The Man from the Future
‘A sparkling book, with an intoxicating mix of pen-portraits and grand historical narrative. Above all it fizzes with a dizzying mix of deliciously vital ideas. . . A staggering achievement’ Tim Harford
An exhilarating new biography of John von Neumann: the lost genius who invented our world
The smartphones in our pockets and computers like brains. The vagaries of game theory and evolutionary biology. Self-replicating moon bases and nuclear weapons. All bear the fingerprints of one remarkable man: John von Neumann.
Born in Budapest at the turn of the century, von Neumann is one of the most influential scientists to have ever lived. His colleagues believed he had the fastest brain on the planet – bar none. He was instrumental in the Manhattan Project and helped formulate the bedrock of Cold War geopolitics and modern economic theory. He created the first ever programmable digital computer. He prophesied the potential of nanotechnology and, from his deathbed, expounded on the limits of brains and computers – and how they might be overcome.
Taking us on an astonishing journey, Ananyo Bhattacharya explores how a combination of genius and unique historical circumstance allowed a single man to sweep through so many different fields of science, sparking revolutions wherever he went.
Insightful and illuminating, The Man from the Future is a thrilling intellectual biography of the visionary thinker who shaped our century.
John von Neumann was one of the deepest and broadest thinkers of the 20th century - but also a delight to encounter. According to one admirer, listening to him was "mental champagne". Now we have a biography of the man about which you can say the same. This is a sparkling book, with an intoxicating mix of pen-portraits and grand historical narrative. Above all it fizzes with a dizzying mix of deliciously vital ideas. The Man From The Future is a staggering achievement -- Tim Harford, author of How to Make the World Add Up An engaging and fascinating book that blends science and history. I loved it -- Paul Davies, author of The Demon in the Machine An ambitious account of a complex thinker who lived through extraordinary times. Ananyo Bhattacharya's biography of von Neumann is admirably thorough and accessible -- Angela Saini, author of Inferior John von Neumann was the genius's genius, the man who shone in whatever topic in mathematics or physics he turned his mind towards. Despite his central contributions to the theory of computation, economics, logic, complexity, and quantum physics, somehow he never became a household name to rival Einstein and Feynman. Ananyo Bhattacharya's biography deserves to change that. Consistently clear and careful without sacrificing elegance or accessibility, it does full justice to this legendary figure of twentieth century science. Johnny did indeed imagine the first draft of the future, and we are now living it -- Philip Ball, author of Beyond Weird More than just a biography, The Man from the Future elucidates the breath-taking scientific progress in the mid-20th century, skilfully woven together in the story of one man, John von Neumann -- Sabine Hossenfelder, author of Lost in Math A gripping tale of the most significant mathematical, scientific and geopolitical events of the early 20th century. Bhattacharya's storytelling seamlessly weaves together the science, the vibrant social and historical context, and the private idiosyncrasies of John von Neumann and the fascinating geniuses around him, without mythologising. As a scientist, you come across von Neumann's name frequently - but I hadn't appreciated quite how fundamental an influence he'd had on so many fields until I read this book -- Andrew Steele, author of Ageless Highly enjoyable. Von Neumann's genius lay in synthesising the theoretical knowledge of the time: from quantum and nuclear physics to game theory and computing. Ananyo Bhattacharya's great insight, which he reveals with engaging clarity, is that von Neumann was also creating a blueprint for how technology would change our world over the next sixty years -- David Sumpter, author of The Ten Equations that Rule the World A fascinating read about a fascinating man. John von Neumann's contributions range from breakthroughs in the most abstract areas of mathematics to revolutionizing economics and other social sciences as a co-inventor of game theory. Before computer science departments were created and before the term AI was coined von Neumann did foundational work on AI. This book is a great read for anybody who is interested in science or history of science -- Michael Schwarz, chief economist, Microsoft Any future intelligence capable of sending a representative back in time to help invent itself will be intelligent enough to conceal this from us. Ananyo Bhattacharya's The Man from the Future is therefore unable to confirm this suggestion, but much else about John von Neumann's presence in the twentieth century is revealed along the way -- George Dyson, author of Turing's Cathedral
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