The Techno-Human Condition

Braden R. Allenby and Daniel Sarewitz. MIT, $27.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-262-01569-1
Allenby (Reconstructing Earth) and Sarewitz (Frontiers of Illusion) explore the radical technological enhancement of people, or "transhumanism." Humanity today can be defined through our relationship with technology, but human evolution is nothing more than a series of enhancements; the "new-and-improved-model human brain and body," with its "fully re-engineered immune system...renders all previous models obsolete." After a quick history lesson, the authors delve into cognitive and genetic technological progress, the subjectivity problem with "progress" (the defeat of Nazism and life with The Bomb both show "progress"), and three levels of tech: a means through which a society meets its goals; a "networked" social and cultural phenomenon; and a wildly complex, constantly adapting "Earth system." The authors dismiss the binary debate of transhumanism as between the individual and the institution, and discuss the "existential challenge to society" brought be tech-aided warfare; in this context the authors see the 2003 invasion of Iraq as conflating "technological dominance and military power at Level I...with national security at Level III" and cite similar "category confusion" in America's response to terrorism. With the imperative for adaptability wired into every chapter, Allenby and Sarewitz entertaining articulate the importance of understanding the condition that has captured their imaginations and embroiled them in a "several-year running argument." (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/02/2011
Release date: 04/01/2011
Ebook - 235 pages - 978-0-262-29566-6
Paperback - 222 pages - 978-0-262-52525-1
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