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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin. 

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.

©2021 Ananyo Bhattacharya (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"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)

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more the ideas than the person behind them

This book provides a thorough investigation of JvN's ideas and their ongoing influence. However, it is not exactly a biography in the sense that the man behind these ideas remains largely a mystery. Don't expect Walter Isaacson-style descriptions of JvN's daily routines or excerpts from his diaries. Rather get this book if you're curious about his influence on the fields of mathematics, physics, military technology, computers, and artificial intelligence. I found the audiobook format somewhat hard to follow at times since many of the descriptions require one to visualise images (e.g. the layers of an atom bomb or self-replicating automata on a chequered board). nevertheless it is well written and very well narrated and leaves one humbled by JvN's enormous impact across so many fields. It's hard to imagine any greater polymath in the last 300 years.

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Not a biography of an incredible man

Far too emphasis on detailed mathematics which for the average reader such as me is total overkill. I am now looking for a true biography of a fascinating mind where we learn more of the man, his ideas and way of thinking and leaving the detailed maths to textbooks.

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Wow. 'Larry David meets Einstein and Godel'

I had heard of Johnnie von Neumann, but there was so much more I hadn't heard about him. An astonishingly enjoyable biography- and the author's first! I can't wait for Bhattacharya's next.

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Not really a biography

well written and well narrated enumeration of John von Neumann's contributions to science. As a biography of the man though, this was disappointing. You won't learn more about John Von Neumann as a person than if you read his wikipedia page