Upgrade Me: Our Amazing Journey to Human 2.0

Overview

Biologically, human beings haven’t changed in 100,000 years – but thanks to our amazing brains we can upgrade ourselves to add capabilities that took other creatures millions of years to evolve. Thanks to this “unnatural” evolution we are already Human 2.0. In the effort to stay alive, reproduce and make more of brains, we have transformed ourselves. Now with a better understanding of the mechanisms of the body, cloning, gene therapy, bionics, and other technologies, our rate of change is getting ever faster. ...

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Overview

Biologically, human beings haven’t changed in 100,000 years – but thanks to our amazing brains we can upgrade ourselves to add capabilities that took other creatures millions of years to evolve. Thanks to this “unnatural” evolution we are already Human 2.0. In the effort to stay alive, reproduce and make more of brains, we have transformed ourselves. Now with a better understanding of the mechanisms of the body, cloning, gene therapy, bionics, and other technologies, our rate of change is getting ever faster. This process of upgrading is nothing new. It has been around for millennia, and it raises some provocative questions. What will the future hold? Will our drive to upgrade continue to give positive benefits, or will it result in destruction? Where is our evolutionary survival heading? Sure to cause much debate, UPGRADE ME is science journalist Brian Clegg's ambitious and brilliant account of humanity's need to upgrade

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The biologists tell us that we are no different to the original humans 100,000 years ago. This remarkable book shows how we have become much, more than Human 1.0

Dr Peet Morris. Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Couching his discussion of mankind's next steps in the context of human evolution, and especially the past 100,000 years of our own "directed enhancement," author and science writer Clegg (The God Effect, A Brief History of Infinity, etc.) challenges the assumptions of futurologists, and their opponents, to produce a fascinating and readily graspable vision of our past and future. While rejecting extreme predictions from tech-obsessed prognosticators like Ray Kurzweil, Clegg embraces technology of all kinds, from clothing to domesticated dogs to gene therapy, arguing that the ability to move "beyond our biology" (to "live longer... make the most of our brains, and to repair damaged bodies") is inherent to the species. When "prehumans" faced predators on the savannah five million years ago, natural selection favored those inclined to cooperate, a trait likely associated with more juvenile characteristics (dovetailing with humans' lack of hair and relatively small physique). Then, a hundred thousand years ago, a genetic change allowed humans to see beyond the here and now-"to dream, to plan, to anticipate"-and kicked off the unnatural evolution of human invention. Zeroing in on the evolutionary torches picked up by old and emerging technology, Clegg takes a balanced look at the possibilities of biotechnologies like cloning, nanoscopic machines and brain-enhancing drugs or chips. Clegg's latest will engage scientists and lay readers with a thorough, level-headed, reader-friendly treatment of controversial and complex material.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
Human enhancement is nothing new, declares this British science writer; it began almost as soon as our ancestors came out of the trees. People have been improving on biology since the days of stone tools, posits Clegg (The Man Who Stopped Time: The Illuminating Story of Eadweard Muybridge-Pioneer Photographer, Father of the Motion Picture, Murderer, 2007, etc.). The imperatives of staying alive, reproducing, defending themselves, improving their brains and healing injuries led our ancestors to adopt various strategies that separated them from animals. Clegg devotes a chapter to each imperative. Cheating death began with the use of cave shelters and fire to keep predators at bay. Now, if the predictions of Ray Kurzweil are valid, indefinitely long life spans may be within our reach through genetic manipulation and the use of microbots to repair our bodies from within. Making ourselves attractive to the opposite sex leads from simple cosmetics to complex bodily modifications; cosmetic surgery is only the beginning. Sticks and stones extend our reach and power, but almost as long as we've been human we've also been using subtler tools: language, fire, domestic animals. Brain enhancement can be as simple as the morning coffee that gives us the ability to concentrate. Less obvious memory-enhancement techniques include visualization; down the road, we may be able to absorb knowledge directly, like loading software on a computer. Medicine has come a long way, but such aids to the injured as crutches date to ancient times, eyeglasses at least to the Renaissance. In time, we may be able to use mechanical aids on a much more radical level, making ourselves amalgams of organism and computer. Cleggis skeptical of radical predictions such as the Singularity, that point at which unmodified humans become obsolete, replaced by more advanced computerized brains. Nonetheless, he persuasively argues that enhancement is inevitable, and in fact one of the most central characteristics of our species. Human 2.0 is already here. A readable, idea-packed look at the outer limits of human potential. Agent: Peter Cox/Redhammer
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312371579
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/22/2008
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.58 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

BRIAN CLEGG is the author of THE GOD EFFECT, A BRIEF HISTORY OF INFINITY, THE FIRST SCIENTIST: A Life of Roger Bacon, and LIGHT YEARS: The Extraordinary Story of Mankind's Fascination with Light. He lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and two children.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction     1
Beyond Biology     5
Cheating Death     15
Cosmetic Charisma     75
The Strength of Ten     123
The Deadliest Weapon     161
Body Shop     211
Monsters and Mutants     237
Human 2.0     277
Notes     293
Index     303
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    All technology is an attempt to transcend human nature, and we may get it done, for good

    This is a very good read on why human enhancement has been good for us and why we should continue to enhance ourselves. Although the subtitle of the book is "Our Amazing Journey to Human 2.0," the first two-thirds of the book is a look back in history. It explains in detail the central point that all technology is an attempt to transcend human nature. We have been enhancing ourselves since the beginning - the first woven garment, for example, appeared as early as 25,000 B.C. From wearing eyeglasses to drinking coffee, once a new technology has proven to work and become affordable, we all love to embrace it and gradually take it for granted.
    The big difference today is emerging new technologies are not just providing add-ons and networking capabilities to the human body, but also approaching the threat hold of modifying the core of human nature. So the rest of the book effectively addresses various concerns about changing ourselves.
    Will cognitive enhancement make us dumber somehow? No, the author points out that
    "When the slide rules were replaced by the calculators, everyone said the next generation won't understand math the same way - it didn't happen. When computers came along, many predicted that learning as we know it would collapse. It didn't."
    Will genetic tinkering lead to catastrophe? Not necessarily. In fact, commenting on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein story, Clegg said, "Biologically speaking, every one of us is a particular kind of monster - a mutant." Rather than random mutations that mostly end in biological defects, our self-enhancement with conscious direction has much less of a tendency to produce impractical monstrosity.
    Finally, there is also a lot to be said about the philosophical concern, raised by President Bush's Council on Bioethics, that enhanced humans would lead "flat empty lives, devoid of love and longing, filled only with trivial pursuits and shallow attachments." Clegg points out that the ability to avoid doing all the grunt work does not necessarily lead to a quality deterioration of our lives. Indeed, modern day professional work in design, engineering, business administration, etc. is far more creative and rewarding than assembly line or hamburger flipping low-skill work.
    The book ends with a healthy dose of realism: "It would be foolish to portray our ability to enhance ourselves as wholly positive." Risk is unavoidable, though it can be managed with our conscious efforts.

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