their roles in the advancement of science and big, new ideas. the book is an interesting look at the way new technologies are introduced and how science is actually performed in society.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Arthur Smid

  10. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  11. 4 out of 5

    GB Noriega

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jacky

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jon Methven

  14. 5 out of 5

    John

  15. 5 out of 5

    Graham Storrs

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stuart Campbell

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jovany Agathe

  18. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Banks

  19. 4 out of 5

    Robert Jenks

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

  21. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  22. 5 out of 5

    Torsten Kathke

  23. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Armstead

  24. 4 out of 5

    Steven Dawson

  25. 4 out of 5

    Will Connelly

  26. 4 out of 5

    Steve Ruprecht

  27. 5 out of 5

    Raphael

  28. 4 out of 5

    James Thomas

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sjef van Gaalen

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bill Hackenberger

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.