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Living with the Genie: Essays on Technology and the Quest for Human Mastery / Edition 1

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<p>Biotechnology…Cloning…Robotics…Nanotechnology…..<p>At a time when scientific and technological breakthroughs keep our eyes focused on the latest software upgrades or the newest cell-phone wizardry, a group of today’s most innovative thinkers are looking beyond the horizon to explore both the promise and the peril of our technological future.<p>Human ingenuity has granted us a world of unprecedented personal power—enabling us to communicate instantaneously with anyone anywhere on the globe, to transport ourselves in both real and virtual worlds to distant places with ease, to fill our bellies with engineered commodities once available to only a privileged elite.<p>Through our technologies, we have sought to free ourselves from the shackles of nature and become its master. Yet science and technology continually transform our experience and society in ways that often seem to be beyond our control. Today, different areas of research and innovation are advancing synergistically, multiplying the rate and magnitude of technological and societal change, with consequences that no one can predict. Living with the Genie explores the origins, nature, and meaning of such change, and our capacity to govern it. As the power of technology continues to accelerate, who, this book asks, will be the master of whom?<p>In Living with the Genie, leading writers and thinkers come together to confront this question from many perspectives, including:<ul><li> Richard Powers’ whimsical investigation of the limits of artificial intelligence<li> Philip Kitcher’s confrontation of the moral implications of science<li> Richard Rhodes’ exploration of the role of technology in reducing violence<li> Shiv Visvanathan’s analysis of technology’s genocidal potential<li> Lori Andrews’ insights into the quest for human genetic enhancement<li> Alan Lightman’s reflections on how technology changes the experience of our humanness<p>These and ten other provocative essays open the door to a new dialogue on how, in the quest for human mastery, technology may be changing what it means to be human, in ways we scarcely comprehend.
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Editorial Reviews


"...with its balance, it is a welcome alternative to extremes such as the technophobia of McKibben's Enough and the technophilia of Lee Silver's Remaking Eden"

"A group of remarkably penetrating, frank, and expert scientists, techno-wizards, activists, and writers raise provocative questions about what is gained and what is lost in a world enthralled by technology in this wonderfully soulful forum on life in the 'Wired World.'"
author of The Botany of Desire - Michael Pollan

"Living with the Genie is a smart, critical, and eloquent contribution to the great debate of our time: as science and technology acquire the power to redefine what it means to be human, who gets to control the power, and to what ends? Much of what passes for technology criticism these days boils down the little more than Luddism; Living with the Genie is the real thing: deeply informed, clear-eyed, and demanding of our full attention."
author of The Eagle's Shadow - Mark Hertsgaard

"This book examines—with wit, imagination, and rigor—a great paradox of humanity's past and especially its future. From the first stone tools to tomorrow's molecular robots, technology has been at once our servant and our master. It has filled bellies but assaulted ecosystems, saved time but undermined community, cured disease but threatened apocalypse. Can't live with it, can't live without it, but this book will help you think afresh about technology, and act accordingly."
author of Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age - Bill McKibben

"The great question of this century may be whether we are still human beings when it ends. This book does a fine job of laying out some of the key battle lines—and it includes several truly essential essays that advance the cautionary case onto new ground."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559635745
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/2004
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Lightman, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a physicist and novelist. His books include Einstein's Dreams, The Diagnosis, and Reunion.

Daniel Sarewitz was founding director of Columbia University's Center for Science, Policy, and Outcomes, and is author of Frontiers of Illusion.

Christina Desser directs the Funder's Working Group on Emerging Technologies, an association of foundations concerned about the environmental, cultural, and political implications of new technology.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Literary Devices 5
2 The Origin of the Genie 23
3 Promise and Peril 35
4 Small is Powerful 63
5 Your Breath Is Your Worst Enemy 85
6 Changing Conceptions 105
7 Technology and Death 129
8 Confined to Your Legs 139
9 Progress and Violence 157
10 Science and Happiness 181
11 What Kinds of Science Should Be Done? 201
12 The Humpty Dumpty Problem 225
13 Who Owns Your Dinner? 241
14 Blowback in Genetic Engineering 261
15 Only Connect 273
16 The World Is Too Much with Me 287
Acknowledgments 305
Notes 307
About the Authors 331
Index 337
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