Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies -- and What It Means to Be Human

~by Joel Garreau

Basically, Joel Garreau has turned complex scientific developments into a human interest story. Throughout, the author examines GRIN technologies: genetic, robotic, information, and nano. He interviews several prominent people in the various fields, asking--What happens when we not only use these technologies to affect the world around us, but turn them on ourselves?

He outlines three main scenarios--Heaven, Hell, and Prevail, focusing on the work of Ray Kurzweil, Bill Joy, and Jaron Lanier, respectively. Before this, Garreau visits DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) to convince us that he's not talking about science fiction here. To prove his point, he present, past, and future projects being investigated by DARPA; some of them quite incredible. All of these scenarios are potentially plausible and all of these scenarios have their own followings (and opposition) within and without the scientific community. And, according to Garreau and those he interviews, one of these scenarios will dominate within the next few decades.

In Heaven, the human race uses these powerful technologies to completely redefine and actively reshape the human race, to the point that people today might not even consider their future selves human. In Hell, we have lost control of these technologies, effectively destroying the human race if not all life on the planet. In Prevail, humans will pick and choose among developing technologies, successfully moderating their use and halting more dangerous projects. (I may be rather pessimistic and show very little faith in humans as a whole, but I think I lean toward the Hell scenario as being the most likely. Granted, I should probably read more into the subject before giving up all hope.)

Joel Garreau, in addition to being an author, is a journalist from the Washington Post. So, while the book is very readable, it is perhaps a bit meandering and unfocused at times. Like most non-academic non-fiction books I've read, I absolutely despise how references and end-notes were dealt with. ("Lets not actually indicate our citations in the main text, because it makes it so unreadable." Sigh.) However, in this case, he certainly makes up for quite a bit with the fantastic Suggested Readings section he has included at the end. Garreau also maintains a list of related news items and articles on his website.