The New York Times bestseller: A provocative, imaginative exploration of the nature and progress of knowledge
"Dazzling." - Steven Pinker, The Guardian
In this groundbreaking book, award-winning physicist David Deutsch argues that explanations have a fundamental place in the universe--and that improving them is the basic regulating principle of all successful human endeavor. Taking us on a journey through every fundamental field of science, as well as the history of civilization, art, moral values, and the theory of political institutions, Deutsch tracks how we form new explanations and drop bad ones, explaining the conditions under which progress--which he argues is potentially boundless--can and cannot happen. Hugely ambitious and highly original, The Beginning of Infinity explores and establishes deep connections between the laws of nature, the human condition, knowledge, and the possibility for progress.
Famous for his devotion to progress, Whig historian Thomas Macaulay looks timid compared to Deutsch. For Deutsch dares to extend the motif of progress from the very dawnings of human civilization, when ancient Babylonians first created a positional system of numbers, into an imagined future, when humans will upload their personalities into computers and technologically harness dark energy to generate a neverending cascade of new knowledge. Deutsch draws the inspiration for this exhilarating ride from a stream of revolutionary ideas, each explaining the world, man, and the cosmos in exciting new ways, yet each also provoking criticism and correction, thereby incubating the next idea in the grand chain. To be sure, readers may find Deutsch’s argument for progress most compelling when he is charting human enterprises with transparent objectives (e.g., mathematics, a discipline revolutionized by theories that dispelled ancient fears of infinity). When he turns to aesthetics, philosophy, and politics, Deutsch brushes aside dark ambiguities that would delay his frenetic march. Audacious theorizing that swallows the universe whole!