SOONISH, by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith
Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything
Want to read an awesome book? SOONISH - Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything, by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith is the perfect choice!
Dr. Kelly, an entomologist at Rice University, studies how parasites can manipulate their hosts’ behaviors and her husband, Zac, is a science nerd and geeky cartoonist who publishes a web comic series called Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Together, as the subtitle suggests, they explore and explain current scientific advances that border on the fantastical ranging from the incomprehensible vastness of the universe (asteroid mining, fusion power) to the microscopic (gene editing, bio-printing) and a whole slew of amazing stuff in between (augmented reality, robots). The distinction between science fiction and reality becomes murky upon reading, “In a single drop of your blood there is a staggering amount of information. There may be chemical biomarkers associated with heart failure. There may be genetic code from an undetected solid tumor….” and recollecting the recent unmasking of Elizabeth Holmes's boondoggle company, Theranos (Holmes’s story was the subject of, Bad Blood, recently reviewed here in HP). Although Theranos was a scam, the technology to unlock such information from a drop of blood will legitimately occur “soonish,” says the Weinersmiths.
In another chapter, recent current events were accurately presaged in this book which was published last year. Earlier this week there was news of and (almost universal) condemnation of Chinese researchers who have used CRISPR technology to genetically modify at least two human embryos who have been carried to term and delivered. “At the time of this writing” (2017), "scientists in the UK are allowed to modify human embryos, while in US scientists are not. In China, CRISPR was used to modify human embryos, and the results were pretty abysmal. Lots of things went wrong, including unexpected mutations popping up. Remember, we don’t know what we are doing here. Even if a designer human were successfully created, we don’t know how it’s genes would affect future generations.”
Although it’s difficult to tell from that passage, and the brave new world(s) forecast here are not without cause for concern, the overall tone of this book is one of optimism. I am encouraged that in recent years (especially the 2 most recent years), bonafide scientists like Stephen Hawking and Neil DeGrass-Tyson and others have become celebrities and the search for truth through science and fact is becoming “cool.” The Weinersmiths have helped in this pursuit through this enlightening and highly recommended book.