>I originally posted this as a review on Amazon, but thought it might be interesting here.
Why I Wrote This Book
In 1999, a friend suggested to me that within a few decades we’d have Matrix-esque implants in our brains that would, among other things, allow us to interact in a completely believable virtual reality and beam our thoughts instantly to one another. I pooh-pooh’ed the idea. The brain and body are much too complex to manipulate in that way, or so I thought.
That same year a scientist named Phil Kennedy in Atlanta implanted an electrode into the brain of a paralyzed patient named Johnny Ray – a stroke victim who was completely unable to move, speak, or feed himself. The electrode monitored the activity of just a few neurons inside the patients brain. But through it Johnny was able to learn to control a computer – moving a cursor around on a screen and typing out messages.
Later that year, Joe Tsien at Princeton made the cover of Time Magazine with his Doogie mice – genetically engineered mice that could learn at astounding speeds, up to five times as fast as genetically normal mice.
And that year is also when I learned of the pioneering longevity research of scientists like Tom Johnston at Colorado, who had genetically altered nematode worms to more than double their lifespan and preserve youthful health into old age. Suddenly, it seemed, science was resembling science fiction.
At the same time, there were a number of voices raised in concern over these technologies. What does it mean to extend our lives, boost our mental abilities, or integrate our minds with computers? Would we still be human? What would happen to society? To equality? To the meaning of life?
So I wrote this book to cover these two, interrelated topics:
1)The science of human enhancement – what’s actually happening in the labs and what that could lead to in the near future.
2)The ethics, social consequences, and policy challenges of human enhancement. Basically, what we should or shouldn’t do with this technology.
More Than Human is an optimistic book, but it’s a cautious optimism. Along the way it looks at issues like the effect of longer lives on overpopulation, on socio-economic stratification and whether these technologies would help the rich pull further away from the poor, and at issues like human identity, and whether we could even call ourselves human after changing ourselves in such ways.
It’s not a utopian book. There can be no doubt that using biotechnology to alter the human mind, body, and lifespan will lead to problems. But the conclusion I come to in the book is that these technologies will solve more problems than they create. And that the alternative – to prohibit their use – will create many more problems than it will solve.