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Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age Paperback – February 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (February 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805075194
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805075199
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #541,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bill McKibben is the author of The End of Nature, Deep Economy, and numerous other books. He is the founder of the environmental organizations Step It Up and, and was among the first to warn of the dangers of global warming. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College and lives in Vermont with his wife, the writer Sue Halpern, and their daughter.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Lee W Robertson on September 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I had difficulty taking this book seriously. It seems as though the author has misinterpreted the findings of genetic research. As a result, he doesn't present the whole story. His fears are unfounded. Scientists know full well that life is not governed by genetic specifications. The psychological processes he discusses, such as music ability and intelligence, are influenced by many factors such as upbringing, life experiences, culture, cohort and education. Even in the late seventies, when I went to college, researchers accepted the premise that human traits ..especially psychological ones ..are brought about by the interaction of our genetic nature with our life experiences. Human development is a constant exchange between nature and the socializing influences of family and culture. To think that it is unilaterally determined by genetic makeup is fallacious.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Driver9 on March 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I can't argue the science presented in "Enough" and I do not think that is the point of the book. This is not a scientific treatise or a technical analysis of the subjects raised in the book. Instead, it is a moral tale, not unlike a sermon, and it does not pretend to be something other than that. I found it to be extremely engaging, frightening too. Why not? Not everyone will agree with the points made by Bill McKibben, which is fine. But he deserves much credit for presenting cogently a looming possibility for humanity and discussing it honestly and with foresight. I was fascinated.

Is is "luddite" (if anyone really knows the meaning of that word) to question what the outcome might be of letting the genie out of the bottle? Is it alarmist to suggest that we might need to reconsider the consequences of progress? For most Americans, it seems almost sacriligious to question the infallibility of technology, to say nothing of its ability to constantly improve our lives. But is that necessarily so? Can anyone really say that unleashing the power of the Atom was unequivocally good? Do we really have better lives with nuclear weapons blossoming all over the planet like morning glories? For me, the answer is no, and I applaud the attempt by Bill McKibbon to state his case. Is he absolutely correct, maybe not. Only time will tell. But this is an important book because it poses questions and challenges our thinking on the subject of genertic engineering, nanotechnology and the kind of future we are heading toward. The intensity of the reviews is a testament to that.

There are only a few voices out there discussing the possibilities awaiting us down the road. Enough is well worth reading, it may shake you up, and it will provoke some much needed discussion on these subjects.
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60 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty on April 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Bill McKibben's latest book, "Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age," raises some fundamental questions about who we are, what we are, and how we may be affected by the biotechnologies which we already possess and those which are just over the horizon. The author takes us on an expedition into the world of genetic research, nanotechnology and robotics.
This is a passionate book and a disturbing book and one that presents what we in the "argumentation trade" might call a "persuasive" argument, that is, a presentation of facts which are used, not to support a conclusion that may be true or false, but used to support a conclusion promoting a particular policy or course of action.
"Enough" is also a revealing book, a hard and detailed look at our rapid acceleration into technologies which may have permanent and adverse effects on the future of human beings; indeed, these technologies have the potential to affect what it means to be human at all. Because he perceives this to be a threatening situation, McKibben discusses technologies such as germline engineering and therapeutic cloning, warning that they represent a slippery slope that may make more dangerous and harmful technologies possible and even acceptable.
"[I]f we aggressively pursue any or all of several new technologies now before us," the author says, "we may alter our relationship not with the rest of nature but with ourselves. First human genetic engineering and then advanced forms of robotics and nanotechnology will call into question, often quite explicitly, our understanding of what it means to be a human being."
McKibben acquaints us with microscopic nanobots cruising our bloodstreams, attacking pathogens within our bodies and building new cells.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Michael A. Kopp on September 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
So where to join the fray? I'll just say what I think, I guess. First of all, McKibben has written a highly informative and gripping book. He provides a good overview of some of the developments actually occurring in biotech, robotics, and nanotech right now (well, within the last few years), and then proceeds to outline his viewpoint of opposition to the radically transformative effects of these technologies. This is all well and good. Though I'm not sure how I come down on these issues, I greatly appreciated his viewpoint and thought that he had some compelling arguments against the use, or at least reckless use, of these technologies.

First of all, I do not think, as some other reviewers have stated, that his argument is Luddite or in any way antitechnological. He wholeheartedly agrees with, or at least supports, the efforts of biotech researchers, doctors, and roboticists to advance and apply their technologies in ways that do not radically alter the existential landscape. Where he gets nervous is when people start talking about modifying who we are on an extremely basic level. Try as one might, the discoveries of Galileo, Columbus, Einstein, and Bohr cannot be compared to germline engineering and nanotech. These were revelations of the external landscape, knowledge revolutions. The territory McKibben is trying to protect is the internal landscape.

Living to be 200 (or 500+), selecting from a catalog of gene upgrades for an unborn child, or becoming host to a swarm of nanomachines that act as immune system kevlar sounds pretty cool on paper, but his contention is that these technologies will ultimately dehumanize by making one of our last givens--our selves--into yet another commodity.
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