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Big History and the Future of Humanity

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Table of Contents

List of Figures. Preface and Acknowledgments. Chapter One: Introduction to Big History. Introduction. Studying the Past. A Very Short History of Academic History. A Short History of Big History. A Historical Theory of Everything? Chapter Two: General Approach. Introduction. Matter and Energy. Complexity. Energy Flows and the Emergence of Complexity. The Goldilocks Principle. Chapter Three: Cosmic Evolution: The Emergence of Simple. Forms of Complexity. Introduction. The Big Bang: No Complexity. Recent Issues Concerning the Big Bang Scenario. The Radiation Era: The Emergence of Complexity at the Smallest Scales. The Matter Era: The Emergence of Complexity at Atomic and Molecular Scales. Galaxy Formation: The Emergence of Complexity at Larger Scales. The Emergence of Stars. Stars as Nuclear Forges. Chapter Four: Our Cosmic Neighborhood: The Emergence of Greater Complexity. Introduction. The Galactic Habitable Zone. The Emergence of Our Cosmic Neighborhood. The Solar System Habitable Zone. Major Characteristics of Earth. Early Inner Planetary History. Early Earth History. Life Is Very Special. The Emergence of Life. Chapter Five: Life on Earth: The Widening Range of Complexity. Life, Energy and Complexity. Planetary Energy Flows and Life. The Gaia Hypothesis. The Emergence of Energy Harvesting from Outside. The Emergence of the Biological Food Web. The Emergence of Multicellular Organisms. The Emergence of Brains and Consciousness. The Increase and Expansion of Biological Complexity. Conquest of the Land. Further Increasing Complexity. Chapter Six: Early Human History: The Emergence of the Greatest Known Complexity. Introduction. What Makes Humans Different. Energy and Complexity. The Emergence of Early Humans. Improving Social Coordination. Tool Making and Brain Growth. Brains and Intestines. Fire Control. Migration. The Rise of Modern Humans. Early Religion. Chapter Seven: Recent Human History: The Development of the Greatest Known Complexity. Introduction. The Agrarian Revolution. Contents vii. The Developing Agrarian Regime. Social Effects of the Agrarian Revolution. The Emergence of Agrarian Religions. Increasing Agricultural Complexity and Declining. Untamed Complexity. Early State Formation. The Emergence of Big States. The Emergence of Moral Religions. Energy and Complexity in State Societies. The First Wave of Globalization. Industrialization: The Second Wave of Globalization. Informatization: The Third Wave of Globalization. Energy, Complexity and Goldilocks Circumstances. Chapter Eight: Facing the Future. Introduction. A Very Short Overview of the Long Future of the Universe. The Future of Earth and Life. The Future of Humanity. The Availability of Matter and Energy. Exhaustion of Critical Resources and Growing Entropy. Will Humans Migrate to Other Planets? Final Words. Appendix A Short Time Line of Big History. Notes. Bibliography. Index.

About the Author

Fred Spier is Senior Lecturer in Big History at theUniversity of Amsterdam and also teaches Big History at theEindhoven University of Technology. He is the author of Religious Regimes in Peru (1994), San Nicolas deZurite (1995), and The Structure of Big History: From theBig Bang until Today (1996).


Spier takes us one important step forward in making bighistory accessible to all. I look forward to the next, morefully illustrated and documented, step in thisprocess. ( Journal of World History, 1 August2012 "This is a deep and important book that promises to send scholarsin many different fields off on new paths in search of a grandunified theory of history." (Journal of Global History, 2011) "Personally, I think everyone should have access to this story,and I would put it at the heart of the national curriculum aswell." (The Times Higher Education, September2010)

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