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The Symbiotic Man: A New Understanding of the Organization of Life and a Vision of the Future [Hardcover]

Joel De Rosnay
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)


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Book Description

March 27, 2000 0071357440 978-0071357449 1
In de Rosnays persuasively optimistic view, humans will learn how to evolve in harmony with our ecosystem, much as the cells of our body must work together for our continued health. "The great challenge of the future will not be technical, " he writes: "it will be human." The challenge is for us to learn how we fit into a planetary macroorganism that includes all humans, machines, organisms, networks and nations.

In this exhilarating search for the outlines of the future, as de Rosnay shows, we will be using such emerging and evolving new disciplines as biotics, molecular electronics, neobiology, and cognitive sciences.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this Future Shock for the new millennium, de Rosnay, director for strategy for the Science and Industry Complex in Paris, predicts the coming of what he calls the "Cybiont": a global "macroorganism" that encompasses humanity, the environment and technology. The culmination of de Rosnay's earlier work (The Macroscope; The Paths of Life; The Planetary Brain), this book became a bestseller upon its initial publication in France in 1995. The author regards the computer as a "macroscope," an instrument that lets humans view larger trends and that will eventually take on a life of its own; he quotes Stephen Hawking's view that computer viruses and other electronic "intelligence" may actually be developing into forms of life. For mankind to survive, we must establish close symbiotic relationships with our technology and its emerging self-generated intelligence and with nature, he says. Unfortunately, de Rosnay fails to consider very deeply what constitutes consciousness, a subject many other scientists have investigated, or artificial intelligence. He also seems to overestimate humans' willingness to sacrifice their private interests to achieve long-term, communal goals. De Rosnay does, however, present many provocative ideas like "fractal time" and "time bubbles," and he discusses interesting and thus far fairly esoteric advances in technological sensory perception and even brain-computer connections. This book doesn't come together as a convincing vision of the future, but it certainly provides readers with many challenging ideas to mull over, and it may encourage them to consider their individual roles in the greater scheme of things. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From the Back Cover

Within the past four decades a powerful scientific methodology has emerged that promises to dramatically recast our concept of nature and mankind's place in it. Unlike the traditional analytical approach which breaks nature down into smaller and smaller constituent parts, chaos theory, the theory of self-organization, and other so-called sciences of complexity, explore dynamic systems in their totalities, so as to lay bare the great constants governing their emergence, organization, and evolution. Using the tools of complexity, researchers recently have made breakthroughs in the understanding of such divers phenomena such as weather systems, economies, and even the most daunting scientific mystery of all, the mind as an emergent property of the brain's dense neuronal mazes.

Organic chemist, computer scientist, visionary, Joël de Rosnay has been at the forefront of the complexity movement for nearly thirty years. In this elegant and daring book, he builds upon his early pioneering work in the application of the sciences of complexity to the study of living systems to persuasively argue that we are at the verge of a profound evolutionary leap, as monumental in its implications for life on Earth as was the emergence of multicelluar organisms. Just as importantly he explains how, in the face of sweeping changes to the very fabric of organic existence, we must conduct ourselves politically, economically, and ethically, in the years ahead, if we hope to vouchsafe our survival as species in the third millennium.

In a grand synthesis that unites modern cybernetics with the sciences of complexity, de Rosnay demonstrates that the next stage in the natural progression from lower to higher levels of organizationcell into organism, organism to population, population into ecosystemis the cybiont, a planetary superorganism made up of all humans, machines, organisms, networks, and nations. But, as intelligent beings, endowed with free will, human beings are, uniquely, more than just "cells" in the superorganism which is just coming into being. As de Rosnay is prompt to point out, we are also its facilitators, and, as such, we have it in our power to decide what form the cybiont takes, nurturing partner, or Frankenstein's monster inimical to all human life. As de Rosnay writes:

The great challenge of the future will not be technical. It will be human....The humans of the future will not be superhumans, bio-robots, supercomputers, or mega-machines. They will be simply symbiotic humans, in close partnershipif they succeed in building itwith the societal system that they've externalized out of their brains, their senses, and their muscles. A nurturing superorganism, living on the life of cells, these neurons of the Earth that we are now becoming.

Dr. de Rosnay leaves little doubt that our future survival depends upon whether or not we can, at last, discard our parasitical, egocentric stance toward the environment and to learn to live in symbiosis with it. He also makes a strong case for achieving the transition from adversary to partner through eco-centered public policy and the judicious use of emerging technologies such as nanotechnology, bioelectronics, molecular electronics or bioinformatics.

The international bestseller, now available in English for the first time, The Symbiotic Man is a fascinating exploration of the organization of life and a techno-environmental manifesto for the new millennium.

"Human beings are gradually becoming the neurons of the Earth, integrated into the nervous system they have created...Now emerging in the most advanced industrial societies, this new being is the symbiotic human."

Arno Penzias, Nobel Prize in Physics.

"Better and more than his Macroscope (1975), The Symbiotic Man is the vision of Joel de Rosnay regarding the reciprocal evolution (symbiosis) of biologic man and of the electronic world of cyberspace. One creates the other which allows him to live, think and act, soon indispensable, but which also has its own evolutive emergence. That is the new planetary organism which Joel de Rosnay calls the cybiont (from cy-ber-netic and bio-logy, the suffix -ont implying a whole realm)...A book to read, to understand, to reflect upon. Inescapable."

Roger Guillemin, Noble Prize in Biology.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 299 pages
  • Publisher: Mcgraw-Hill; 1 edition (March 27, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071357440
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071357449
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,241,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cybion and the future of the Society December 20, 2000
Format:Hardcover
With the metaphor of the Cybion, central concept of the Symbiotic Man, Joel de Rosnay has jumped a new step since the Macroscope. The first part of the book will delight a reader who likes imagination and vision. This part describes a lot of conceptual ideas and requires a serious attention when reading it. On the other hand, the second and third parts are more practical with many political, economic and social examples and graphics illustrating the ideas of the first part. One of the characteristic of the book is the possibility to open the book at any page and extract relevant information. This book would be particularly suited to be published on the Internet in order to navigate between main ideas and examples ! Before reading this book, I had a very imprecise idea of chaos, rigidity, fractal evolution, order, complexity. No I understand these notions when applied to organisations and society.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful! June 1, 2001
Format:Hardcover
JoŽl De Rosnay's book is a gold mine of provocative ideas about the evolution of mankind, economics, politics and more. It pulls together information from organic chemistry, computer technology, chaos theory and a slew of unrelated fields to argue for a less egocentric approach to business and government. In the process, it redefines competitiveness and industry. This eloquent presentation is definitely not a light read. It is mind-boggling in scope but fractal in delivery - which means you can delve into virtually any section and get a feel for its message. Business wisdom is spotty here, but this is not a business book. Instead, it's more of a cross between Wired magazine and an intricately researched science fiction novel. It is not for the faint of heart (or brain), but we [...] recommend it, if you'd like to stimulate your mind, shake up your old beliefs, check the inventiveness of bold technological projections, or glimpse an exciting future.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best and most important books I've ever read December 19, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I could not disagree more with Ben's review. My experience was the opposite. I've read widely in the realms of science, technology, and the future, and found this book to be one of the best and most important I've ever read. Over the last 9 years I've gifted more than two dozen people with it. Everyone who read it love it and agreed with my assessment of its significance. And amazingly, even though it was written a decade ago, very little of it is out of date.

I cannot recommend this book too highly.

~ Michael Dowd
Author of "Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World"
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointing November 3, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was really excited to find this book and read it as I have explored these theories for many years now. However, there is nothing new here. You can read a hundred pages and walk away having felt uninspired, unimpressed and no smarter than when you began. I kept hoping somewhere in this book I would find something that would make it worthwhile, but nothing. Very dissapointed.
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