More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement

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9780767918435: More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement

WINNER OF THE 2005 H.G. WELLS AWARD

"The Editors Recommend" -  Scientific American 
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.
"A terrific survey of current work and future possibilities in gene therapy, neurotechnology and other fields."  - Los Angeles Times
"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 one of those rare books that is both a delightful read and an important statement. 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 and Where Good Ideas Come From
" 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
"The future accelerates and change is upon us.  The only question - asked cogently in  More Than Human - is whether we can learn to ride the waves, or else be swept away. This book is a how-to guide for future-wave riders."     - David Brin, author of  EXISTENCE and  The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? 

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From the Author:

Why I Wrote This Book In 1999, a friend suggested to me that within a few decades we'd have Matrix-esque implants in our brains that would, among other things, allow us to interact in a completely believable virtual reality and beam our thoughts instantly to one another. I pooh-pooh'ed the idea. The brain and body are much too complex to manipulate in that way, or so I thought.
That same year a scientist named Phil Kennedy in Atlanta implanted an electrode into the brain of a paralyzed patient named Johnny Ray - a stroke victim who was completely unable to move, speak, or feed himself. The electrode monitored the activity of just a few neurons inside the patients brain. But through it Johnny was able to learn to control a computer - moving a cursor around on a screen and typing out messages.
Later that year, Joe Tsien at Princeton made the cover of Time Magazine with his Doogie mice - genetically engineered mice that could learn at astounding speeds, up to five times as fast as genetically normal mice.
And that year is also when I learned of the pioneering longevity research of scientists like Tom Johnston at Colorado, who had genetically altered nematode worms to more than double their lifespan and preserve youthful health into old age.
Suddenly, it seemed, science was resembling science fiction.
At the same time, there are a number of voices raised in concern over these technologies. What does it mean to extend our lives, boost our mental abilities, or integrate our minds with computers? Would we still be human? What would happen to society? To equality? To the meaning of life?
I wrote this book to cover these two, interrelated topics:
1)The science of human enhancement - what's actually happening in the labs and what that could lead to in the near future.
2)The ethics, social consequences, and policy challenges of human enhancement. Basically, what we should or shouldn't do with this technology.
More Than Human is an optimistic book, but it's a cautious optimism. Along the way it looks at issues like the effect of longer lives on overpopulation, on socio-economic stratification and whether these technologies would help the rich pull further away from the poor, and at issues like human identity, and whether we could even call ourselves human after changing ourselves in such ways.
It's not a utopian book. There can be no doubt that using biotechnology to alter the human mind, body, and lifespan will lead to problems. But the conclusion I come to in the book is that these technologies will solve more problems than they create. And that the alternative - to prohibit their use - will create many more problems than it will solve.

From the Back Cover:

"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 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
" 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
"The future accelerates and change is upon us.  The only question - asked cogently in More Than Human - is whether we can learn to ride the waves, or else be swept away. This book is a how-to guide for future-wave riders."
   David Brin, author of EXISTENCE and The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? 
"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
"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

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