Cover image for Make, think, imagine : engineering the future of civilization
Title:
Make, think, imagine : engineering the future of civilization
ISBN:
9781643132129
Edition:
1st Pegasus Books hardcover ed.
Physical Description:
409 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Contents:
Progress -- Make -- Think -- Connect -- Build -- Energise -- Move -- Defend -- Survive -- Imagine.
Summary:
Today's unprecedented pace of change leaves many people wondering what new technologies are doing to our lives. Has social media robbed us of our privacy and fed us with false information? Are the decisions about our health, security and finances made by computer programs inexplicable and biased? Will these algorithms become so complex that we can no longer control them? Are robots going to take our jobs? Will better health care lead to an aging population which cannot be cared for? Can we provide housing for our ever-growing urban populations? And has our demand for energy driven the Earth's climate to the edge of catastrophe? John Browne argues that we need not and must not put the brakes on technological advance. Civilization is founded on engineering innovation; all progress stems from the human urge to make things and to shape the world around us, resulting in greater freedom, health and wealth for all. Drawing on history, his own experiences and conversations with many of today's great innovators, he uncovers the basis for all progress and its consequences, both good and bad. He argues compellingly that the same spark that triggers each innovation can be used to counter its negative consequences. Make, Think, Imagine provides an eloquent blueprint for how we can keep moving towards a brighter future.
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Summary

Today's unprecedented pace of change leaves many people wondering what new technologies are doing to our lives. Has social media robbed us of our privacy and fed us with false information? Are the decisions about our health, security and finances made by computer programs inexplicable and biased? Will these algorithms become so complex that we can no longer control them? Are robots going to take our jobs? Will better health care lead to an aging population which cannot be cared for? Can we provide housing for our ever-growing urban populations? And has our demand for energy driven the Earth's climate to the edge of catastrophe? John Browne argues that we need not and must not put the brakes on technological advance. Civilization is founded on engineering innovation; all progress stems from the human urge to make things and to shape the world around us, resulting in greater freedom, health and wealth for all. Drawing on history, his own experiences and conversations with many of today's great innovators, he uncovers the basis for all progress and its consequences, both good and bad. He argues compellingly that the same spark that triggers each innovation can be used to counter its negative consequences. Make, Think, Imagine provides an eloquent blueprint for how we can keep moving towards a brighter future.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Technological advances will be miraculous but unsettling--but not too unsettling--according to this measured, rather superficial survey of things to come. Browne (Seven Elements That Changed the World), an engineer, former CEO of oil company BP, and Crick Institute chairman, pays homage to past engineering triumphs, from Stone Age hand axes to the Bic ball-point pen, on the way to exploring modern-day innovations including driverless cars, renewable energy, social media, 3-D printing, prosthetic limbs controlled by brain-implanted chips, and surgical robots. Browne registers potential downsides of breakthroughs along with benefits: the internet connects but also balkanizes humanity into ideological bubbles; digital images enable malign surveillance; GPS satellites are making navigational skills atrophy; antibiotics breed antibiotic-resistant germs. Browne is mainly optimistic and welcoming of new technology, but throws sops to alarmism: he judges fracking safe, "when performed carefully," but allows that "rational explanations and statistics are not enough to resolve such an emotional and polarizing issue," and asserts that anti-vaxxers' "concerns must be answered sympathetically." There's not much new in this broad, shallow overview, which will leave both technophiles and -phobes wishing that Browne had gone more deeply into the controversies over these powerful innovations. Agent: William Clarke, William Clarke Assoc. (Sept.)


Kirkus Review

The future is almost here, and it won't be that bad, according to this mostly optimistic forecast from an engineer.Since the primitive stone hand ax from 40,000 years ago, technical innovationi.e., engineeringhas driven progress, writes Browne (The Glass Closet: Why Coming Out Is Good Business, 2014, etc.), the former CEO of BP, president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and chairman of the Tate Gallery. Throughout the centuries, he emphasizes, each new innovation has been controversial in some way. Socrates denounced writing as a destroyer of memory. Observers warned that the printing press would overwhelm the world with nonsense, a critique also applied to the internet. Both criticisms have merit, Browne points out, but there are advantages. "The way people choose to use an innovation will determine its impact on society," he writes. "But every engineered product will also generate its own set of consequences, both intentional and unintentional, as well as constructive and destructive.Progress is not delivered with an instruction manual spelling out the safe and responsible use of new inventions." Unlike the usual overview of innovation, the author skims the Egyptians, Romans, Renaissance, and Industrial Revolution, stopping in the mid-20th century when digital technology caught everyone's attention. Few deny that computers are transforming our lives, and critics claim this will produce mass unemployment. However, Browne points out that this has been the doomsayer's mantra since the 1960s, and so far, automation has created many jobs and eliminated far fewer. DNA manipulation, big data, and high-tech imaging will make us smarter, healthier, and longer lived, although not yet. Despite the spread of nuclear weapons, the world is becoming less violent; mutual assured destruction is being replaced by mutual assured disruption through cyberwarfare and terrorism.A thoughtful analysis of today's unprecedented pace of change and what the future may hold. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

As an engineer and former CEO of British Petroleum, Browne (The Glass Closet, 2014) is keenly aware of the impact engineering has had on our world. He credits human creativity and the desire to make things as the force behind the progress of civilizations. Today people are healthier, more productive, and able to lead better lives on average than at any other time in history. However, these innovations do not come without dangers; for example, the author describes everyone within the proximity of self-driving cars is unwittingly part of an experiment. And many of today's most impactful civilian technologies have military roots. Browne argues that engineers must aim their work towards the good or risk the dangers inherent in unleashing unintended consequences on the world. Through interviews and firsthand knowledge, he provides history and context to many of today's transformative technologies. He shares the latest in cutting-edge technologies in cybersecurity, cryptocurrencies, DNA alterations, human-computer interfaces, nondestructive energy sources, and smart buildings. Browne declares that data is the new microscope, allowing us to peer deeper into outer space and inner space as well. Current and future engineers will certainly find a booster for their profession in Browne's cautionary homage to ingenuity.--Dan Kaplan Copyright 2010 Booklist


Choice Review

Proposing that people need to learn from the past how certain technologies have evolved to determine their new directions, former CEO of British Petroleum (BP) Browne takes readers on a fascinating yet practical intellectual journey into both past and future technologies, focusing on the technologies most likely to benefit humankind. He judiciously incorporates input gathered from friends and active participants in industry as well as details of his consultations with academics. With great emphasis, he enlarges upon the amazing potential and future applications of the computer. Browne's chapter titles reveal his important overall message: "Make," "Think," "Connect," "Build," "Energise," "Move," "Defend," and "Survive." His final chapter challenges readers to choose between the "human approach" to future progress via imagination (assuming unavoidable human fallibility) and the envisioned "cleaner, clinical intelligence of machines." Browne's clear preference is that a hybrid approach should win out for a better future world. The author's interviews and personal experiences make this material come alive. The occasional diagrams and black-and-white images surely enhance understanding, and researchers will definitely appreciate the voluminous notes, chock-full of detailed explanations, as well as the comprehensive index featuring numerous detailed sub-entries. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. --Franklin Potter, formerly, University of California, Irvine


Table of Contents

1 Progressp. 1
2 Makep. 11
3 Thinkp. 41
4 Connectp. 79
5 Buildp. 115
6 Energisep. 145
7 Movep. 181
8 Defendp. 217
9 Survivep. 245
10 Imaginep. 277
Acknowledgementsp. 307
Biographies of Intervieweesp. 309
List of Figuresp. 321
Notesp. 331
Indexp. 389