Re: New Book - "Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age"

From: Paul Fidika (
Date: Sat Mar 08 2003 - 14:30:16 MST

Firstly, I haven't read this book (yet), or any of McKibben's books, but his
basic argument (outlined in the paragraph below) is not new. McKibben (and
others which share his thoughts on the matter) seem to believe that the
current form man is in, or that the current form that nature is in (or was
before humans polluted it), is the ideal form. So what if we reengineer
ourselves and manufacturer humans so that they are conceived in incubating
machines rather than a woman's womb? It wouldn't be "natural," but it would
solve many problems (women wouldn't need to go through the pain of child
birth, carry a child around in them for 9 months, deal with their period
every month, have to worry about protection during sex, we'd have no need
for abortion clinics (or abortion clinic protestors who hypocritically kill
abortion doctors to save lives), etc.) Heck, we wouldn't even need genders
anymore. This is precisely what they're so afraid of, genetic engineering
means that there will no longer be women (or men, for that matter), races,
ethnicities, midgets, birth defects, etc. These gender, racial, ethnical,
and hierarchical categorizations have been so inherent in everyday life that
they have trouble imagining life without it.

They're still thinking in terms of the old Nazi Eugenics, where Hitler
attempted to create a "master race," (which, for some reason or another,
white skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes are the most desirable combination of
genes) by killing off (or sterilizing) everyone else. A genetically altered
race of super-humans wouldn't bother to enslave all the rest of the human
race as bad pop culture sic-fi seems to dictate, if for no other reason than
he s/he no reason to do so (after all, if we've reached a super-human level
of technological sophistication, presumably a machine can do any job better
than a regular old human can). The old humans aren't in need of
extermination, they just need a body and mind upgrade (something which
didn't exist in Hitler's time), but not against their will (since many
religious people will no doubt cling to their "God given bodies" for some
reason or another). I don't see how anyone can believe that all the genes
natural selection and the process of evolution strapped us with are somehow
better than the ones which we can (and will) devise.

This change will of course, destroy our societies as we know them, and
probably most of the natural world along with them. But so what? Were they
REALLY so great to begin with that we should cling to them insistently? When
new and superior species arise they are bound to displace the older and
inferior animal species, often leading to the old species' extinction (the
rise of man is marked most notably by many species disappearing mysteriously
off the face of the Earth, namely Saber Tooth Tigers and Wholly Mammoths). I
could just see someone with McKibben's same paradigm, if they somehow
existed back when early life-forms were first evolving on the Earth, saying
"Quick! Hand me the antibacterial soap! We must stop these bacteria from
defiling our precious Earth!", or perhaps later on "We must stop those evil
plants from polluting our wonderful atmosphere with their noxious oxygen!"

Fortunately however we don't HAVE TO follow the way nature works and kill
all of the "inferior" humans, we're sophisticated enough so that we can
respect the wishes of other sentient beings wanting to stay the way they are
(if not out of ignorance), but that does not mean we cannot ascend. I
believed we crossed the threshold of no return a century ago, barring that a
global nanotechnology / nuclear war doesn't break out in the next few
decades, I see no way anyone could stop genetically altered super-humans
from arising. What he should be arguing is that we should proceed into these
dangerous new waters with more caution than humans haphazardly had in their
progress in the early 20th century. We need to think through our invention's
long term effects and proceed with more caution, not stop all together and
start moving backwards.

Perhaps his book should have been titled: "Caution: Staying Humane in an
Engineered Age"


----- Original Message -----
From: "Medbh Clay" <>
To: <>
Sent: Saturday, March 08, 2003 12:10 PM
Subject: New Book - "Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age"

> Hello everyone,
> I was wondering if any of the list members had a chance to look at the
> following book, and if so what did they make of it? How should
> singularitarians respond to the concerns of individuals like Mr McKibben?
> Are such concerns legitimate?
> Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age
> by Bill McKibben
> Hardcover: 288 pages
> Publisher: Times Books; 1st edition (April 2003)
> ISBN: 0805070966
> Book Description
> From the bestselling author of The End of Nature comes a passionate plea
> limit the technologies that could change the very definition of who we
> We are on the verge of crossing the line from born to made, from created
> built. Sometime in the next few years, a scientist will reprogram a human
> egg or sperm cell, spawning a genetic change that could be passed down
> eternity. We are sleepwalking toward the future, argues Bill McKibben, and
> it’s time to open our eyes.In The End of Nature, nearly fifteen years ago,
> McKibben demonstrated that humanity had begun to irrevocably alter—and
> endanger—our environment on a global scale. Now he turns his eye to an
> of technologies that could change our relationship not with the rest of
> nature but with ourselves. He explores the frontiers of genetic
> robotics, and nanotechnology—all of which we are approaching with
> astonishing speed—and shows that each threatens to take us past a point of
> no return. We now stand at a critical threshold, poised between the human
> past and a post-human future. Ultimately, McKibben offers a celebration of
> what it means to be human, and a warning that we risk the loss of all
> meaning if we step across the threshold. His wise and eloquent book argues
> that we cannot forever grow in reach and power—that we must at last learn
> how to say, “Enough.”

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