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Right/Wrong: How Technology Transforms Our Ethics Hardcover – October 13, 2020

4.6 out of 5 stars 35 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Enriquez turns what can be perceived as a dull subject into a witty and insightful piece of storytelling, challenging our perception of what we think is right and wrong."
Engineering and Technology

“This book will make you uncomfortable and it will make you think. Enriquez challenges all of us to consider how our actions, decisions, and policies will be judged by future generations. And that judgment is not likely to be pretty unless we work through hard problems and make some big changes in a hurry.”
John Palfrey, President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

“Don't get caught on the wrong side of changing ethics and exponential technologies.  Juan Enriquez potently leverages the past to predict the future or, better yet, to change it. From COVID-19 to CO2 this book is timely, yet timeless. Could this beautiful little book depolarize our politics? Could it turn rationalization into rational rationales?  Convert static, dismissive myopia into comprehensive exohexahedralism? Let's do more than hope so; let's make it so.”
George Church, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School; founding member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering
 
“With wit, insight, and masterful storytelling, Juan Enriquez challenges our certainty about what's right and wrong in an age of rapid biological innovation and technologies that give us the power to literally transform our species. This book shows us how inextricably linked our ethics are to our technologies and reminds us with empathy and humility that even ethics evolve.”
Jane Metcalfe, Cofounder of Wired and Founder of NEO.LIFE
 
“Juan Enriquez bravely asks ethical questions in the light of new technologies, thoughtfully examining topics that range from mass incarceration to artificial intelligence. Whether you agree with him or not, you will want to read what he has to say.”
—Danny Hillis, pioneer of parallel computing and artificial intelligence; Founder, Thinking Machines Corporation, and Cofounder, Applied Minds, and Applied Invention
 
“Here's a revolutionary idea: technology is changing daily, and therefore so are our ethics. But isn't ethics a bit academic, even boring? Not if an exploration of its mashup with technology makes you question whether you understand the difference between right and wrong. Along the way on this extraordinary journey of discovery about everything from the former oceans on Venus to our present day culture wars, Enriquez will introduce you to at least a thousand new facts—and ideas—that will leave your head spinning. This is a joyride for the mind, and like a good roller coaster, it's delightfully scary.”
Stephen Petranek, former editor of Discover, the Washington Post Magazine, This Old House Magazine, and Time
 
“One of our nation's deepest thinkers about the long-term implications of technology on our society here provides a riveting case-book and compelling argument about how and why the passage of time changes all ethical considerations. How does it happen?Inexorable technological advances create new opportunities to make different, and better, ethical decisions, Enriquez argues. But this comes with a price: we face the overwhelming temptation to castigate our forebears for their unethical acts. This should humble us because this means our descendants will also be judging us, when their technology improves. Vivid, stimulating, and provocative.”
Nicholas A. Christakis, Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society
 

Review

"This book will make you uncomfortable and it will make you think. Enriquez challenges all of us to consider how our actions, decisions, and policies will be judged by future generations. And that judgment is not likely to be pretty unless we work through hard problems and make some big changes in a hurry. "
John Palfrey, President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation 

"Don't get caught on the wrong side of changing ethics and exponential technologies. Juan Enriquez potently leverages the past to predict the future or, better yet, to change it. From COVID-19 to CO2 this book is timely, yet timeless. Could this beautiful little book depolarize our politics? Could it turn rationalization into rational rationales? Convert static, dismissive myopia into comprehensive exohexahedralism? Let's do more than hope so; let's make it so. "
—George Church, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School; founding member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering 

"With wit, insight, and masterful storytelling, Juan Enriquez challenges our certainty about what's right and wrong in an age of rapid biological innovation and technologies that give us the power to literally transform our species. This book shows us how inextricably linked our ethics are to our technologies and reminds us with empathy and humility that even ethics evolve. "
Jane Metcalfe, Cofounder of Wired and Founder of NEO.LIFE 

"Juan Enriquez bravely asks ethical questions in the light of new technologies, thoughtfully examining topics that range from mass incarceration to artificial intelligence. Whether you agree with him or not, you will want to read what he has to say."
Danny Hillis, pioneer of parallel computing and artificial intelligence; Founder, Thinking Machines Corporation, and Cofounder, Applied Minds, and Applied Invention 

"Here's a revolutionary idea: technology is changing daily, and therefore so are our ethics. But isn't ethics a bit academic, even boring? Not if an exploration of its mashup with technology makes you question whether you understand the difference between right and wrong. Along the way on this extraordinary journey of discovery about everything from the former oceans on Venus to our present day culture wars, Enriquez will introduce you to at least a thousand new facts—and ideas—that will leave your head spinning. This is a joyride for the mind, and like a good roller coaster, it's delightfully scary. "
Stephen Petranek, former editor of Discover, the Washington Post Magazine, This Old House Magazine, and Time 

"One of our nation's deepest thinkers about the long-term implications of technology on our society here provides a riveting case-book and compelling argument about how and why the passage of time changes all ethical considerations. How does it happen? Inexorable technological advances create new opportunities to make different, and better, ethical decisions, Enriquez argues. But this comes with a price: we face the overwhelming temptation to castigate our forebears for their unethical acts. This should humble us because this means our descendants will also be judging us, when their technology improves. Vivid, stimulating, and provocative. "
Nicholas A. Christakis, Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

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Product details

  • Publisher : The MIT Press (October 13, 2020)
  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0262044420
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0262044424
  • Item Weight : 1 pounds
  • Dimensions : 5.75 x 1 x 8.25 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 35 ratings

Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5
35 global ratings
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Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on October 23, 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing insights, and powerful storytelling
By Steve on October 23, 2020
Juan Enriquez is a genius. That’s not a word I throw around lightly. He’s a rare combination of extraordinary thinker and a human being with almost endless compassion and empathy.

Depending on how you meet him, you wouldn’t know that. Sometimes he’s so smart, it’s a bit daunting. Other times, he tells personal stories that are so emotional it's breathtaking.

I’ve known Enriquez a long time and have been in the front row for many of the TED Talks he’s given.

Way back in 2009 he asked, “Will our kids be a different species?” It wasn’t meant to be a rhetorical question, even back then. He asked if we could be mid-upgrade now, and if technology is revealing evidence that suggests rapid evolution may be underway.

This year, he gave a talk that was emotional and personal, sharing stories from inside the immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, saying "This isn't about kids and borders, It's about us. This is about who we are, who we the people are, as a nation, and as individuals.”

Enriquez understands this far more than most of us. He was born in Mexico, his father a high-level civil servant, and his mother a member of a prominent Boston family.

He became director of Mexico's Urban Development Corporation "I never thought I'd ever do anything but help run Mexico," he says now. He graduated from Harvard and ended up working with biotechnologist Craig Venter, helping to synthesize the human genome. So, yeah -- he’s a polymath by any definition. And when he sees what’s happening on the U.S./Mexican border… his personal pain is palpable. As he makes clear here.

Which brings me to his latest book, "Right/Wrong: How Technology Transforms Our Ethics.” If you don’t see the connection between ethics and tech, then you need to get inside his brain and explore. Enriquez notes that we like to think we know right from wrong and speak passionately about those opinions, but we often forget such ethics have evolved over time. He argues that one of the biggest drivers of ethical upheaval and change is technology. And he uses explanations that, once presented, are hard to ignore.

In one example in the book, Enriquez takes readers on a trip to back in time, to talk to our great-grandparents when they were in their 20s. He imagines their shock when they hear about sex and technology issues today, from birth control to IVF. In their eyes, surrogacy would be witchcraft.

Enriquez says our grandkids will likely be shocked when they hear about the state of pregnancy, childbirth, and unedited genes today.

And then, he catches us by surprise, talking about new research into creating an artificial womb. While he notes that an artificial womb will dramatically improve the survivability of premature babies, it will also open a complicated new debate about abortion and the date at which a fetus is survivable, leading to legal issues.

Enriquez considers a series of technology-influenced ethical questions on topics including social media, climate change, war profiteering, and mass incarceration.

Technology drives change faster and faster, and we shouldn't assume what is acceptable today will be acceptable tomorrow, he says.

"Right/Wrong" is gripping because Enriquez is both a scientist and a storyteller. Don’t expect to get answers to today's thorny questions -- he didn’t set out to make the future that simple. Instead, he wants readers to understand that technology will fundamentally alter what we believe is ethical today.

Tech is powerful. Tech is dangerous. Tech provides us with new opportunities to shape our bodies, our society, our world. But if we don’t consider its impact and outcomes, we’re likely to find ourselves victims of the ethical impact of new technology that is possible, but perhaps not advisable.
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Reviewed in the United States on October 15, 2020
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Reviewed in the United States on January 24, 2021
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