Book Review: Converge by Dr Catherine Ball

If there is one thing that we can be certain of, it is that change is inevitable. Innovations and technology are entering the world at breakneck pace, shifting how we interact with each other, how we work, shop and travel.

In Converge, Dr Catherine Ball takes us on a journey through different concepts that could become our future, seen through the lens of the technology that will make those futures possible. Each chapter is relatively bite sized and digestible, outlining key areas of change, innovation and disruption that are likely to come our way.

Covering topics as wide ranging as AI and machine learning, through to drones, the future of old age, geopolitics and the planet itself, Converge shares with us the highs and lows of what could be coming our way. For example, using the power of technology to revolutionise sport. This technology can be used for good - for example, to monitor players to determine tactics that work, where they could be at risk of injuries, or to swap them out when fatigued. Or, it could be used for cheating, using technology to facilitate the doping of players in undetectable ways.

Converge explores a great deal, taking multiple angles on the different topics in a manner that is easy to read and engaging. There are many thoughtful examples, helping to make sometimes complex ideas understandable and relevant to the reader. Each topic is clearly laid out, and, whilst they aren’t all covered in a lot of depth, Dr Ball has given enough information throughout to whet the reader’s appetite. She has also provided plenty of links and references to allow further reading and exploring of the ideas covered.

The chapters all end with helpful suggestions on how to get back into the driver’s seat – things that you can do to get a greater understanding of the issues raised in the chapter, how to educate yourself, and ideas to protect yourself from the potential negative downsides of what may be round the corner.

I was particularly fascinated by the chapter covering the changing future of old age. From longer lifespans, with increasingly improved qualities of life in old age, driven by improvements in medicine and technology, through to concepts that at the moment are the realm of science fiction – uploading yourself into a digital universe, either to ‘live’ online, or to be downloaded into another body (human or robotic). With the concept of digital doppelgängers also covered within Converge, it doesn’t feel like that science fiction future is that far off.

I loved Converge. The book was filled with possibilities, both exciting and scary. It paints a picture of how we can use technology to solve problems and to build a better future, without ignoring that technology has the potential to be misused if we are not careful. It is a fascinating read, and one that I know I will return to.

Review by Jo Toon FCIPSCommercial Portfolio Manager, Ministry of Justice

Converge: A futurist’s insights into the potential of our world as technology and humanity collide by Dr Catherine Ball is out now.

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