We live in a time of exciting technological progress. But what will be the societal, economic, and ethical repercussions of 10 emerging technologies? Two science writers try to answer these questions and more in a funny book entitled, “Soonish”.
Kelly Weinersmith and Zach Weinersmith are science writers and a happily married couple.
A Huxley Fellow at Rice University’s Bioscience Department, Kelly is a biologist with many research publications in parasitology. Zach is a cartoonist and webcomics artist; he’s the writer and illustrator of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal from SMBC Comics.Read #Soonish to make the future seem a little less scary. Click To Tweet
A Funny and Grounded Look Into the Future
Kelly and Zack Weinersmith set out to answer some questions regarding future technologies and the result was the humorously illustrated science investigation: “Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything”, released by Penguin Random House Press in the U.S. on Oct 17th, 2017.
With each chapter punctuated by some hilarious cartoons and jokes, “Soonish” makes for a geek and funny read, and that helped it to become an instant bestseller. At the time of writing this article, the book is ranked seventh on the New York Times’ list of bestselling science books.
However, not everyone thought this lighthearted take on the future was very useful.
“. . . there were a couple of [people] who were not too amused at the way we presented particular bits of information,” Kelly told Wired magazine. “And so certainly there is some pushback from the old guard, if you will, but I would say that most of the people that we talked to really enjoyed getting a laugh while learning about it.”
10 Technologies That’ll be Here “Soonish”!
At first, Kelly and Zack considered including no less than 50 technologies. But they realized at that number they wouldn’t be providing any new insights and their pieces would end up less informative and interesting than a Wikipedia article.
So the writer/artist duo decided to narrow it down to 25 before eventually settling at only 10 in order to give themselves more room to dive deep into each tech.
They divided their 368-page book into sections that comprise ten chapters each dedicated to an emerging tech. From cheap space access (space elevators) and asteroid mining, to augmented reality, 3D-bioprinting, personalized medicine, and programmable matter, the book includes some of the most intriguing technologies yet to take the world by storm.
Besides giving explanations of scientific concepts, the co-authors interviewed scientists who are pushing toward these technologies, assessed the implications of each technology for society and the economy, as well as discussing obvious hold-ups.
Stuff That Didn’t Make the cut
For fear of not giving them due treatment, some chapters about technologies (like quantum computing and room-temperature superconductors) ended on the chopping block.
Other tech, like space-based solar and weather manipulation, were cut because the authors deemed them less plausible or weren’t sure how they’d pan out.
The Weinersmiths wrote the book with a young adult audience in mind, that’s why they made the book lean and the tone a bit lighter than most hardcore scientists would want.
“Maybe we could encourage some of these [young] people to look ahead and figure out the path they would take to be the person to solve that problem,” said Kelly. “They could be the one who changes the world.”