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Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age
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Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age

4.5 2
by Bill McKibben

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Passionate, succinct, chilling, closely argued, sometimes hilarious, touchingly well-intentioned, and essential." —Margaret Atwood, The New York Review of Books

Nearly fifteen years ago, in The End of Nature, Bill McKibben demonstrated that humanity had begun to irrevocably alter and endanger our environment on a global scale. Now he


Passionate, succinct, chilling, closely argued, sometimes hilarious, touchingly well-intentioned, and essential." —Margaret Atwood, The New York Review of Books

Nearly fifteen years ago, in The End of Nature, Bill McKibben demonstrated that humanity had begun to irrevocably alter and endanger our environment on a global scale. Now he turns his eye to an array of technologies that could change our relationship not with the rest of nature but with ourselves. He explores the frontiers of genetic engineering, 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, in Michael Pollan's words, "on a moral and existential threshold," poised between the human past and a post-human future. 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. Instantly acclaimed for its passion and insight, this wise and eloquent book argues that we cannot forever grow in reach and power—that we must at last learn how to say, "Enough."

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Bill McKibben has produced a book that is both a sequel and an equal to his brilliant The End of Nature. Enough is an ambitious and important book.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Without question, this is one of the most important books of the year. McKibben deserves to be read, to be discussed, to be heard.” —San Diego Union-Tribune

“[A] brave and luminous book . . . Bill McKibben understands genetics--but he knows poetry, too.” —David Gelernter, Wired

“Bill McKibben has done a top-notch job of researching and writing about one of the most important topics of the current age. Enough is an important book and needs to be read by everyone with an interest in keeping the human future human.” —The Weekly Standard

“Fiercely important . . . the most thought-provoking piece of non-fiction I've read in a long time.” —The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

“In this wise, well-researched, and important book, Bill McKibben addresses the burning philosophical question of the new century, and the one that counts for the long haul: how to control the technoscientific juggernaut before it dehumanizes our species.” —E. O. Wilson, author of The Future of Life

“In Enough, McKibben shines his powerful light on another momentous change that is upon us: the ability to re-engineer ourselves and therefore the very meaning of human identity. If he is right, then humankind stands on a moral and existential threshold--or cliff. We would do well as a society to weigh his bracing argument before taking another step.” —Michael Pollan, author of The Botany of Desire

Publishers Weekly
In 1989, McKibben published The End of Nature, a gorgeously written and galvanizing book about the true cost of global warming, the destruction of the ozone layer and other man-made ills-the loss of wild nature and with it the priceless aspect of our humanity that evolved to listen to and heed it. Now McKibben applies the same passion, scholarship and free-ranging thought to a subject that even committed environmentalists have avoided. Here he tackles what it means to be human. Reporting from the frontiers of genetic research, nanotechnology and robotics, he explores that subtle moral and spiritual boundary that he calls the "enough point." Presenting an overview of what is or may soon be possible, McKibben contends that there is no boundary to human ambition or desire or to what our very inventions may make possible. In an absorbing and horrifying montage of images, he depicts microscopic nanobots consuming the world and children born so genetically enhanced that they will never be able to believe that they reach for the stars as pianists or painters or long-distance runners because there is something unique in them that has a passion to try. Indeed, in the view of the most unbridled "technoutopians," the day of the robotically striving human is already here. What does set a human being apart from other beings, McKibben argues, is our capacity for restraint-and even for finding great meaning in restraint. "We need to do an unlikely thing: We need to survey the world we now inhabit and proclaim it good. Good enough." McKibben presents an uncompromising view, and an essential view. Readers will come away from his latest brilliantly provocative work shaking their heads at the possible future he portrays, yet understanding that becoming a pain-free, all-but-immortal, genetically enhanced semi-robot may be deeply unsatisfactory compared to being an ordinary man or woman who has faced his or her fear of death to relish what is. This is a brilliant book that deserves a wide readership. Author tour. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Much as Francis Fukuyama discussed complex and nuanced bioethical choices in his Posthuman Future, McKibben, the well-regarded author of The End of Nature, argues convincingly for restraint in the current race to expand the frontiers of genetic engineering, robotics, and nanotechnology. McKibben asks good questions: have we really thought through all the implications of life prolongation and designer babies? Are we being realistic about our ability to "cure" mortality and to make good choices for ourselves and for others? These aren't easy issues to educate ourselves about, and McKibben's treatment led this reviewer to the web site of the President's Council of Bioethics (www.bioethics.gov) for more information, accessible to nonscientists, on cloning, sex selection, genetic enhancement, and in particular the search for perfection (www.bioethics.gov/ bookshelf/search). This can be frustrating, for no one has any real answers yet about these issues. But McKibben's work remains a good, stimulating read and a worthwhile addition to almost any library.-Mary Chitty, Cambridge Healthtech, Newton, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Bleakly expanding on arguments made in The End of Nature (1989), McKibben paints a grim canvas of what will happen if nothing is done to arrest the "technotopian" dreams of

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
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5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.65(d)

Read an Excerpt

From Enough:

What will you have done to your newborn when you have installed into the nucleus of every one of her billions of cells a purchased code that will pump out proteins designed to change her? You will have robbed her of the last possible chance for creating context—meaning—for her life. Say she finds herself, at the age of sixteen, unaccountably happy. Is it her being happy—finding, perhaps, the boy she will first love—or is it the corporate product inserted within her when she was a small nest of cells, an artificial chromosome now causing her body to produce more serotonin? Don't think she won't wonder: at sixteen a sensitive soul questions everything. But perhaps you've "increased her intelligence"—and perhaps that's why she is questioning so hard. She won't be sure if even the questions are hers.

Meet the Author

Bill McKibben writes regularly for The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, Natural History, The New Republic, and many other publications. His first book, The End of Nature, was published in 1989 after being excerpted in The New Yorker and was a national bestseller. His other books include The Age of Missing Information, Maybe One, and Long Distance: A Year of Living Strenuously. He lives with his wife, the writer Sue Halpern, and daughter in Vermont.

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Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most thoughtful, and sobering, books I've ever read. McKibben takes a deep, serious and well-researched look at the implications of genetic engineering, nanotechnology, robotics and artificial intelligence, and the post-human future he sees is chilling. Whether you are a technophobe or a technophile, this book is a must-read. If McKibben is right, the future will be here sooner than we think. The question is, will humanity as we know it be a part of it? Robert Adler, author of _Medical Firsts: From Hippocrates to the Human Genome_ and _Science Firsts: From the Creation of Science to the Science of Creation_.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Well, Bill McKibben is probably not going to join the Ayn Rand workgroup. In this little-noticed but important book, McKibben discusses the potential dark side of advanced technologies such as genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, robotics and nanotechnology. As opposed to some critics, he concentrates not on the physical danger (e.g. robots becoming smarter than us and taking over), but the threat to our humanness and freedom. For example, in the coming years parents may be able to increase the intelligence of their children through germline enhancements. This choice, McKibben asserts, actually reduces choice because all parents will be forced to make these enhancements or have less intelligent children. This illustrates the faulty logic that permeates his thinking. Parents will make this choice ¿ assuming the germline engineering is safe ¿ because it results in a benefit for their child. Isn¿t that what parents are supposed to do? If McKibben had his way, the government would eliminate this choice. Following his convoluted logic, the elimination of choice actually enhances choice. Although McKibben confuses his passion with logic, he does raise important issues. These technologies have significant risks and benefits; it¿s critical to have a thorough debate now, because they are emerging so rapidly. Properly managed, we can utilize them safely, even if we bumble from time to time. I recommend this book, even if you are on the other side of this issue. McKibben provides a good overview of the technologies and then explains his concerns. You may disagree, but his ideas get the juices going and make you think.