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More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement Paperback – August 9, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Naam is optimistic about technological advancement. He surveys applications of genetic and computer engineering to the human body and pronounces them good. Naam notes but does not totally allay the disquiet of critics who think otherwise, so readers 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. Naam is a software engineer, and this is his first book, so his writing about human physiology is predominantly descriptive, albeit enthusiastically so. Naam relates how the technologies--gene therapies, genetic splicing, cloning, and neural/computer interfaces--function at the cellular level and details how they may improve on the injuries, afflictions, and conditions of life (intelligence and aging). Both the researchers and the companies developing biotechnologies receive Naam's positive attention, and he avers that over time their inventions will become widely affordable. This confident, libertarian sentiment suffuses Naam's approach; for a more doubtful posture toward the brave new world, see The Future of the Brain, by Steven P. R. Rose (p.1038).^B Gilbert Taylor
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 230 pages
  • Publisher: lulu.com (August 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0557582334
  • ISBN-13: 978-0557582334
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ramez Naam was born in Cairo, Egypt, and came to the US at the age of 3. He's a computer scientist who spent 13 years at Microsoft, leading teams working on email, web browsing, search, and artificial intelligence. He holds almost 20 patents in those areas.

Ramez is the winner of the 2005 H.G. Wells Award for his non-fiction book More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement. He's worked as a life guard, has climbed mountains, backpacked through remote corners of China, and ridden his bicycle down hundreds of miles of the Vietnam coast. He lives in Seattle, where he writes and speaks full time.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Naam describes recent scientific advances with the rigor of an academic researcher, but in terms that you don't need a PhD to understand. He also does an insightful job of relating recent breakthroughs to historic scientific firsts. For example, he makes a credible case that someday choosing the genes of your children will be just as common and non-creepy as in-vitro fertilization is today. He covers a wide range of topics, describing science that could lead to 150 year lifespans or being able to google things just by thinking about them. I was hoping for a bit more about nanotechnology, but maybe it's still a bit early for that. ;)

He explains how these technologies can be helpful to society if embraced. The more compelling argument is how frightening they could be if restricted. He draws astute connections to the rise of already common technologies like reading or antibiotics. Even if you don't agree with everything he believes, his position is well argued, and insightful.

Most importantly, from a crowd screaming in panic about a changing world, Naam's perspective stands out as calm, optimistic, logical and caring.
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Format: Hardcover
The basic thesis of Ramez Naam's book is that with our ability to shape (especially to enhance) our biological nature through the tools of our culture--in particular, genetic engineering--we will transform humanity into "a plethora of forms," which will eventually result in thousands if not millions of new species. Naam contends that we will spawn "a new explosion of life as sudden and momentous as that of the Cambrian explosion" some 570 million years ago. (p. 233)

That's the upside. What is also possible (although Naam does not dwell on this) is that with biological enhancement tools that are presently coming into discovery and use, we may transform ourselves into beings who will have satisfied their every desire, and with that satiation, have put an end to desire. The result may very well be the end of human evolution, biological or cultural. And following that, the end of the species that began as a big-brained walking ape six million years ago.

Or none of the above.

This is the exciting part. We have no idea where cultural evolution is going to take us. We have no idea whether we will develop the ability to stave off natural disasters (rogue comets; nearby supernovae; unstoppable pathogens) or overcome our propensity to self-destruction in the form of perpetual war or the poisoning of our environment. Yet, modern Luddites and social conservatives notwithstanding, we will indeed use the tools we develop to initially prevent and cure ailments and deficiencies, and ultimately to enhance our abilities to enjoy and to get the most out of life.

This is what this book is all about.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
In More Than Human, Naam's writing is a compelling look at our probable future. Through genetic techniques, drugs, computer and robotic technology, we will have many avenues to enhance our minds and bodies.

Naam presents a wonderful and engaging survey of current, cutting-edge scientific research across various fields including medicine, genetics, biology, robotics, and computers. The central theme, of course, is that all of these endeavors involve improving the human body and/or mind.

Unfortunately, many oppose the idea of enhancing our minds and bettering our bodies. They argue that such desires are "unnatural" and go against what it means to be human. They further believe that decisions on the future technologies of bio-enhancement should be made by a select few. Naam convincingly argues that the desire to improve and enhance ourselves is in fact a central trait that defines our humanity. Indeed, nothing could be more "natural" than the interest in improving ones abilities, including the ability to have better, longer, and healthier lives. Naam also demonstrates how the governance of these issues by an elite cadre of political appointees is ultimately more harmful than allowing the billions of inviduals who will make use of these bio-enhancements to choose for themselves.

In sum, Naam writes clearly and with infectious excitement about topics that could easily be confused as science fiction. The great wonder however, as Naam is able to show us, is that these topics are very much science fact. We can not avoid what bio-enhancement will do to us as individuals and to our society. We should allow our enthusiasm and optimism to fully accept the inevitable changes that are coming, so that with full understanding we can properly integrate them into our lives.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Naam touches on many of the most crucial milestones in the most optimistic visions of humanity's future: genetic medicine, drug therapies, human cloning, and cybernetic enhancement to name a few. He does so in a way that is scientifically rigorous without becoming mired in the details in a way that would make the account difficult to read for those without a scientific background.

Some readers may be put off by the directness with which he approaches issues which are very controversial, but these technologies are already in use and Naam makes a persuasive argument that, like it or not, the rest of them will be in regular use sooner or later.

While I am personally skeptical of the rose colored glasses through which Naam looks at the future, this book is an undeniably excellent introduction to our technological future and is an enjoyable read at that.
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