From Publishers Weekly
In 1989, McKibben published The End of Nature, a gorgeously written and galvanizing book about the true cost of global warming, the destruction of the ozone layer and other man-made ills-the loss of wild nature and with it the priceless aspect of our humanity that evolved to listen to and heed it. Now McKibben applies the same passion, scholarship and free-ranging thought to a subject that even committed environmentalists have avoided. Here he tackles what it means to be human. Reporting from the frontiers of genetic research, nanotechnology and robotics, he explores that subtle moral and spiritual boundary that he calls the "enough point." Presenting an overview of what is or may soon be possible, McKibben contends that there is no boundary to human ambition or desire or to what our very inventions may make possible. In an absorbing and horrifying montage of images, he depicts microscopic nanobots consuming the world and children born so genetically enhanced that they will never be able to believe that they reach for the stars as pianists or painters or long-distance runners because there is something unique in them that has a passion to try. Indeed, in the view of the most unbridled "technoutopians," the day of the robotically striving human is already here. What does set a human being apart from other beings, McKibben argues, is our capacity for restraint-and even for finding great meaning in restraint. "We need to do an unlikely thing: We need to survey the world we now inhabit and proclaim it good. Good enough." McKibben presents an uncompromising view, and an essential view. Readers will come away from his latest brilliantly provocative work shaking their heads at the possible future he portrays, yet understanding that becoming a pain-free, all-but-immortal, genetically enhanced semi-robot may be deeply unsatisfactory compared to being an ordinary man or woman who has faced his or her fear of death to relish what is. This is a brilliant book that deserves a wide readership.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
McKibben (The End of Nature, 1989) turns a passionate and revealing spotlight on our headlong rush into technology. He explains an array of procedures--including germline engineering and therapeutic cloning--that represent a slippery slope. For although they hold the promise to cure disease, they also offer the option of "improving" or "perfecting" human beings, providing the ability to choose a child's sex, boost intelligence, or implant a predisposition to music. If we're not careful, we could end up engineering our children to the point that they're no longer human, he cautions. Technological advancements are proceeding so rapidly that we will soon need to make decisions about how much technology is enough. McKibben makes genetic engineering, robotics, and nanotechology understandable even to those readers who are not techno-savvy, and he makes a strong and compelling case for examining the medical, social, ethical, and philosophical arguments against certain technological advancements that come eerily close to leaving behind humanness and, thus, all the intangible irrationalities that make us who we are. This is a disturbing though ultimately optimistic book that explores the possibility of technology replacing humanity and rouses within us the impulse to declare: enough. Vanessa Bush
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