Summary and book reviews of More Than Human by Ramez Naam

More Than Human

Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement

by Ramez Naam

More Than Human
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  • Published:
    Mar 2005, 228 pages

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Book Summary

An intriguing presentation by an unabashed advocate of the technological tricking and co-opting of mother nature.

What if you could be smarter, stronger, and have a better memory just by taking a pill?

What if we could alter our genes to cure Alzheimer's and Parkinson's?

What if we could halt or even reverse the human aging process?

What if we could communicate with each other simply by thinking about it?

These questions were once the stuff of science fiction. Today, advances in biotechnology have shown that they're plausible, even likely to be accomplished in the near future. In labs around the world, researchers looking for ways to help the sick and injured have stumbled onto techniques that enhance healthy animals—making them stronger, faster, smarter, and longer-lived—in some cases, even connecting their minds to robots and computers across the Internet. Now science is on the verge of applying this knowledge to healthy men and women, allowing us to alter humanity in ways we'd previously only dreamed possible. The same research that could cure Alzheimer's is leading to drugs and genetic techniques that could boost human intelligence. The techniques being developed to stave off heart disease and cancer, have the potential to slow or even reverse human aging. And brain implants that restore motion to the paralyzed and sight to the blind are already allowing a small set of patients to control robots and computers simply by thinking about it.

Not everyone welcomes this scientific progress. Cries of "against nature" arise from skeptics even as scientists break new ground at an astounding pace. Across the political spectrum, the debate roils: Should we embrace the power to alter our minds and bodies, or should we restrict it?

Distilling the most radical accomplishments being made in labs worldwide, including gene therapy, genetic engineering, stem cell research, life extension, brain-computer interfaces, and cloning, More Than Human offers an exciting tour of the impact biotechnology will have on our lives. Throughout this remarkable trip, author Ramez Naam shares an impassioned vision for the future with revealing insight into the ethical dilemmas posed by twenty-first-century science.

Encouraging us to celebrate rather than fear these innovations, Naam incisively separates fact from myth, arguing that these much-maligned technologies have the power to transform the human race for the better, so long as individuals and families are left free to decide how and if to use them.

If you've ever wondered about the boundaries of humanity, More Than Human offers a vision of a world where we use our knowledge to improve ourselves, unhindered by the fear of change.

Contents

Introduction:  Healing and Enhancing
How medicine is leading to enhancement. The moral and ethical case for individual and family choice.

Chapter 1: Choosing Our Bodies
Gene therapy from Ashanti DeSilva (the first human patient) to boosting strength, speed, and stamina.

Chapter 2: Choosing Our Minds
Gene therapy and next gen smart-drugs could soon alter memory, attention, and personality.

Chapter 3: Created Equal
The intersection of enhancements, economics, and the law. Market mechanisms and dropping costs. The risks of prohibition and black markets. The value of investing in human resources.

Chapter 4: Methuselah's Genes
Single genetic changes can double life span in many species. The prospects for extending human life.

Chapter 5: Choosing Our Life Spans
More on the prospects of genetically and bioechemically slowing, halting, or reversing human aging.

Chapter 6: Methuselah's World
Impact of slowed aging on population, economics, ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Author Blurb Bill McKibben, author Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age
Ramez Naam provides a reliable and informed cook's tour of the world we might choose if we decide that we should fast-forward evolution. I disagree with virtually all his enthusiasms, but I think he has made his case cogently and well.

Author Blurb Bill McKibben, author Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age
Ramez Naam provides a reliable and informed cook's tour of the world we might choose if we decide that we should fast-forward evolution. I disagree with virtually all his enthusiasms, but I think he has made his case cogently and well.

Publishers Weekly

Some of the author's prognostications, with their Nietzschean overtones of people being "more than human," may frighten readers, but Naam is persuasive that many of these advances are going to happen no matter what, and that despite the potential for abuses, they offer hope for our well-being and the survival of the species.

Kirkus Reviews

An intriguing presentation by an unabashed advocate of the technological tricking and co-opting of mother nature.

Booklist - Gilbert Taylor

Both the researchers and the companies developing biotechnologies receive Naam's positive attention, and he avers that over time their inventions will become widely affordable. This confident, libertarian sentiment suffuses Naam's approach.

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