The Techno-Human Condition

The Techno-Human Condition

by Braden R. Allenby, Daniel Sarewitz
     
 

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In The Techno-Human Condition, Braden Allenby and Daniel Sarewitz explore what it means to be human in an era of incomprehensible technological complexity and change. They argue that if we are to have any prospect of managing that complexity, we will need to escape the shackles of current assumptions about rationality, progress, and certainty, even as we

Overview

In The Techno-Human Condition, Braden Allenby and Daniel Sarewitz explore what it means to be human in an era of incomprehensible technological complexity and change. They argue that if we are to have any prospect of managing that complexity, we will need to escape the shackles of current assumptions about rationality, progress, and certainty, even as we maintain a commitment to fundamental human values.Humans have been co-evolving with their technologies since the dawn of prehistory. What is different now is that we have moved beyond external technological interventions to transform ourselves from the inside out -- even as we also remake the Earth system itself. Coping with this new reality, say Allenby and Sarewitz, means liberating ourselves from such categories as "human," "technological," and "natural" to embrace a new techno-human relationship.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Allenby (Reconstructing Earth) and Sarewitz (Frontiers of Illusion) explore the radical technological enhancement of people, or "transhumanism." Humanity today can be defined through our relationship with technology, but human evolution is nothing more than a series of enhancements; the "new-and-improved-model human brain and body," with its "fully re-engineered immune system...renders all previous models obsolete." After a quick history lesson, the authors delve into cognitive and genetic technological progress, the subjectivity problem with "progress" (the defeat of Nazism and life with The Bomb both show "progress"), and three levels of tech: a means through which a society meets its goals; a "networked" social and cultural phenomenon; and a wildly complex, constantly adapting "Earth system." The authors dismiss the binary debate of transhumanism as between the individual and the institution, and discuss the "existential challenge to society" brought be tech-aided warfare; in this context the authors see the 2003 invasion of Iraq as conflating "technological dominance and military power at Level I...with national security at Level III" and cite similar "category confusion" in America's response to terrorism. With the imperative for adaptability wired into every chapter, Allenby and Sarewitz entertaining articulate the importance of understanding the condition that has captured their imaginations and embroiled them in a "several-year running argument." (Apr.)
From the Publisher

"[A] valuable book" -- Andrew C. Revkin, Dot
Earth
- A New York Times blog

The MIT Press

" The Techno-Human Condition will infuriate some,
be dismissed out-of-hand by a few, but will unsettle almost all readers. The reason is, that while Allenby & Sarewitz's analysis of current problem solving is a bitter pill to swallow, there is an underlying understanding that their approach is not only correct but also essential to embrace. The book is a fast-paced, easy read.
I couldn't put it down." -- Leonardo

The MIT Press

"An important, provocative, and wide-ranging volume on the role of technology in our rapidly changing Anthropocene-era world. Essential reading for anyone interested in Methods to Shape the Future, World Futures, Security,
Sustainability, and science/technology in general... a stimulating and timely book."
-- Michael Marien, Global Foresight
Books

The MIT Press

Dot Earth- A New York Times blog - Andrew C. Revkin

[A] valuable book.

Leonardo

The Techno-Human Condition will infuriate some, be dismissed out-of-hand by a few, but will unsettle almost all readers. The reason is,
that while Allenby & Sarewitz's analysis of current problem solving is a bitter pill to swallow, there is an underlying understanding that their approach is not only correct but also essential to embrace. The book is a fast-paced, easy read. I
couldn't put it down.

Global Foresight Books - Michael Marien

An important, provocative, and wide-ranging volume on the role of technology in our rapidly changing Anthropocene-era world. Essential reading for anyone interested in Methods to Shape the Future, World Futures, Security,
Sustainability, and science/technology in general... a stimulating and timely book.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780262294409
Publisher:
MIT Press
Publication date:
04/22/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
240
File size:
992 KB

What People are saying about this

Richard Rhodes

A smart, articulate, and even witty investigation that avoids derailing into either the utopian or the dystopian. If the best is enemy of the good,
The Techno-Human Condition is the good at its best.

From the Publisher

"A smart, articulate, and even witty investigation that avoids derailing into either the utopian or the dystopian. If the best is enemy of the good,
The Techno-Human Condition is the good at its best." --
Richard Rhodes , author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book
The Making of the Atomic Bomb

The MIT Press

"The Techno-Human Condition is first a cogent description of modernity from the perspective of a technological worldview and second a prescription for our problems through a rejuvenation of key Enlightenment precepts. The authors have clearly outlined how and why we are facing a fundamental cultural crisis precipitated by 'wicked complexity,' and this book is a clarion call for radical adjustment. I predict it will become a touchstone for reorienting our thinking about techno-society and the need to reconsider how global problems are faced by industrial societies." -- Alfred I. Tauber , Professor of Philosophy and Zoltan Kohn Professor of Medicine, Boston University

The MIT Press

"I loved this book! I literally couldn't put it down! It made me think about the broad implications of my own research. My program is now to think about the issues the authors raise, and then to re-read the book in light of those musings. I just wish I could have the authors in my living room for a few hours (or days) to probe the issues they raise." -- Wm. A. Wulf ,
University Professor, University of Virginia; President Emeritus, National Academy of Engineering

The MIT Press

Wm. A. Wulf

I loved this book! I literally couldn't put it down! It made me think about the broad implications of my own research. My program is now to think about the issues the authors raise, and then to re-read the book in light of those musings. I just wish I could have the authors in my living room for a few hours (or days) to probe the issues they raise.

Alfred I. Tauber

The Techno-Human Condition is first a cogent description of modernity from the perspective of a technological worldview and second a prescription for our problems through a rejuvenation of key Enlightenment precepts. The authors have clearly outlined how and why we are facing a fundamental cultural crisis precipitated by 'wicked complexity,' and this book is a clarion call for radical adjustment. I predict it will become a touchstone for reorienting our thinking about techno-society and the need to reconsider how global problems are faced by industrial societies.

Meet the Author

Braden R. Allenby is Founding Director of the Center for Earth Systems
Engineering and Management, Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics, and
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Arizona State University. He is the author of Reconstructing Earth: Technology and Environment in the Age of Humans.

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