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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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most 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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16 of 16 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Nigel on 30-06-15

Breathtaking

If you could sum up The Beginning of Infinity in three words, what would they be?

Formidable
Intellectual
Virtuosity

Any additional comments?

The Beginning of Infinity delivers a wonderfully dizzying display of intellectual virtuosity. I find it hard to conceive of the depth of preparation that must have gone into preparing the amazing synthesis that is provided by Deutsch in this light hearted, weightily significant masterpiece. At many points in the book, its depth of insight, its level of surprise, its ability to reach for the important in phenomena from sub-sub-sub-microscopic through to ultra-cold of deep space, from the soul-crushing impact of static societies through to the freewheeling exploration of world-views and universes had me exclaiming (sometimes to the surprise of others as I lived the book between my ear buds over several days). Deutsch tackles giants (Dawkins, Hofstadter and Dennet and many many more) without perceptible fear of authority - addressing the magic of their insights and the folly of their oversights with candid and calculated precision. I loved his portrayal of people as universal explainers / makers of meaning. I loved the picture he creates of the acceleration of possibility now that evolution is released from the constraints of the biological. I loved his firm hold on the possibility for repeatedly stepping beyond gloom that is available only to participants in dynamic society. I loved the brightly lit lobby of Infinity Hotel and its implications for metaphor in learning. And I was frustrated to all hell that Deutsch still failed to convince me on multiverses despite clearly thinking in the spaces where I always find objections (over the blithe extrapolations over orders of magnitude between observed phenomena in the quantum world to make proclamations about implications in the world of emergent phenomena we inhabit in our macroscopic lives) - perhaps I just need to listen to that section three more times ....

Dixon's consistently fresh presentation throughout this gargantuan task is a credit to him - a really great read.

My strong impression is that this is an audiobook that no English-speaking person anywhere should fail to listen to and luxuriate in - in this case, "life changing" is for real. Thank you both for slipping its explosive reality into my unsuspecting June 2015.

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17 of 18 people found this review helpful

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