Martin John Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, is best known as the Astronomer Royal and is a leading scientific figure and science communicator in the UK. He is respected in the transhumanist community for his public talks and books which explain existential risk to the public. For instance, he gave a very popular TED talk in 2005 entitled "Is this our final century?". He often emphasizes the necessity of technological solutions for serious issues humanity faces such as climate change and bioterrorism. He co-founded the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk and serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Future of Life Institute. For the past few years, Rees has spoken warmly of a possible posthuman future, given that the posthuman beings are conscious. In 2018, Reese went on a book tour for his latest book, On the Future: Prospects for Humanity. In public talks associated with that tour, he emphasized that the colonization of Mars by private spaceflight corporations should not be taken as an excuse to ignore our problems on Earth. On the other hand, Rees mused that Martian colonization will have the upside of accelerating interest in genetic modification, cyborgism, and uploading to non-biological substrates because humans will want to be able to cope easier with the harsh Martian environment. Reese projects in the 22nd century posthumans will likely be able to survive for thousands of years in the vacuum of space and may elect to leave humans behind on Earth. Rees does not view superintelligent AGI as a short term risk, seeing it only as long term risk which may arise in the second half of the 21st century. He has speculated that super-intelligent AI may be useful for controlling the economy.
Synopsis of his academic career
After holding postdoctoral research positions in the United Kingdom and the United States, he taught at Sussex University and the University of Cambridge, where he was the Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy until 1991, and the director of the Institute of Astronomy. From 1992 to 2003, he was Royal Society Research Professor, and from 2003 Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics. He was Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College, London, in 1975 and became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1979. He holds Visiting Professorships at Imperial College London and at the University of Leicester. He is a fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge and an Honorary Fellow of King's College, Cambridge and Jesus College, Cambridge. He served as a master at Trinity College, Cambridge from 2004 to 2012 and President of the Royal Society between 2005 and 2010.
Rees is the author of more than 500 research papers, and he has made contributions to the origin of cosmic microwave background radiation, as well as to galaxy clustering and formation. His studies of the distribution of quasars led to final disproof of Steady State theory.
Rees has written and spoken extensively about the problems and challenges of the 21st century, and the interfaces between science, ethics and politics. He is a member of the Board of the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, the Oxford Martin School and the Gates Cambridge Trust. In 2015, he was co-author of the report that launched the Global Apollo Programme, which calls for developed nations to commit to spending 0.02% of their GDP for 10 years, to fund co-ordinated research to make carbon-free baseload electricity less costly than electricity from coal by the year 2025.
Rees is an atheist but has criticized militant atheists for being too hostile to religion.
- Cosmic Coincidences: Dark Matter, Mankind, and Anthropic Cosmology (co-author John Gribbin), 1989, Bantam; ISBN : 0-553-34740-3
- New Perspectives in Astrophysical Cosmology, 1995; ISBN : 0-521-64544-1
- Gravity's Fatal Attraction: Black Holes in the Universe, 1995; ISBN : 0-7167-6029-0, 2nd edition 2009, ISBN : 0-521-71793-0
- Before the Beginning – Our Universe and Others, 1997; ISBN : 0-7382-0033-6
- Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe, 1999; ISBN : 0-297-84297-8
- Our Cosmic Habitat, 2001; ISBN : 0-691-11477-3
- Our Final Hour: A Scientist's Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind's Future In This Century—On Earth and Beyond (UK title: Our Final Century: Will the Human Race Survive the Twenty-first Century?), 2003; ISBN : 0-465-06862-6
- What We Still Don't Know ISBN : 978-0-7139-9821-4 yet to be published.
- From Here to Infinity: Scientific Horizons, 2011; ISBN : 978-1-84668-5033
- On the Future: Prospects for Humanity, October 2018, Princeton University Press; ISBN : 9780691180441
- 2005 TED talk: Is this our final century?
- Martin Rees: The posthuman future. New Scientist
- Interview on YouTube: "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pI7pz4eYOmI"
- "Dark Materials: The legacy of Joseph Rotblat", guardian.co.uk; accessed 31 August 2014.
- Podcast of Lecture "The World in 2050", given at the James Martin 21st Century School, 21school.ox.ac.uk, February 2009.
- Carrington, Damian. "Global Apollo programme seeks to make clean energy cheaper than coal". The Guardian (2 June 2015). Guardian News Media. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
- "Rees, while stating he is an atheist, declares that he shares a sense of “mystery” with those who believe in God." FT, 10/18, https://www.ft.com/content/3ebb3122-cb11-11e8-8d0b-a6539b949662