A fascinating examination of technology that “will radically transform human health and extend our life spans far beyond what most of us have ever dreamed.”
Doctors routinely replace failing joints; machines do the work of the heart, lungs, and kidneys; genetic engineering cures some rare diseases. These are only the beginning, enthusiasts proclaim. Future advances will transform our bodies and extend our lives—and, they add, this is a good thing. This transformation is inevitable, but there are cons as well as pros, emphasizes former American Psychiatric Association director Herold (Stem Cell Wars: Inside Stories from the Frontlines, 2006) in this often dazzling account of life-extension progress that pays equal attention to its significance. About 1,200 people are living with a Total Artificial Heart in place of their own. It requires a 13-pound driver that the patient carries in a backpack connected to two tubes coming out of the abdomen. The longest a recipient has lived with the heart is nearly four years. Implantable lungs and kidneys function in animals, and human tests are in the works. An artificial pancreas (for diabetics) may be on the market in a few years. Gene therapy and pharmacology are moving beyond curing disease into enhancing health and extending life. Nanotechnology and mind-cloning, still laboratory curiosities, will do the same on a massive scale. Herold reminds readers that life expectancy has already doubled since 1850. As longevity depends increasingly on technical changes in the human body, it has produced a fierce debate between advocates of “transhumanism” and opponents who warn that it is an irresistible crutch that will degrade human nature. The author gives both sides equal time but is willing to let matters proceed.
An eye-opening description of scientific transhumanism that may provoke older readers to curse themselves for being born a few decades too early.