THE EVOLUTION OF PROGRESS by C. Owen Paepke

THE EVOLUTION OF PROGRESS

The End of Economic Growth and the Beginning of Human Transformation
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 When Paepke, a lawyer and former research chemist, refers to ``human transformation'' in this fascinating though somewhat uneven exploration of our economic future, he doesn't mean the human- potential movement. Instead, he's referring to momentous advances in reproductive technologies and genetic engineering, as well as in the fields of ``wetware'' engineering--biochemical manipulation of the brain--and life-extension techniques that by the end of the 21st century will, he claims, permit individuals to virtually design and produce themselves and their children. Somewhat less persuasively, Paepke appears to argue that a resulting interest in improving our mental and physical capacities will replace or outmode the profit motive as Third World countries eventually come to share our standard of living, and as the creation of industrial wealth approaches its own immutable limits. Threading prophecy with history, Paepke traces two centuries of growth in manufacturing technology and trade and then delineates the forces he claims make it moribund: market saturation; the rising expense-to-benefit ratio of bringing new products to market; shrinking productivity gains; and the lowering of wages and capital accumulation as thinly capitalized service industries replace manufacturing. But ``as one era of progress ends, another begins''; and when the outer world of material conveniences is tamed, ``the focus naturally turns toward the means for overcoming deficiencies'' in health, physical endowment, aging, mortality, and, especially, intelligence. Paepke implicitly argues that ``overcoming deficiencies'' won't hinge on accumulation of wealth or the desire for profit but on new definitions of progress; but these go unstated in an otherwise richly detailed exposition of recent scientific breakthroughs. A truly original thesis that, unfortunately, has a ragged seam down the middle.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-41582-3
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1992