Pulse: The Coming Age of Systems and Machines Inspired by Living Things. Robert Frenay. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Pulse: The Coming Age of Systems and Machines Inspired by Living Things Book Cover Pulse: The Coming Age of Systems and Machines Inspired by Living Things
Robert Frenay
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
April 4, 2006

Pulse provides an astonishing glimpse into how a new science, evolving from technology and perfected by nature, will transform the twenty-first century. Robert Frenay describes a coming sea change in our world – a major shift that is about to reshape every aspect of our lives. Said to have as great an impact now as the machine age once did on the feudal world that it replaced, this change is all the more surprising since it is not the future we’ve been led to expect. Pulse charts the growing power of a “new biology,” of human systems and machines that work like living things.

Written in simple, lively prose, Pulse describes emotional computers; ships that swim like fish; hard, soft, and wet artificial life; farms that grow like prairies; technological ecosystems; money that mimics the energy flows in nature; evolution at warp speed; and a great deal more. And these are not blue-sky dreams; they are even now leaving labs and entering our daily lives.

Using vividly, concrete examples, Frenay takes us on a world tour of cutting-edge developments and the often colorful personalities behind them. He also shows how, as the machine age morphs into a culture linking seamlessly with nature, the old clash between those who revere nature and those who laud technology is coming to an end. This will bring not only systems and machines inspired by living things, he argues, but also a human “feedback” culture.

Pulse is a provocative and startlingly original work, offering thoughtful conclusions about the promise – and dangers – of our transformation as we move into the next great phase of human cultural evolution.

Robert Frenay is a freelance writer living in New York. He is a former contributing editor for Audubon magazine, where he covered positive developments along the interface of nature and technology. He left there to work on this book, his first.