Summary and book reviews of Radical Evolution by Joel Garreau

Radical Evolution

The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies -- and What It Means to Be Human

By Joel Garreau

Radical Evolution
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  • Hardcover: May 2005,
    400 pages.
    Paperback: May 2006,
    400 pages.

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Book Summary

In Radical Evolution, bestselling author Joel Garreau, a reporter and editor for the Washington Post, shows us that we are at an inflection point in history. As you read this, we are engineering the next stage of human evolution. Through advances in genetic, robotic, information and nanotechnologies, we are altering our minds, our memories, our metabolisms, our personalities, our progeny - and perhaps our very souls.

Taking us behind the scenes with today's foremost researchers and pioneers, Garreau reveals that the super powers of our comic-book heroes already exist, or are in development in hospitals, labs, and research facilities around the country -- from the revved up reflexes and speed of Spider-Man and Superman, to the enhanced mental acuity and memory capabilities of an advanced species.

Over the next fifteen years, Garreau makes clear, these enhancements will become part of our everyday lives. Where will they lead us? To heaven - where technology's promise to make us smarter, vanquish illness and extend our lives is the answer to our prayers? Or will they lead us, as some argue, to hell - where unrestrained technology brings about the ultimate destruction of our entire species? With the help and insights of the gifted thinkers and scientists who are making what has previously been thought of as science fiction a reality, Garreau explores how these developments, in our lifetime, will affect everything from the way we date to the way we work, from how we think and act to how we fall in love. It is a book about what our world is becoming today, not fifty years out. As Garreau cautions, it is only by anticipating the future that we can hope to shape it.

Chapter One
Prologue

The Future of Human Nature


Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
–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 her thoughts?

If you lunge at this opportunity, however, the story comes out all wrong. It sounds like science fiction, for one thing, even though the monkey–a cute little critter named Belle–is 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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
One afternoon last fall, I was preparing for a parent-faculty meeting and chatting with the novelist Adrienne Garreau, whose husband Joel was working on a new book. I had greatly enjoyed Joel's Edge City the year before, so I asked her when the new book would be out and what it was titled. "Soon," she replied, "and we have not decided on a title yet." Flippantly, I offered to suggest one if she would let me read a draft of the book and, to my surprise, she agreed, dropping off a sheath of papers on a cardboard box later that afternoon.

My students the next day might well have wished she hadn't, because what I thought would be a ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Whatever your views on scientific advancements, there is one factor that is indisputable - they are advancing at an extraordinary rate - Radical Evolution offers four scenarios as to how things could pan out...   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Science buffs fascinated by the leading edges of societal and technological change and readers concerned by the ethical issues that change presents will find much to ponder in Garreau's nonjudgmental look into our possible futures.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

The technoscenarios Garreau explicates are riveting, and of acute importance, as is his reminder that there is much more to life than technology, no matter how amazing it gets.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Excellent scientific journalism on the challenges arising from a real tipping point in human relations.

Author Blurb Bill McKibben, author of Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age and The End of Nature
Joel Garreau lives well ahead of the curve -even the really big Curve he describes in these pages. One of our foremost chroniclers of change and historians of the future, he's done it again.

Author Blurb Stewart Brand, author of The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility and The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at M.I.T.
How weird, how soon? That's the question that dominates the debates about the coming of 'post-humanity.' With his customary journalistic acumen and wry humor, Garreau has the answer: much weirder than you imagine, much sooner than you expect.

Author Blurb Kevin Kelly, author of Out of Control and Wired editor-at-large
It isn't often an author gets to herald the biggest news in the last 10,000 years. But you'll get the full, uncensored, mind-blowing report here in this entertaining and surprisingly deep book.

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Beyond the Book

Joel Garreau is the author of the bestselling Edge City: Life on the New Frontier and The Nine Nations of North America, he is a reporter and editor at The Washington Post, a member of the scenario-planning organization Global Business Network, and has served as a senior fellow at George Mason University and the University of California at Berkeley.He lives in Broad Run, Virginia.

The excerpt at BookBrowse is substantial but if you want to read even more, you'll find more than enough to hold your own around in conversation at the author's website!

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