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More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancementby Ramez Naam
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Imagine a person severely disabled by a stroke who, with electrodes implanted in his brain, can type on a computer just by thinking of the letters. Or a man, blind for 20 years, driving a car around a parking lot via a camera hard-wired into his brain. Plots for science fiction? No, it's already happened, according to future technologies expert Naam. In an excellent and comprehensive survey, Naam investigates a wide swath of cutting-edge techniques that in a few years may be as common as plastic surgery. Genetic therapy for weight control isn't that far off — it's already being done with animals. Countless people who are blind, deaf or paralyzed will acquire the abilities that most people take for granted through advances in computer technology and understanding how the nervous system functions. Naam says the armed services are already investing millions of dollars in this research; they envision super-pilots and super-soldiers who will be able to control their planes and tanks more quickly via thought. 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." Agent, Ted Weinstein, Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An intriguing presentation by an unabashed advocate of the technological tricking and co-opting of mother nature." Kirkus Reviews
"[R]eaders more interested in what's happening now in the biotechnology industry will get more from this work than those concerned with the bioethical implications for human identity." Booklist
"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." Bill McKibben, author Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age
"More Than Human is excellent — passionate yet balanced, clearly written and rich with fascinating details. A wonderful overview of a topic that will dominate the twenty-first century." Greg Bear, author of Dead Lines and Darwin's Children
"Sixty years ago, human beings gave digital computers the ability to modify their own coded instructions — sparking a revolution that has now given us the ability to modify our own coded instructions, promising revolutions even more extreme. Whether for, against, or undecided about genetic modification of human beings, you should read this book — a bold, compelling look at what lies ahead.' George Dyson, author of Darwin Among the Machines
"More Than Human is one of those rare books that is both a delightful read and an important statement. You'll relish the fascinating stories of physical and mental enhancement that Naam has assembled here, but you'll also come away with a new sense of wonder at the human drive for pushing at the boundaries of what it means to be human. No one interested in the future intersections of science, technology, and medicine can afford to miss this book." Steven Johnson, author of Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life
"Ramez Naam's look at the coming of human enhancement is a major contribution; he shows convincingly that the conceptual wall between therapy and enhancement is fast crumbling." Gregory Stock, author of Redesigning Humans
"More Than Human is a terrific survey....Naam doesn't shy away from technical detail, but his enthusiasm keeps the science from becoming intimidating." Los Angeles Times
Book News Annotation:
A computer scientist, Naam works for Microsoft, where he helped develop Microsoft Internet Explorer and Microsoft Outlook; over the past eight years, he has spoken at numerous conferences on biotechnology. Arguing that "rather than fearing change, we ought to embrace it, rather than prohibiting the exploration of new technologies, society ought to focus on spreading the power to alter our own minds and bodies to as many people as possible," he explores current developments in biotechnology and their power to transform the human race. The writing is serious, but accessible to the general reader.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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 can have on humankind.
It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but these are true phenomena that have recently become hot topics in mainstream media. But while technology is enhancing the lives of many, it has also created a host of controversial capabilities, ranging from cloning to genetic engineering.
Distilling the most cutting-edge achievements being made in labs around the world, More Than Human offers an exciting tour of the way technology is impacting our lives. Throughout this remarkable trip, 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, his powerful book separates fact from myth with elegant lucidity, arguing that these controversial technologies have the power to transform the human race for the better.
More Than Human offers much-needed wisdom in the raging debates between technophobes and technophiles, and everyone else seeking to understand the marvelous possibilities that arise when mind meets machine.
About the Author
Ramez Naam helped build two of the most widely used pieces of software in the world — Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Internet Explorer. He's an adviser to numerous technology associations and has spoken at dozens of conferences, including the World Futures Conference and Transvision USA. He lives in Seattle.
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