Review: Radical Evolution–The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies — and What It Means to Be Human (Hardcover)

4 Star, Future, Information Society, Information Technology, Science & Politics of Science

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4.0 out of 5 stars Genetics, Robotics, Information, Nano–Lacks Humanity,

June 28, 2005
Joel Garreau
I’ve admired Joel Garreau ever since I read and reviewed his really insightful The Nine Nations of North America. I am glad to have bought and read this book, it is certainly worth reading, but it is somewhat unbalanced. However (this is an edit of the original review), now that I have read Ray Kurzweil’s book, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology a techno-geek rendition of the same technologies and their future, I have to give Garreau higher marks–while this book may lack soul, it does come closer to its titular objective than does Kurzweil’s. Both are worth buying and reading together.

He focused on four technologies abbeviated as GRIN: Genetics, Robotics, Information, and Nano. Others have focused on the integration of Nano, Information, Bio-Technology and Cognitive Science (NIBC), and I would have been happier with this book if it focused more on the thinking side of the future rather than the bio-mechanical side.

The other area where I felt the book was disappointing was in its almost total acceptance at face value of all that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is doing to elevate soldier-humans, giving them super human strength, acute mental perception almost to the point of telepathy, and so on. I could not help but feel, over and over as I read this book, that if DARPA were to apply its considerable talents to waging peace and addressing poverty, disease, water scarcity, energy independence, and the urgent need for global education that does not require packing kids like rats into a stiffling anti-creative environment (and making them get up at 0600), that we would all be better off.

The author talks about the implications for human transformation in all of this, but missing from his schema is the moral dimension. This is closer to a comic book super-hero depiction than it is to a renaissance man’s moral and cultural enlightenment, and that, in my view, is where this book falls short–it lacks soul.

I recommend that readers consider the books by Tom Atlee, The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All and Margaret Wheatley Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World as well as the book The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter to gain an alternative perspective on what it might mean to be human in the future, despite the over-whelming incursions of technology into our humanity.

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