Excellent scientific journalism on the challenges arising from a real tipping point in human relations.

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RADICAL EVOLUTION

THE PROMISE AND PERIL OF ENHANCING OUR MINDS, OUR BODIES--AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A HUMAN

An eye-opening exploration of how cutting-edge 21st-century technologies, in embryonic form right now, pose the stark alternatives of a real-life Utopia or Brave New World.

Information power has been doubling every 18 months or so, at an exponential rate of change, and computer breakthroughs are also producing innovations in biology. The result is that four interrelated technologies—genetic, robotic, informational and nano processes—hold the potential to modify human nature itself. Collectively, they could produce “the biggest change in 50,000 years in what it means to be human.” Forget stem-cell research or steroid-boosted athletes: Technologies now being developed privately or by government agencies could soon bring about such possibilities as children boosting their SAT scores by 200 points, the aging being outfitted with memory enhancers, or soldiers being made able to hoist 180 pounds as if it were 4.4 pounds. Society might then be divided between the “enhanced” (those with physical and mental upgrades) versus the “naturals.” Drawing on a series of interviews with scientists and other futurists, Washington Post editor and reporter Garreau (Edge City, 1991, etc.) spells out three scenarios: “Heaven,” a biological utopia where poverty, disease and ignorance are eradicated; “Hell,” a dystopia that could include bioterror, inequality based on biological advantage, control of mankind by machines and nuclear catastrophe; and “Prevail,” the author’s preference, in which the future doesn’t arrive by a predetermined curve, but in a series of starts and stops, with humans acting to forestall disaster. Garreau has an eye for the anecdote that throws much of this Buck Rogers technology into compelling human terms (as when an administrator in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency labors on human enhancement research in the hope that it will someday help his daughter, a cerebral palsy victim).

Excellent scientific journalism on the challenges arising from a real tipping point in human relations.

Pub Date: May 17, 2005

ISBN: 0-385-50965-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2005

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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