Radical Evolution

Radical Evolution

by Joel Garreau

Book Report


It is written in a journalistic manner. The actors, their interests, writings and opinions, pasts and personal characteristics are interesting. But not as interesting as the moral and philosophical dimensions of the problems presented. I was more intrigued by Kass’ approach in Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity, and his writings on the President’s Council on Bioethics. Some of these actors were Bill Joy, Ray Kurzweill, DARPA, and Jaron Lanier.

I kept thinking about how all the inventions and tinkeringsare for the fulfillment of human desires, thinly understood. If our purpose is please, that is easy to grasp and pursue. But Lanier says that the great craving is for meaning. His hope is that the new technology will increase connections between people and so it will be fine and dandy. Increasing connections between people is his only criterion for meaning. But the connections he speaks about are shallow, reminding me of singles bar evenings, and cell phone networking, fund but flimsy, fleeting and insubstantial. Ah, insubstantial vs. substantial. They come from the word substance. Substance; that’s what we are after, and what biotechnology, engineering, drugs and nanotechnology cannot deliver. We crave to know who we are, why the earth even bothers to have people, and what we should do with our lives. “Beef: It’s What’s For Dinner”. “Meaning: It’s WhatWe Want”.

About two thirds of the way through the book, I realized that the idea of family had not come up, though a father’s concern that his daughter get biomechanical aids from the new brain/computer technology is the beginning point of the first chapter. That’s as close as we get to family until much later. This omission is glaring. Garreau’s dismissal or oversight of family tells me much of what is missing from the debate about the wisdom of employing these new technologies. Fleeting friendships and collegial associations pale compared to the substance that we know in the relationship of a family, built on marriage, forged in the fires of commitment.

To me, family is the focal point of the debate and concerns. Loss of family relations, as we have seen since the advent of birth control, and the sexual liberation, and as will only increase with the genetic technologies, is the prime worry. We will not even need to do genealogy, nor will we be able to , because our relationship to our predecessors will be so undefined. This is where we will lose meaning, and humanity.


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