Justin Tadlock

Radical Evolution

The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies — and What It Means to Be Human

I admit it. I’m a sucker for reading books about upcoming scientific breakthroughs. Yes, that may make me a bit of a nerd, but I like reading them anyway.

Joel Garreau has written one of the easier-to-read books of the variety though. This book was meant for an audience outside the realm of people who haven’t left the science lab since the ’80s.

This is the book for the rest of us.

Garreau even mentions our old pal Ray Kurzweil (from The Singularity is Near) and Bill Joy, Kurzweil’s nemesis (and you can read a 10 page research paper on Joy and Kurzweil by me, just ask if you’re interested). He explains what these guys have been saying for years, only in terms that the Bubbas and Suzies of the world can understand.

The most interesting parts of the book is the three scenarios he sets up to explain where humankind is heading. The Heaven Scenario. The Hell Scenario. The Prevail Scenario.

The Heaven Scenario is Kurzweil’s idea of The Singularity, where humans may become godlike. Technology takes control, and humans are merely spectators in this prediction. However, this technology is driving human advancement past what we consider science fiction today conquering disease, famine, and death itself.

The Hell Scenario is the opposite, which is why Joy argues against scientific advancement. He doesn’t want us to destroy ourselves with our technology (just read his article, Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us, he might convince you). Signs that we are entering the hell scenario: large numbers of people die off, the biosphere is being eaten away, there is no discussion of stopping technology from advancing.

In the Prevail Scenario he states that “Humans have an uncanny history of muddling through” (224). Humans will inevitably forge their own futures against overwhelming odds and come out all right. This is the scenario upheld by Jaron Lanier.

This is an easy read for people who wouldn’t be able to make it through an issue of Popular Science without saying, “Huh.” Garreau breaks down each part, and explains with clarity what the future might lead to.

The discussion on future technology is a discussion in which everyone should take part. However, we must understand what all the fuss is about to do so. This book will give you the key terms and the major players, allowing a new understanding of what the future of our race might be.