Taking a journey around the world, Stevenson tries to get to grips with how science is set to change our lives beyond all recognition. Each pitstop along his journey introduces a new topic: nanotechnology, genetics, climate change, space travel, even robots, they are all covered here at a rattling pace.
His love for science comes through clearly in his writing, helping to make it a very lively read. The pace of the book however, is at times a little too fast for its own good, and by the end even Stevenson seems exhausted by the huge amount of information he’s had to process. The topics covered also raise some fundamental questions such as “What is intelligence?” and “What does it mean to be alive?” He even mentions the big one: “What does it really mean to be human?” but he only has just enough time to scratch the surface of the issue. Rather than going into greater depth on any one question, Stevenson prefers to skip on to the next glorious image of the future. It is hard though not to get swept away by his optimism and each story that he tells is full of both enthusiasm and humour.
What comes across most strongly is the respect that Stevenson feels for the people that he meets on his trip. Science may underpin the whole book but it really is the characters that hold it together. There are some seriously impressive people in this story and they are undoubtedly the root of all of Stevenson’s optimism. The overall message of the book is clear: humans are resourceful enough to get over anything, and if the people in this book are anything to go by, our future may be brighter than we think.
An Optimist’s Tour of the Future by Mark Stevenson (£10.39) is out now