The Beginning of Infinity Book Summary - The Beginning of Infinity Book explained in key points
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The Beginning of Infinity summary

David Deutsch

Explanations That Transform the World

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    The Beginning of Infinity
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    Knowledge is not only derived from experience, but also from theories.

    No human has ever stepped on the surface of a star, let alone visited its core. And yet scientists know a lot about what’s happening deep inside stars, light years away.

    How come?

    Because experiencing is not the only way of knowing.

    Empiricism is a theory that claims we derive all our knowledge from sensory experience – but as you’ll see, this is wrong.

    Empiricists imagine that our mind is like a blank piece of paper on which sensory experiences are written. This would mean that we are the passive recipients of knowledge, not its creators.

    But contrary to the empiricist view, our knowledge can’t be based on individual observations alone.

    For instance, even though you’ve seen the sun rise repeatedly, you don’t base your knowledge that it will rise tomorrow solely on these observations. If you did, on a cloudy day you’d assume the sun was not rising because you couldn’t see it!

    Moreover, appearances can be deceptive. For example, the Earth looks and feels as if it is immobile, even though it is really rotating.

    So although experience is essential to science, it is not the source from which knowledge is derived. If it was, our knowledge of the stars, for example, would be limited to what we learn from gazing at the night skies.

    Instead, the real source of our knowledge is theory and conjecture.

    Consider the stars again: the fact that at their core is an energy source equivalent to billions of power plants is something we can’t see. We know it only from theory.

    Such scientific theories are derived from conjectures – guesswork and speculation – which can be tested by experience in the form of observations and experiments.

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    What is The Beginning of Infinity about?

    Everyday, we benefit from huge advances in both scientific theory and practice. What triggered this progress? In The Beginning of Infinity (2011) – a journey through the fundamental fields of science and philosophy – physicist David Deutsch argues that all progress results from one single human activity: the quest for explanations. Human creativity opens up limitless opportunities for progress, making knowledge the “beginning of infinity.”

    Best quote from The Beginning of Infinity

    The harm that can flow from any innovation that does not destroy the growth of knowledge is always finite; the good can be unlimited.

    —David Deutsch
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    Who should read The Beginning of Infinity?

    • Fans of science and philosophy
    • Anyone fascinated by the power of knowledge and creativity
    • Readers interested in the future of our species

    About the Author

    David Deutsch is a highly influential researcher in the field of quantum physics. He lives and works in Oxford where he has been a visiting professor of physics since 1999. In 1998, Deutsch was awarded the Institute of Physics’ Paul Dirac Prize and Medal, one of the top awards for theoretical physics.

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