In Our Posthuman Future, Francis Fukuyama navigates the world beyond his The End of History. According to this cutting-edge theorist, discoveries in biotechnology have the potential to change human nature and undermine human dignity. Arguing that limits must be and can be put on biotechnology, Fukuyama asserts that state power must be used to regulate biotechnology, our Brave New World fears notwithstanding. Our Posthuman Future is social philosophy of the most controversial sort.
Fukuyama (The End of History and the Last Man; Trust) is no stranger to controversial theses, and here he advances two: that there are sound nonreligious reasons to put limits on biotechnology, and that such limits can be enforced. Fukuyama argues that "the most significant threat" from biotechnology is "the possibility that it will alter human nature and thereby move us into a `posthuman' stage of history." The most obvious way that might happen is through the achievement of genetically engineered "designer babies," but he presents other, imminent routes as well: research on the genetic basis of behavior; neuropharmacology, which has already begun to reshape human behavior through drugs like Prozac and Ritalin; and the prolongation of life, to the extent that society might come "to resemble a giant nursing home." Fukuyama then draws on Aristotle and the concept of "natural right" to argue against unfettered development of biotechnology. His claim is that a substantive human nature exists, that basic ethical principles and political rights such as equality are based on judgments about that nature, and therefore that human dignity itself could be lost if human nature is altered. Finally, he argues that state power, possibly in the form of new regulatory institutions, should be used to regulate biotechnology, and that pessimism about the ability of the global community to do this is unwarranted. Throughout, Fukuyama avoids ideological straitjackets and articulates a position that is neither Luddite nor laissez-faire. The result is a well-written, carefully reasoned assessment of the perils and promise of biotechnology, and of the possible safeguards against its misuse. (Apr.) Forecast: As the FSG publicity material notes, Fukuyama famously declared in the wake of communism's collapse that "the major alternatives to liberal democracy" had "exhausted themselves." This less dramatic assessment should still win a hearing, if not among scientists then among a public concerned about science's growing power. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
In 1989, Fukuyama proclaimed the end of history. So what happened? Here he explains that we haven't yet reached the end of science. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
To clone or not to clone? asks social philosopher Fukuyama (The Great Disruption, 1999, etc.) in his latest disquisition on science and society. Reproductive cloning (people) and therapeutic cloning (embryonic stem cells) are not the author's only concerns. What are we to do in a society that uses and abuses Prozac and Ritalin, one that is eager to exploit potential genes for intelligence or height or prolonged aging? Grim scenarios follow: the rich with designer babies; the poor ever more deprived; societies, even democracies, doomed to stagnation from the weight of aging natives dependent on youthful immigrants. And on and on to a "posthuman" existence in which membership in the human race may be problematic, given a genome spliced with so many non-Homo sapien genes. What to do? Fukuyama argues the need to restore notions of human rights, human nature, human dignity. Here he is in his element, critiquing the philosophies of Hobbes, Hume, Mill, Locke, Kant, Marx, et al., down to contemporary theorists. Fukuyama concludes that human values are intimately bound up with human emotions and that these are intrinsically linked to "species-typical behavior " (human nature redux). The final leap is to human dignity, the notion that all humanity exists on a higher moral plane than the rest of the natural world. It follows that acts that deny human dignity, such as reproductive cloning, should be banned outright. As for therapeutic cloning, genetically modified foods, human genetic engineering, etc., Fukuyama urges regulation (providing a useful summary of rules currently in place here and abroad) and wariness. Though he has famously said that there can be no end to history as long as sciencemarches on, he worries lest science take us over the edge of the slippery slope. Many won't buy the human dignity thesis or dystopian nightmares, but credit the author for laying out how we got to this pass and why we need to act.
“Stunning...The genius of Our Posthuman Future is that it brings home just how important [these issues] will be in our immediate future for ordinary people.” San Francisco Chronicle
“Invaluable...Rarely has someone entering the policy arena so eloquently and precisely laid out the case for political control of emerging technology.” Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A timely, thoughtful and well-argued contribution to an important subject.” The New York Times Book Review
“A provocative argument that raises the nature-versus-nurture debate and questions about the role biology plays in human nature.” Chicago Tribune
“A lucid overview of the biotechnology revolution and its discontents...For anyone seeking an ideal entry into the biotechnology debate, Fukuyama's book is it.” National Review
“This groundbreaking inquiry...provides a remarkably sensible and human vision of what is at stake and what needs to be done.” Foreign Affairs
“[A] comprehensive guidebook for policymakers.” Dow Jones
“A cogent and important argument against the technocrats and ‘casual academic Darwinians' who have so enthusiastically attempted to reduce our humanity to an increasingly implausible and culturally neutral calculus.” Times Literary Supplement
“In Our Posthuman Future, he has looked past the end of history and described the end of mankind...[An] informative survey of contemporary bioscience and its political implications [and] an effort to lay ethical foundations for policy judgments.” The American Prospect