Wired minds, designer bodies, doubled life spans, a child for every happy couple: an optimistic portrayal of the brave new future of scientifically improved life.
The subtitle is apt, as Naam (a computer engineer at Microsoft) makes no attempt to mask his enthusiasm for the drugs, therapies, products, and procedures of cutting-edge biotech. This is not a sage analysis of the immediate feasibility or likelihood of specific changes. Nor does the author claim experience in a biological field or medical training. His book, instead, is a logical and structured explanation of bioengineering projects underway: gene therapy to cure disease, enhance athletic performance, and lengthen life span; brain implants to allow the paralyzed to move, the mute to speak, the blind to see, and the deaf to hear; brain-computer interfaces to mimic telepathy (“Just as we can e-mail our words . . . we’ll be able to broadcast the inner states of our minds”). There’s little chance that all of these will ever become mainstream, but some certainly will, and that fact alone is both exciting and frightening. Naam doesn’t shy away from trumpeting controversial propositions such as human cloning or genetic selection of embryos, and he audaciously sets out game plan and shining new playing field, though he still does address some of the bumps in any road that will lead to universal acceptance. He shows a knack for plain and clear explanations of highly complex and technical concepts without condescension or pedantry. He goes beyond the simple gee whiz and even takes time to address the economics of research (development is expensive, implementation thereafter often cheap). Along the way, he refers to political trends that suggest eventual acceptance of initially controversial practices and ideas, and he investigates large-scale implications of many of the biotechnologies, as, for example, the impact upon world population of life extension techniques.
An intriguing presentation by an unabashed advocate of the technological tricking and co-opting of mother nature.