BookBrowse Reviews Radical Evolution by Joel Garreau

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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 by Joel Garreau
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2005, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2006, 400 pages

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The Future: only by anticipating it can hope to shape it. Current Affairs

From the book jacket: Through advances in genetic, robotic, information and nano-technologies, 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? As Garreau cautions, it is only by anticipating the future that we can hope to shape it.

Comment: The rate of scientific advancements has led to a veritable glut of books discussing said scientific advances - what's already possible, what might be possible, and is it a good idea to push the boundaries of science so far in the first place?  Other recently published books that cover the same broad subject area include The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil and More Than Human - both published within a couple of months of Radical Evolution.

Radical Evolution differs from More Than Human in that while the latter did not hide from the negatives, the author's opinion was very much along the vein of damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!, whereas Radical Evolution takes a harder look at the downsides.

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:
In the "Heaven" scenario genetic engineering leads to happier, healthier humans. The "Hell" scenario shows science out of control - with over-engineering leading to new deformities, not just in humans but also in the food chain. The third scenario is "Prevail" which one reviewer refers to aptly as 'muddling through' - we'll make mistakes but the good will outweigh the bad and overall we'll come out better in the end. The last is titled "Transcend", which hypothesizes that we might not just avoid thee pitfalls but actually jump over them to a new existence beyond anything we can imagine!

If we are to avoid "Hell" and have any chance of "Transcending" we, the public, need to understand the implications of the scientific advancements, and Radical Evolution is a pretty good place to start!

"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." - Booklist.

This review was originally published in June 2005, and has been updated for the May 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



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