Summary

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
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Critic reviews

“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)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Jim Vaughan on 11-10-12

Interesting, complex and sometimes flawed!

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.

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15 of 16 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Gharper on 29-12-15

Very worthwhile. Fantastically narrated

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.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Nancy on 28-12-12

Brilliant but difficult to understand

Would you listen to The Beginning of Infinity again? Why?

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.

Were the concepts of this book easy to follow, or were they too technical?

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.

What does Walter Dixon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

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.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

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.

Any additional comments?

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.

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14 of 14 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By kevmoo on 19-01-14

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.

BUT!

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.

Kudos.

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12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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