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Beginning Of Infinity,The: Explanations That Transform The World

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  4,573 ratings  ·  426 reviews
'The Beginning of Infinity' explores the unlimited scope and power of the big issues that inform our understanding of how the physical world works. It looks at the philosophy of science from a new perspective and reaches fresh conclusions on the nature of human choice, scientific explanation and the evolution of culture.
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Allen Lane (first published March 1st 2011)
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Andy
I am not sure that another book has influenced my thinking quite as much as The Beginning of Infinity.

As I read through Deutsch's many provocative assertions, I often reacted with instinctive scorn and disbelief. But with only a few exceptions, I found myself within a few pages not only persuaded but convinced of the utter obviousness of his ideas.

The specific assertions in this book are important not because of the claims they make relevant to that field, but because they are meta-assertions
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Gendou
Summary: Lose, philosophical rambling, plus an insightful take on Many Worlds.

Author's favorite word: parochial

I'm trying to be more positive in my reviews. Here are the good parts:
* Plausible story of the evolution of the technology of numerals.
* Refutation of anthropic reasoning for being a bad explanation.
* Introduction to infinite set theory using the idea of Infinity Hotel.
* Refutation of the Precautionary Principle for being pessimism.
* A clever, made-up tale of Socrates and Hermes on
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Blair
This book is about rational optimism. For the past few hundred years in the West, science and logical thinking have been changing things for the better. The author believes we are just beginning an era of continual progress that has no bound.

His key idea is that science is defined by seeking explanations for the universal laws that govern reality. Explanations go beyond simply describing what we observe, or “instrumentalism”. A good explanation has “reach” – it explains not only what we see, but
...more
Rachel
Dec 14, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can you give a book a one AND a four? This book has me split. I didn't really like it, but I did make it through and give myself credit for that (although I skipped the sections where he plays like Socrates...weird...how did his editor let that through?). And even though I didn't like it, it made me think in directions I hadn't gone before. That's worth a lot.

The author is prideful and arrogant and really rather strange, But he is good at explaining bizarro physics concepts that are on the
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Anastasia Hobbet
David Deutsch is brilliant, iconoclastic, and so sure of himself that it takes my breath away. No political correctness here! And no homage to that creaky old ideal of writing within your own speciality. But then he's a cosmologist, so what's not within his specialty?! Accordingly, this book is about absolutely everything. It includes critiques of contemporary science fiction, conversations between Socrates and his adherents, trips into intergalactic space, and a thorough discussion about the ...more
Chaunceton Bird
This is an entertaining explanation of human progress. It was a bit disjointed, but that's just because there are a lot of ideas presented that are only related in that they contribute to humanity's march into infinity.
rmn
Nov 19, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Who knew that the beginning of infinity was also the start of boring, I mean really, what a crappy way to have to spend infinity.

Anyway, this book is dryly written (despite what the back of the book jacket says) and confusingly uneven with some parts being informative and some being so incomprehensible that they would likely put somnambulists to sleep.

As far as I can tell, the author has a valid thesis which is that human intelligence can solve any problems we face as long as people remain open
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Nick Black
Jun 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nick by: Scott Aaronson
fascinating, but not everything i was hoping for. i'm surprised to see this book being used as one of the required texts for scott aaronson's 6.893 Philosophy and Theoretical Computer Science this fall, a course which i would happily give up either testicle to attend. seriously, stop reading whatever crap you're reading and go through that reading list. it's a who's who of everything that matters.
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picked it up today. can't wait.
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Dr. Deutsch wrote one hell of a PhD dissertation back in the
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Stephie Williams
In this book the author David Deutsch argues that there is no or can be no end to how far we can, or other sentient creatures, can go in furthering our explanations of the universe. This is our knowledge will continue to grow with out bounds. He explains why explanations are the key element in our gaining knowledge, and not the standard true justified belief of epistemology. He attempts to show how induction and empiricism fail to describe our knowledge acquisition. He believes science is ...more
David
Jan 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very interesting introduction to modern research in computational complexity and its often intriguing applications to physics, cosmology and even philosophy.

The part that struck me the most was his chapter on "Optimism". He argues that we are in the midst of an explosion of scientific knowledge and technology that may well continue for many years into the future, yielding a world that is far more advanced than anything we can imagine at the present time. He then argues further that
...more
Ed van der Winden
I cannot stress the importance of this book enough. This book is about the power and potential of explanations and therefore also of our potential as a species, as the people who are able to create these explanations. Deutsh's book is an incredibly lucid and powerful explanation in itself and I will even go as far as to conclude that with this book Deutsch has become the most important philosopher of our time!
Do yourself a favor and read this book! Deutsch's book is not technical and
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Diarmid
David Deutsch is a Fellow of the Royal Society and and expert on the quantum theory of computation based at Oxford University. Physics and an understanding of the laws of physics are at the core of this book, but it is just as much a work of philosophy, dealing as it does with progress and human society. Deutsch's contention is that the laws of reality can be known and will provide endless opportunity for investigation and the expansion of knowledge, that the principles of the scientific method ...more
Gary
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I finished this book a month ago and at first I wasn't sure what I thought of it. But a month has gone by and I still think about it. In fact I think about it a lot.

Some other reviewer mentioned that his favorite word was "parochial" which made me laugh because it does seem to be true. And I finally had to look it up in the dictionary because he only gave a one sentence definition of "parochial" that I thought was lacking. And by that I mean I didn't understand it. I looked it up online. I wish
...more
Tiffany Conner
Dec 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: indispensable
It's not often that I feel comfortable giving a book 5 stars. While I recognize that ranking books with stars is a decidedly arbitrary way to judge quality, if it will encourage other people to give this book the time it deserves, then 5 stars it is.

There are so many good things to say about The Beginning of Infinity. I'll offer up some of the more unoriginal phrases of praise: Thought-provoking, eye-opening, original, insightful, erudite, and written in clear, accessible prose. I saw this book
...more
Max Nova
David Deutsch's "The Beginning of Infinity" is one of the more thought-provoking books I've read in the past few years. Its scope is incredibly broad - from epistemology and quantum fungibility to environmental ethics and societal evolution. Deutsch is a physicist (of self-admittedly fringe beliefs in regards to some quantum theory) and I'm always a bit skeptical when subject-matter experts try to extrapolate outside of their areas of speciality - particularly when they do so on as massive a ...more
Timothy Warnock
Jul 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While I was, admittedly, turned off by the cover [worth mentioning here only because this book touches on a universal aesthetic], the ideas and perspectives offered in this book are incredible.

Overall it was brilliant, challenging, and refreshing -- it addresses so wonderfully the questions and concerns I personally found unanswered in every philosophy of science or epistemology lecture I had ever attended.

The author very beautifully connected mathematics, physics, politics, and art into a
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Ryan Boissonneault
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Expanding on the philosophy of Karl Popper, The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch is the definitive work of philosophy for the twenty-first century.

I suspect that on first exposure it may not be entirely clear what the underlying message and philosophy is. The structure of the book, the chapter headings, and the frequent digressions will cause some readers to either abandon the book or miss the point. But for those that stick with it, and really absorb the lessons, the philosophy is
...more
Jake
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Acknowledging human fallibility, the Enlightenment set up a tradition of conjecture and criticism. Perpetually correcting misconceptions allows us to create unbounded knowledge. Problems are inevitable, but soluble. Optimism is the theory that all failures are due to insufficient knowledge, and has been the basis for our progress since the Enlightenment. It is ours to actively foster in the future.

"The possibilities that lie in the future are infinite. When I say 'It is our duty to remain
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Marks54
I am mixed in my reactions to this book. In some fundamental ways, I enjoyed the book very much and appreciate that the author is very smart, widely informed, and a terrific writer. I agree with the book's fundamental intent and was greatly stimulated by the exposition. On the other hand, I think that the author tries to do too much and that, as a result, the exposition is least compelling and the most problematic precisely at the points that are most critical to the book's argument. Overall, ...more
Teo 2050
10h @ 2x. Contents:
(view spoiler)
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Terry Pearce
This book is astoundingly good. Definitely the best non-fiction I've read since Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow. Maybe better, even. Deutsch starts with explanations being the basis for knowledge, and builds up basic, hard-to-argue-with principles into convincing monoliths that smash some conventional interpretations of knowledge, science and philosophy to tiny pieces. He gives the most understandable insight I've yet had into quantum physics and in particularly the many universes ...more
Michael Flick
Oct 05, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: worst
Dense and difficult and in the end unsatisfying. The two fundamental questions are "How?" and "Why?" The author addresses the first, the how question, which is the only question science can answer. He argues, not wholly persuasively, for infinite progress. He ignores the why question. And in so doing, he ignores the crucial question of what meaning there can possibly be, at least for people, in infinity. The answer is: "none." What gives meaning to human life is precisely finitude, not infinity ...more
Liviu
An awesome book and as perfect explanation of "natural philosophy" for the 21st century as it gets; while I hold powerfully with almost all of the book's theses, I never could explain them as clearly as the author does - this is a must read for anyone interested in both the "big things" and how understanding and explanation - the main leg of we call progress - are so powerful that they have literally changed the world in 2-3 centuries more than pretty much in all its history, that they ...more
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
"Covers nothing to everything"

One of my favorite books and provided me with many insights into our place in the universe and how we know the things we know. Deutsch explains the very small to the very large. He provides a reasonable explanation of the measurement problem in physics and a consistent theory on multiple universes. His survey of different schools of philosophies is one of the best I've read. He even has a detailed chapter on developing the most efficient election process which
...more
Terry Tsurugi
Oct 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even though I disagree with many of Deutsch's ideas, I consider this book well worth reading and discussing. I see Deutsch's position as a radically conservative kind of heroic, optimistic realism rebelling against two dominate poles of western discourse: empiricism/pragmatism on the one hand and postmodernism on the other hand. He believes in physical reality, creativity, beauty, and progress, even though he requires a multiverse to support these things. He actually changed my mind about ...more
Nancy McKinley
A few gifted writers can take any subject and breathe life into it, even a subject such as the all- elusive (at least to me)Physics. Brian Greene is a artist who excels at this and it is no simple feat. The writer of this particular book: "The Beginning of Infinity" is no Brian Greene by a long shot but then besides Mr. Greene, who is?

I must take a snipe at the fact there are no notes or sources cited. I don't know how anyone could get so far and be so bright and fail to include this.

Something
...more
Danielle Morrill
Yes! This is a dense but worthwhile read. Understanding the root of dynamic versus static culture is crucial, and the closing refutation of Nick Bostrom's argument for simulations is so elegant. Worth putting on your shelf and working through slowly, and possibly the best inspiration for my fiction writing in some time.
Scott
Jan 24, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, philosophy
I always think I like the philosophy of positivism until I stare down its most self-absorbed authors and realize they just wish everything they say is true.
Josh Friedlander
Philosophical science book in the vein of Hofstadter or Dawkins. Deutsch is a brilliant guy (a physics professor at Oxford) who's keen on Everett's many world explanation, subject of Sean Carroll's recent book Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime. But this book is really a theory of everything: culture, politics, aesthetics and epistemology all fall under Deutsch's central idea of humans being universal replicators who can achieve infinitely, by the property of ...more
Pantelis Pipergias-Analytis
David Deutsch delivers a fascinating discussion of topics ranging from philosophy of science, quantum theory and aesthetics to history, cultural evolution and social choice. A well-rounded and imaginative thinker, Deutsch writes in an engaging and entertaining manner.

Some parts of the book are, unavoidably, better informed and more original than others. The discussion of empiricism vs. Popperian philosophy of science, for instance, is very well delivered. Similarly, the chapter on multiverses
...more
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David Deutsch, FRS is a British physicist at the University of Oxford. He is a non-stipendiary Visiting Professor in the Department of Atomic and Laser Physics at the Centre for Quantum Computation (CQC) in the Clarendon Laboratory of the University of Oxford. He pioneered the field of quantum computation by being the first person to formulate a description for a quantum Turing machine, as well as ...more
“Some people become depressed at the scale of the universe, because it makes them feel insignificant. Other people are relieved to feel insignificant, which is even worse. But, in any case, those are mistakes. Feeling insignificant because the universe is large has exactly the same logic as feeling inadequate for not being a cow. Or a herd of cows. The universe is not there to overwhelm us; it is our home, and our resource. The bigger the better.” 16 likes
“Like every other destruction of optimism, whether in a whole civilisation or in a single individual, these must have been unspeakable catastrophes for those who had dared to expect progress. But we should feel more than sympathy for those people. We should take it personally. For if any of those earlier experiments in optimism had succeeded, our species would be exploring the stars by now, and you and I would be immortal.” 15 likes
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