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Redesigning Humans: Choosing our genes, changing our future [Paperback]

Gregory Stock
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 11 2003
A groundbreaking work, Redesigning Humans tackles the controversial subject of engineering the human germline -- the process of permanently altering the genetic code of an individual so that the changes are passed on to the offspring. Gregory Stock, an expert on the implications of recent advances in reproductive biology, has glimpsed the inevitable future of biomedical engineering. Within decades, Stock asserts, technological advances will bring meaningful changes to our offspring; this scientific revolution promises to fundamentally alter the human species. With recent findings presented in a new afterword, Stock's provocative assessment cuts through the debate to envision an age of radical biotechnological advancement and unprecedented human choice.

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Will the genetic research that gave us the Flavr Savr tomato also give us the power to customize our children? Medical thinker Gregory Stock believes that this is precisely what's happening and that we'd better get used to it fast. Redesigning Humans: Our Inevitable Genetic Future explores gender selection, gene therapy, germinal choice, and many more options available now or in the near future, but lays aside the hysteria common to such discussions.

Stock sees the cloning controversy as a distraction from issues of real importance, such as balancing offspring trait selection against eugenics. Writing with the clarity and precision of a philosopher, Stock engages his readers with thought exercises and real-life examples. While not a brainless cheerleader for big science, he believes that we can, and certainly will, use any means necessary to give our children an edge, even if it means profound changes for our species. Redesigning Humans offers the hope that these changes need not be catastrophic if we pay attention now. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Rather than worry about the ethics of human cloning, Stock (Metaman; The Book of Questions), director of the UCLA School of Medicine's Program of Medicine, Technology and Society, believes we should focus our attention on the idea that we'll soon be able to genetically manipulate embryos to develop desired traits a more immediate and enticing possibility for most parents than cloning. He gives a lucid overview of the new biotechnology that will allow scientists to delay aging and to insert genes that enhance physical and cognitive performance, combat disease or improve looks into embryos. Stock thoughtfully weighs the ethical dilemmas such advances present, arguing that the real threat is not frivolous abuse of technology but the fact that we don't know the long-term effects of these genetic changes. In any case, Stock insists, there's no turning back, and government bans "will determine not whether the technologies will be available, but where, who profits from them, who shapes their development, and which parents have early access to them." Stock demonstrates that much of the current criticism of human genetic engineering sounds remarkably similar to what was being said about in vitro fertilization when it first appeared. He believes that we will come to accept laboratory conception of all offspring and the addition of artificial chromosomes stocked with designer genes as readily as we have come to accept in vitro fertilization. Along the way we are sure to have many ethical issues to confront, issues that Stock does an impressive job of outlining.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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I picked up this book just based on its title (a highly inadvisable practice), which was the first of many dissapointments I had with this book. First off, "Redesigning Humans, Our Inevitable Genetic Future" would be more appropriately named "Redesigning Our Children, Humanities Inevitable Genetic Future". You see, this book isn't really about redesigning "us", it's about a technological process called "germline engineering". This technology intervenes with "germ cells" (like sperm and egg) to alter their blueprint (from which our biology originates).
Granted, germline engineering is interesting, and I think the author makes a good case for its "inevitability", but in my humble opinion if you're broadly interested in how science will one day alter mankind's basic physical makeup, or specifically interested in how science will alter our biology, there far more interesting reads than this one.
Which brings me to the meat of my point...I'm not arguing Gregory Stocks credentials, and clearly he's a very well educated, well researched scientist (Director of the Medicine, Technology, and Society program at UCLA), but from the outset of this book, he seemed way too biased towards germline engineering, and almost arrogant about germlines superiority as an agent of future change vs. other interesting technology vectors. On page 20 he summarily dismisses an entire scientific school of thought centered around machine augmentation of biology and capability (headed by such credentialed scientists as R.
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As E.O Wilson notes in his blurb for the back cover of this book, it is amazing how few philosophers are really willing to pay attention to and write about genetic engineering. Especially in light of Stock's thesis: Genetic engineering, like it or not, is comming, ready or not.
Honestly, I thought that Stock's book would be one of the few to really provide moral arguments for genetic engineering, particularly 'extratherapeutic' engineering. While there is a little of that, the book devotes much more time to exploring the inefficacy (in a utilitarian sense) of government regulations and bans on therapy. In that sense, his book is not quite a moral response to ethical luddites like Kass and McKibben, but governmental luddites like Fukuyama.
Without spoiling the book for you, I will summarize some of his reasons (so you get the flavor: 1.) like abortion, there is simply too much demand for such therapies (and those that don't believe this should look at how much we spend on 'anti-aging' pills and surgeries). Thus, there is too much incentive for consumers to form black markets should bans be in place. 2.) Due to the plurality of world politics, such bans are, at best, regional. While Germany might ban research, China surely will not. 3.) Like abortion and drugs, black markets will be more dangerous that publically visible and monitorible legal ones. 4.) Bans or strict controls are going to cost astronomical amounts of money (and privacy) to prevent and catch law-breakers.
There. I've only given you a taste, and if any of those arguments sound frail, read the book. The elaborations are first rate! This brings me to two small complaints.
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James Watson, codiscoverer of the structure of DNA, asked, "If we could make better humans ... why shouldn't we?" That question is at the core of this book, and Gregory Stock responds in the affirmative. Not that we have a choice, he asserts; genetic engineering is coming whether we like it or not. And he makes a damn good case.
Rather than getting right to it, however, he begins with an anti-Kurzweil chapter. Ray Kurzweil is the author of the Age of Spiritual Machines, which projects the rapid development of artificial intelligence during the next few decades and the integration of human and machine intelligence (see my review). Stock argues that the interface between the human nervous system and silicon would be incredibly complex, making it highly unlikely we will be physically integrated with our computers within this timeframe. He believes that we will communicate much more effectively with the machines through our senses, becoming fyborgs (functional cyborgs).
Then he moves on to the main course, beginning with preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). Physicians have been performing genetic testing of embryos since 1989, with screening now available for a handful of genetic diseases. This technology will continue to expand, allowing parents to select specific embryos for implantation in the uterus, effectively enabling us to have children with certain genetic tendencies. The next advance, germinal choice technologies (GCT), will arrive within the next decade or two, allowing us to enhance our children's naturally occurring genetic inheritance. Artificial chromosomes, loaded with selected genes, might be the foundation.
Stock understands how divisive this issue will be, but argues that it can't be halted (not that he wants to stop it).
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Begins well but Ends badly...
Certain parts of the book are very interesting and enlightening, but most of it is a semi-rant which does not go anywhere and neither does it provide enough info for the reader to... Read more
Published on Dec 10 2003 by Avaksi
5.0 out of 5 stars Scary, insightful and well written by someone who knows
Greg Stock, is an excellent writer. This is quite a departure from his Book of Questions. Greg knows all the players in the legitimate life extension game. Read more
Published on Aug. 25 2003 by Quinbould
4.0 out of 5 stars Gene therapy on the horizon
Germline gene therapy is the manipulation of the genome at the germinal stage (i.e. at conception) as distinct from somatic gene therapy, which involves the manipulation of living... Read more
Published on Aug. 19 2003 by PAUL FARRINGTON
2.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre
"Redesigning Humans" is an attempt to deal with the growing debate about whether or not science and genetic manipulation should be used to try to "improve" on our species. Read more
Published on Aug. 17 2003 by Rodney E. Shackelford
The first half of this book was interesting and original. Stock distinguishes between a cyborg and a "fyborg. Read more
Published on June 27 2003 by Worldreels
4.0 out of 5 stars �We are not about to turn away from this.�
Gregory Stock, director of the Program of Medicine, Technology and Society at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine, believes that the possibility... Read more
Published on May 6 2003 by Cameron Reilly
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a book, a bad essay...
As one who is broadly wary of and disturbed by many of the radically new biological technologies emerging today, and by those who are gung-ho to implement them as soon as possible,... Read more
Published on April 22 2003 by Rob Hollister, Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars awesome
This book is awesome. It incoporates transhuman philosophy without their childish lack of scientific grounding, and the science of the bioethics council speakers without their... Read more
Published on March 15 2003 by xris
4.0 out of 5 stars Sounds good - but a daunting task
This book is worth reading but I just have a few questions about its contents...
What's going to stop the human artificial chromosomes (HACs) from forming deleterious... Read more
Published on Dec 4 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting book
Book is unique, interesting, and I can see so much through out the book what the author thinks about the topic. Very humane perspective and very caring. Read more
Published on July 12 2002 by gabriella
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