- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (May 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312421710
- ISBN-13: 978-0312421717
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 19.7 x 207.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 45 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,080 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution Reprint Edition
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Maybe we have a future after all: Our Posthuman Future is political historian Francis Fukuyama's reconsideration of his 1989 announcement that history had reached an end. He claims that science, particularly genome studies, offers radical changes, possibly more profound than anything since the development of language, in the way we think about human nature. He makes his case thoroughly and eloquently, rarely dipping into philosophical or critical jargon and consistently maintaining an informal tone.
Fukuyama is deeply concerned about the erosion of the foundations of liberal democracy under pressure from new concepts of humans and human rights, and most readers will find some room for agreement. Ultimately, he argues for strong international regulation of human biotechnology and thoughtfully disposes of the most compelling counterarguments. While readers might not agree that we're at risk of creating Huxley's Brave New World, it's hard to deny that things are changing quickly and that perhaps we ought to consider the changes before they're irrevocable. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Fukuyama (The End of History and the Last Man; Trust) is no stranger to controversial theses, and here he advances two: that there are sound nonreligious reasons to put limits on biotechnology, and that such limits can be enforced. Fukuyama argues that "the most significant threat" from biotechnology is "the possibility that it will alter human nature and thereby move us into a `posthuman' stage of history." The most obvious way that might happen is through the achievement of genetically engineered "designer babies," but he presents other, imminent routes as well: research on the genetic basis of behavior; neuropharmacology, which has already begun to reshape human behavior through drugs like Prozac and Ritalin; and the prolongation of life, to the extent that society might come "to resemble a giant nursing home." Fukuyama then draws on Aristotle and the concept of "natural right" to argue against unfettered development of biotechnology. His claim is that a substantive human nature exists, that basic ethical principles and political rights such as equality are based on judgments about that nature, and therefore that human dignity itself could be lost if human nature is altered. Finally, he argues that state power, possibly in the form of new regulatory institutions, should be used to regulate biotechnology, and that pessimism about the ability of the global community to do this is unwarranted. Throughout, Fukuyama avoids ideological straitjackets and articulates a position that is neither Luddite nor laissez-faire. The result is a well-written, carefully reasoned assessment of the perils and promise of biotechnology, and of the possible safeguards against its misuse. (Apr.) Forecast: As the FSG publicity material notes, Fukuyama famously declared in the wake of communism's collapse that "the major alternatives to liberal democracy" had "exhausted themselves." This less dramatic assessment should still win a hearing, if not among scientists then among a public concerned about science's growing power.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Fukuyama suggests that failure to impose substantial government dictates over the "when's" and "how's" of future research centering on the human body and mind will precipitate a significant sea change in the inherent nature of our species, how we interact with one another, and a potential threat to Liberal Democracy. The implicit message is that unfettered scientific inquiry will lead to developments we will come to deeply regret.
While Fukuyama correctly illustrates the "easy fixes" that our society has latched onto (Prozac, Ritilin: Who said freedom to choose would mean wise choices?), his thesis fails to acknowledge the considerable roadblocks that authorities have placed in the way of the evolution of our species throughout history.
"Human nature" has, in fact, demonstrated a rather elastic nature over time. If one accepts the premise that human nature is fixed in an eternal quest for freedom, self-development and dignity and is manifested in superior intelligence, then one would want to remove any artificial roadblocks to creating the maximum environment in which these attributes could flourish. How else to explain the demise of almost all competing political models to Liberal Democracy? Yet, Fukuyama proposes a step backward, based on what appears to be a fixed, non-elastic definition of human nature.
Were a caveman to be plopped down in the late 20th Century and witness the first heart transplant, would he recoil in disgust and declare the practice inimical to the basic fabric of human existence? Quite likely. Does that mean, with the limited intelligence of a less developed brain - but with a brain nonetheless and all basic body parts and feelings that "Modern Man" exhibits - that the caveman would be right? I don't believe anyone would answer in the affirmative.
As dispassionate and thoughtful as Fukuyama's work appears on the surface, his call to action would have us expand the yoke of State control at a time when his beloved model of Liberal Democracy is finally expanding across the globe, toppling barriers to the practical application of human intelligence everywhere.
Which, in its own way, is rather ironic.
No less important is his identification of how inadequate is the utilitarian philosophy that pervades economical thinking which its mantra "minimize pain/maximize pleasure" when it invades other areas of human action especially medical practice. The peril consists on blurring the difference between healing and enhancement. Actually it disorients society in important issues such as how to deal with drugs consumption. We have not to wait to extreme forms of human nature manipulation to detect that trend in the current abuses in using Prozac or Ritalin. Some cases for which the safer bet is to enforce nerve, self control and character are taking short cuts when the easy way is a technological manipulation of behavior.
In this sense Fukuyama's strongest point is that even a democratic assumption of enhancement and improvement for everyone -when genetic engineering takes the helm as the leading technology to achieve those goals- is that it is not preposterous to think the biological differentiation of beings it would yield as a result may resemble rather a sort of Nietzschean dystopia where the best intentions of that pursuit have not place at all: a new order where shared human ideals have not to be recognized any longer.
Fukuyama without wasting time identifies to which extend the whole conceptual building of the ethical and political tradition -at least of the west- depends on two crucial assumptions: there is a human nature and there is a human dignity. But in taking these issues he falls short. He understands that the challenge to face now is to find new secular foundations to both ideas grounded in the disintegrating bedrock of metaphysics, religion and theology, but far to solve the conundrum (after all the book is only 218 pp long) he rather gets to draw with precision the map of the future battles to come. The author intends a solution alternative to the Kantian sharp distinction between actions based on knowledge and action based on ethics (categorical imperatives) at the time he insists that science does not have -and cannot have- the last world in defining ultimate human values and goals. But he bets anyway in some sort of knowledge in route to find new foundations to the very idea of human nature, so what kind of knowledge could be that? Maybe the sort of knowledge we can find in literature which is not systematic almost by definition, maybe the sort of knowledge that some thinkers as Merlin Donald intends (by the way with very interesting results indeed) which are at mid point between philosophy and scientific knowledge: an argumentation where the latter still is the tool, not the master.
However and beyond what FF achieved or not I am tempted to say that every citizen should read it. But because it sounds as an overstatement I only wish that someday it will be discussed in every college at any level, alongside with Neil Postman's amazingly intelligent, witty little book entitled "Technopoly".
This is a great read for those who want to know everything and understand it too.
On the other side of the spectrum, Fukuyama's book is a classic I would recommend it to everybody who can read.
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In my opinion, the book is well-written for one of its type, with intelligent and persuasive arguments for its points...Read more