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Paperback Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution Book

ISBN: 0312421710

ISBN13: 9780312421717

Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution

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Book Overview

A decade after his now-famous pronouncement of "the end of history," Francis Fukuyama argues that as a result of biomedical advances, we are facing the possibility of a future in which our humanity itself will be altered beyond recognition. Fukuyama sketches a brief history of man's changing understanding of human nature: from Plato and Aristotle to the modernity's utopians and dictators who sought to remake mankind for ideological ends. Fukuyama...

Customer Reviews

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Letting the Genes Out of the Bottle

Fukuyama says that 1984 presaged the information society, but it has not lead to tyranny of surveillance and propaganda, but rather a decentralized political process in which the individual is empowered to hold the government more accountable. Brave New World presaged the biotech revolution and this concerns him more because it can change the very essence of human nature. The brave new world seeks to seduce us to give up our humanity as we know it for happiness and healthiness that can be brought about supposedly by biotechnology. Fukuyama examines what will be the consequences of the biotech revolution. Drugs like Prozac and Ritalin can alter our moods to achieve better behavior, but there can also be unwanted side effects. Life extension technologies may lead to gray-haired societies in which older people rigidly rule over the younger ones with their outdated world view. What will happen to the concept of equality, if some are able to breed children with higher intelligence than others? Fukuyama thinks that international rules need to be made to ensure that biotechnology is implemented in an ethical way. Changes in and explanations of human nature have been attempted or debated over throughout history, even before the biotech revolution. Governments with extreme ideological agendas have sought to modify human nature, but these were crude attempts to do so, considering what may be done with biotechnology in the future. Genetic explanations for human nature, ability, and differences have resurged in recent years, much to the chagrin of those who think that differences and inequality can be explained by environmental factors. Fukuyama goes on to discuss the book The Bell Curve in which the authors used IQ tests scores to explain differences in average IQ among different races in one of the sections of the book. They also argued that intelligence is largely inherited and stable by adulthood. The book was approved by some conservatives because it explained social hierarchies and contradicted the liberals' belief that equality could be achieved by social engineering. Liberals tend to maintain that intelligence is difficult to measure; conservatives tend to think that intelligence can be objectively measured. Fukuyama says that just because the findings are political incorrect, it doesn't mean they are flawed, and they cannot be dismissed as pseudoscience. Liberals have accused Cyril Burt, a researcher of IQ of falsifying data on twin studies to make it look like that intelligence is largely inherited. In Cyril Burt's case, it was proven that his research was solid, and not falsified. Other researchers in the field have reached a consensus that intelligence is 40 to 50 percent inherited with the rest being influenced by environmental factors such as good nutrition. They disagree with Burt, Hernstein, and Murray that the inheritable percentage is as high as 70 percent. Fukuyama warns us that the IQ and genes issues will not go away in the futur

In Defence of Human Nature

Francis Fukuyama, professor at Johns Hopkins University's School for Advanced International Studies, will always be remembered as the one who proclaimed in a book with the same title "The End of History," when liberal democracy and market economics triumphed after the fall of the Berlin Wall. After being roundly criticized by the critics and by history itself, he has since then qualified his thesis. He now believes that even though politically and economically we have reached the final destination, so to speak, science will continue to progress and pose new problems. "Our Posthuman Future" is divided into three parts: the first deals with the latest developments in biotechnology, the second part is a philosophical examination of what it means to be human, and the third part sets forth some policy recommendations for controling some of the potentially dangerous consequences of biotechnology. Fukuyama looks at the main areas of the biotech revolution that will have an enormous impact on life as we know it. Neuropharmacologists have created drugs such as Prozac and Ritlin that are being used to control behavioural problems that in the past were solved by self-discipline and concentrated effort. When human beings are using psychotropic drugs to correct or enhance their behaviours, they are missing out, according to Fukuyama, on critical experiences that make them human. Genetic engineering also poses some of the most complex and troublesome questions. Gene alteration could prolong life, create "designer babies," determine sex, physique, and IQ. On the downside, genetic manipulation could "embed one generation's social preferences," or it could increase inequality if only the rich could afford it. Imagine a future in which there are rich countries with many people living well over a hundred and poor countries with exploding populations of people whose median age is in the twenties. The potential for global instability becomes ever greater. The second part of the book centers on the philosophical problems of human nature and human rights. Fukuyama argues that in order to oppose these dangerous developments we must return the universal notion of naturalism or natural rights. Naturalism claims that there is an intrinsic universal human nature and that ethics, and therefore human rights can be derived from it. Those opposing this view call it the naturalistic fallacy. (Hume said that we cannot derive an "ought" from an "is.") Opponents claim that human nature can only be expressed in the context of historically contingent societies. This is the old nature vs nurture debate, and Fukuyama falls squarely on the side of nature. If nurture or culture is the defining aspect of human nature then biothech expands unfettered. Fukuyama claims that human nature is a universal essence - which he conveniently fails to define - from which it is possible not only to understand human dignity, but also to develop a doctrine of human rights. But how do

You may drive out nature with a pitchfork,

...When Fukuyama, in his latest book, published a few months ago, takes to task large segments of the scientifical and bioethical community, we should pay attention, for he is rarely misinformed and never less than cogent in his analyses. The author's main point is that human nature, and the social and political institutions built on it (such as democracy, the rule of law and the capitalist market), is at risk from changes in biotechnology, such as neuropharmacology (drugs capable of altering human behaviour in radical ways), or longevity-enhancement treatments, or genetical manipulation of the unborn. He makes a brave attempt at showing that the concept of human nature is meaningful and even necessary in this debate, and that it must not be grounded in religion necessarily. His criticism of the disregard for human nature often exhibited by scientists (even in this day and age) is chilling, and goes a long way in convincing the reader that a short leash is in order when human dignity and human rights are at stake. He shows very clearly that the main risk from genetic manipulation does not come from eugenistic states intent on eliminating the inferior- as in Hitler's Germany-, but from the law of unintended consequences (which in economics is termed social externalities). There is just no way of knowing the impact that genetic manipulation will have, especially if left in the hands of ambitious parents desirous of giving their offspring an early start in life's struggle. A probable consequence is the rise of real, biologically-grounded aristocracies, who in fairness should be accepted as a perpetual ruling class. Plato's chilling description of a perfect state, in which superior minds and bodies govern the vast majority of untermenschen, neither mixing nor pitying them, could actually come into existence. While this is probably the part of the book that will generate the biggest reaction, Fukuyama's arguments about the impacts of legal drugs to alter human behaviour are not amiss either. His main point is that current society dislikes gender-specific behaviours, and therefore attempts to use drugs to generate an androgynous conformity. He refers to how Prozac is used to nudge depressed women into more self-assertive (male-like) attitudes, whereas Ritalin is used to appease hyperactive young boys into sedate compliance. His many quotes of scientists and social commentators indicate the degree to which nature is spurned by intelligent people who believe that it is, or should be, within their power, to remake human nature and the world we live in. Stanford's Paul Erlich, always good for a laugh (he was priceless in the pompous-yet-totally-mistaken-windbag role in Lomborg's "Skeptical Environmentalist") shows yet again that common sense is quite uncommon in academia. Given the risks on the one hand and on the other the total lack of insight that most scientists show in this regard, regulation is indispensable, and Fukuyama shows the way.

Needs to be read by everyone!

The biotechnology revolution is upon us, says Francis Fukuyama in his new book "Our Posthuman Future," and we had better begin to deal with the challenging social, political, and economic issues which will be raised by the changes to come.Fukuyama points out that we are already a society that is widely using and abusing drugs like Prozac and Ritalin to modify behavior and psychological states and we now seem to be all too eager to employ our expanding knowledge of human genetics to influence everything from increasing intelligence to prolonging life. But these may be the least of the problems we face in the future. The author also discusses such controversial issues as eugenics, the prospects for germline enhancement, embryonic stem-cell research, human cloning, and "designer babies." There are sound reasons to put limits on biotechnology and these limits can be and need to be enforced. This is, in my opinion, Fukuyama's main thesis in his book, and with this I wholeheartedly agree."Our Posthuman Future" deserves to be read by all those who are concerned about the direction in which biotechnology is going. No, let me go further. This book needs to be read by all thinking human beings. The reason is simple: human beings, or human nature as we have understood it up to now, may be at stake. Fukuyama is no Luddite, neither am I. But the simple fact is this: just because something in science or technology "can" be done, does not mean it "should" be done. When we learn that lesson, maybe the world will be a better place.

Wonderful experience!

Fukuyama has been one of my favorites since "The End of History." Glad to see history has started again and science is the new narrative! "Posthuman" continues to demonstrate that the author has a very comprehensive view of current insights in many fields and puts them in a cohesive picture that rings true. Reading Fukuyama is a great way to read a hundred up-to-date books all at once and get the highlights from all of them. Expect frequent pauses while reading this as your own mind reels with the ideas.This is a great read for those who want to know everything and understand it too.Bill
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