Excerpt of Radical Evolution by Joel Garreau
(Page 1 of 8)
Printer Friendly Excerpt
The Future of Human Nature
Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
This book can't begin with the tale of the telekinetic monkey.
That certainly comes as a surprise. After all, how often does someone
writing nonfiction get to lead with a monkey who can move objects with
If you lunge at this opportunity, however, the story comes out all
wrong. It sounds like science fiction, for one thing, even though the
monkeya cute little critter named Belleis completely real and
scampering at Duke University.
This gulf between what engineers are actually creating today and what
ordinary readers might find believable is significant. It is the first
challenge to making sense of this world unfolding before us, in which we
face the biggest change in tens of thousands of years in what it means
to be human.
This book aims at letting a general audience in on the vast changes that
right now are reshaping our selves, our children and our relationships.
Helping people recognize new patterns in their lives, however, is no
small trick, as I've discovered over time.
For example, there's the problem you encounter when asking people what
they'd do if offered the chance to live for a very long time150 years
or more. Nine out of 10 boggle at this thought. Many actually recoil.
You press on. Engineers are working on ways to allow you to spend all
that time with great physical vitalityperhaps even comparable to that
of today's 35-year-olds. How would you react if that opportunity came to
market? There's a question that gets people thinking, but you can tell
it is still quite a stretch.
We live in remarkable times. Who could have imagined at the end of the
20th century that a human augmentation substance that does what Viagra
does would sponsor the NBC Nightly News?
Discussing this sort of change, however, can be hard. Take the United
States Department of Defense program to create the "metabolically
dominant soldier." In one small part of that agenda, researchers hope to
allow warriors to run at Olympic sprint speeds for 15 minutes on one
breath of air. It might be indisputably true that human bodies process
oxygen with great inefficiency, and this may be a solvable problem, and
your taxpayer dollars unquestionably are being spent trying to remedy
this oversight on the part of evolution. Nonetheless, it takes effort to
hold some readers with this report. It just sounds too weird.
One fine spring evening, I found myself at a little table outside a San
Francisco laundry, pondering how to bridge this divide between the real
and the credible. The laundry, called Star Wash, is on a lovely but
quite ordinary street. In the window there is an American flag and a sign
that tastefully spells out "God Bless America" in red, white and blue
lights. It is run by a woman named Olga, from Guatemala City. I was
traveling, interviewing the people who are creating the vastly enhanced
human abilities that Radical Evolution discusses, and was waiting
for my shirts to be finished.
Most of the prospective readers of this book, it occurred to me, are
probably like Olga. They don't care about gee-whiz technology. Why
should they? Neither do I, truth be told.
Excerpted from Radical Evolution by Joel Garreau Copyright © 2005 by Joel
Garreau. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random
House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be
reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the