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Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution Paperback – May 1 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1 edition (May 1 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312421710
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312421717
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 16.2 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 91 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #148,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Neil Cotiaux on Nov. 11 2003
Format: Paperback
What is "human nature"? And will failure to initiate widespread government oversight of scientific research that could change this definition open a Pandora's Box of dire consequences?
Fukuyama suggests that failure to impose substantial government dictates over the "when's" and "how's" of future research centering on the human body and mind will precipitate a significant sea change in the inherent nature of our species, how we interact with one another, and a potential threat to Liberal Democracy. The implicit message is that unfettered scientific inquiry will lead to developments we will come to deeply regret.
While Fukuyama correctly illustrates the "easy fixes" that our society has latched onto (Prozac, Ritilin: Who said freedom to choose would mean wise choices?), his thesis fails to acknowledge the considerable roadblocks that Religion and State have placed in the way of the evolution of our species throughout history.
"Human nature" has, in fact, demonstrated a rather elastic nature over time. If one accepts the premise that human nature is fixed in an eternal quest for freedom, self-development and dignity and is manifested in superior intelligence, then one would want to remove any artificial roadblocks to creating the maximum environment in which these attributes could flourish. How else to explain the demise of almost all competing political models to Liberal Democracy? Yet, Fukuyama proposes a step backward, based on what appears to be a fixed, non-elastic definition of human nature.
Were a caveman to be plopped down in the late 20th Century and witness the first heart transplant, would he recoil in disgust and declare the practice inimical to the basic fabric of human existence? Quite likely.
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Format: Paperback
There is no great revolutionary thesis here of the kind that Fukuyama astonished the world with in his previous work, claiming that the end of history had come and it is the triumph of liberal democracy. But there is the same kind of reasoned and measured thought, this time about the very nature of what it means to be human, and the threats to our humanity posed by our own technological innovations.
It seems to me that Fukuyama touches on only a share of the problems involved with the question. And I believe he could be helped had he relied on the Jewish conception , that human beings are creators creating in the image of the Creator and therefore constantly recreating themselves. i.e. by the conception that the essence of Mankind is in transcending our past humanity to create our next stage of development. In any case this is an important book for anyone who would understand the problems Humanity is facing today in regard to its own essence and future.
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Format: Paperback
By almost any standard, social philosopher Francis Fukuyama's "Our Posthuman Future" is an important book. In it, he explores near-term breakthroughs in neuropharmacology (i.e., Prozac, Ritalin, Zoloft), genetic screening and the looming prospect of germ-line genetic engineering, which could conceivably fracture the human race beyond recognition a la Aldous Huxley's cautionary masterpiece "Brave New World." Fukuyama is an engaging polemicist who knows biotechnology and harbors understandable reservations about its potential. So perhaps it's surprising that I don't agree with his thesis.
Much of "Our Posthuman Future" is devoted to Fukuyama's case for "human nature" and "human dignity." One can hardly blame him; the technologies he describes pose grave existential questions for the human condition. We may very well evolve into a "posthuman" stage of being. My central problem is Fukuyama's negative reading of the term "posthuman"; though he applauds biotech breakthroughs that have prolonged and improved human life, he equates "posthuman" with the soulless "happy slaves" of dystopian science fiction. He seems unable or unwilling to foster the notion that willfully upgrading the human species through psychotropic drugs or genetic intervention might result in a legitimate long-term improvement. Fukuyama accomplishes his literary mission by vigorously defending what he terms "human nature." To his credit, he gives us a robust historical model of what it means to be human, citing philosophers from Aristotle to Nietzsche and even name-dropping roboticist Hans Moravec and artificial intelligence advocate Ray Kurzweil.
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By A Customer on April 8 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a book with many virtues and one fatal flaw. Among the former are a clear, lucid style and an impressive overview of the state of the art in contemporary genetic science and the moral debates that they have provoked. This book is highly recommended to those who are relatively new to these issues and want a superb, layman's introduction.
But the book's central argument is embarrassingly weak. Fukuyama relies on Aristotle to support his central claim that morality ought to be grounded in an essential conception of human nature, the substance of which he sketches in the core chapters of the book. Scientific techniques should be regulated by the state, he argues, so that they do not threaten this nature, and thereby constitute an assault on human dignity.
The flaw here is what 20th Century philosophers have labelled "the naturalistic fallacy": deriving a statement of value from a statement(s) of fact(s). In a word, facts tell us nothing about what is valuable. Fukuyama confronts this objection head-on by denying that the naturalistic fallacy really is a fallacy. (The "naturalistic fallacy fallacy"!) I admire his intellectual gusto in doing so, although he had little choice if he wanted his argument to have some chance of success. But he just isn't a good enough philosopher to pull it off. He doesn't even come remotely close. The fact that many philosophers (eg. Kant, Rawls) who accept that this is a fallacy have made claims about human nature--this is Fukuyama's main counter-argument--may be true, but it simply goes to show that they were inconsistent; it doesn't touch the naturalistic fallacy. That is the (weak) heart of his counter-argument. This isn't a minor problem for Fukuyama. His whole argument pivots on it.
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