Excerpt from Radical Evolution by Joel Garreau, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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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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  • First Published:
    May 2005, 400 pages
    May 2006, 400 pages

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We are at an inflection point in history.

For all previous millennia, our technologies have been aimed outward, to control our environment. Starting with fire and clothes, we looked for ways to ward off the elements. With the development of agriculture we controlled our food supply. In cities we sought safety. Telephones and airplanes collapsed distance. Antibiotics kept death-dealing microbes at bay.

Now, however, we have started a wholesale process of aiming our technologies inward. Now our technologies have started to merge with our minds, our memories, our metabolisms, our personalities, our progeny and perhaps our souls. Serious people have embarked on changing humans so much that they call it a new kind of engineered evolution– one that we direct for ourselves. "The next frontier," says Gregory Stock, director of the Program on Medicine, Technology and Society at the UCLA School of Medicine, "is our own selves."

The people you will meet in Radical Evolution are testing these fundamental hypotheses:

• We are riding a curve of exponential change.

• This change is unprecedented in human history.

• It is transforming no less than human nature.

This isn't fiction. You can see the outlines of this reality in the headlines now. You're going to see a lot more of it in just the next few years– certainly within your prospective lifetime. We have been attempting to transcend the limits of human nature for a very long time. We've tried Socratic reasoning and Buddhist enlightenment and Christian sanctification and Cartesian logic and the New Soviet Man. Our successes have ranged from mixed to limited, at best. Nonetheless, we are pressing forward, attempting once again to improve not just our world but our very selves. Who knows? Maybe this time we'll get it right.

In 1913, U.S. government officials prosecuted Lee De Forest for telling investors that his company, RCA, would soon be able to transmit the human voice across the Atlantic Ocean. This claim was so preposterous, prosecutors asserted, that he was obviously swindling potential investors. He was ultimately released, but not before being lectured by the judge to stop making any more fraudulent claims.

With this legal reasoning in mind, flash forward a decade and a half from today. Look at the girl who today is your second-grade daughter. Fifteen years from now, she is just home for the holidays. You were so proud of her when she not only put herself through Ohio State but graduated summa cum laude. Now she has taken on her most formidable challenge yet, competing with her generation's elite in her fancy new law school. Of course you want to hear all about it. It is her first time home in months. But the difference between this touching tableau and similar ones in the past is that in this scenario–factually grounded in technologies already in development in the early years of the 21st century– changes in human nature are readily available in the marketplace. She is competing with those with the will and wherewithal to adopt them.

"What are your classmates like, honey?" you ask innocently.

"They're all really, really smart," she says. But then she thinks of some of the students in contracts class–the challenging stuff of One L fame. And she stops.

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 publisher.

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