"A gifted and thoughtful writer, Metzl brings us to the frontiers of biology and technology, and reveals a world full of promise and peril." — Siddhartha Mukherjee MD, New York Times bestselling author of The Emperor of All Maladies and The Gene
Passionate, provocative, and highly illuminating, Hacking Darwin is the must read book about the future of our species for fans of Homo Deus and The Gene.
After 3.8 billion years humankind is about to start evolving by new rules...
From leading geopolitical expert and technology futurist Jamie Metzl comes a groundbreaking exploration of the many ways genetic-engineering is shaking the core foundations of our lives — sex, war, love, and death.
At the dawn of the genetics revolution, our DNA is becoming as readable, writable, and hackable as our information technology. But as humanity starts retooling our own genetic code, the choices we make today will be the difference between realizing breathtaking advances in human well-being and descending into a dangerous and potentially deadly genetic arms race.
Enter the laboratories where scientists are turning science fiction into reality. Look towards a future where our deepest beliefs, morals, religions, and politics are challenged like never before and the very essence of what it means to be human is at play. When we can engineer our future children, massively extend our lifespans, build life from scratch, and recreate the plant and animal world, should we?
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About the Author
Table of Contents
Introduction: Entering the Genetic Age xiii
1 Where Darwin Meets Mendel 1
2 Climbing the Complexity Ladder 31
3 Decoding Identity 47
4 The End of Sex 67
5 Divine Sparks and Pixie Dust 89
6 Rebuilding the Living World 109
7 Stealing Immortality from the Gods 131
8 The Ethics of Engineering Ourselves 165
9 We Contain Multitudes 191
10 The Arms Race of the Human Race 221
11 The Future of Humanity 249
Additional Reading 307
About the Author 327
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book offers the facts about genetic engineering and modification and addresses the concerns a member of the public may have when thinking about this process. There is so much information in this book, but it is delivered in a digestible format that even a non-biologist like me could follow it easily. It is written wittily and thoughtfully. The author's unbridled excitement at all the possibilities that genetic engineering can bring us is contagious. But far too often he addresses the issue in capitalist terms, rather than moral ones. His major argument in favor of genetically engineering humans in vitro is the US's competitive edge that will be lost to countries like China, if we are not careful. While progress of the field is indeed massively hampered by Christian crazies who fetishize chance and glorify evolution (ironic, isn't it?), pushing the genetic engineering agenda solely out of fear of missing out on the global market seems almost negligent. Besides, with the speed of climate change, humans as a species might not be around to enjoy all the fabulous genetic engineering advances the author is so giddy about. So in a way, this entire book is a wet dream, a fantasy, a utopia that will crash against the hard reality of wars over food, water, and access to basic human services. Who is going to care that someone has a genetic modification to be the best skier ever? In the world where there is no more snow, this will be as useful as flowers on a dog.
Hacking Darwin takes a look at the current status of genetic engineering, as well as the possible and probable future uses of these tools, ethics, and the future of humanity. Metzl has written an engaging, fascinating and thought-provoking book that focuses on the fast approaching and inevitable (and exiting) genetic revolution, with clear explanations of the tools involved and the consequences of their use. The writing is clear, explanations accurate and not too technical for the general interested reader. This book covers a vast array of topics that fall under the genetic engineering umbrella. He starts off with the history of genetic research, IVF, genetic screening; and continues with the relationship between genetics, diseases, traits, the environment; AI tools to process complex genetic patters; the pros and cons of the genetic engineering tools; "designer babies"; stem-cell research; mitochondrial disease; multiple donar babies; gene-editing tools such as CRISPR; gene-therapy; safety issues and challenges to the current technology; chimeras; organ transplants; synthetic biology; aging; the ethics and responsibility of using genetic engineering tool; our relationship with nature; GMOs; the arms race of the human race; and finaly, the furture of humanity. Metzl states that his intent is to inform the public about the genetic revolution so that we can "make the smartest collective decisions about our war forward... to understand what is happening and what's at stake." Genetic entineering is a tool. The genetic revolution has the potential to improve lives or do great harm. The future of humanity depends on how we use it.
Hacking Darwin presents an evenhanded look at the future of genetic intervention from a non-scientist’s point-of-view. The first “test tube baby” was born using IVF in 1978. The human genome was fully sequenced in 2003. CRISPR, a method to cut and paste different genetic code into DNA, was developed in 1988 but first used on human cells in 2013. The combination of these three advances will soon allow IVF embryos to be selected for freedom from disease, hair/eye color, and gender. The ability to select based on IQ, longevity, or personality styles (i.e., extroversion or agreeableness) will soon follow. Basically, our DNA will become an IT product that can be hacked in ways we haven’t even thought of yet. There are many ethical issues inherent in this ability. Would only the rich be able to afford the cost of manipulating their offspring to be smarter than poorer offspring conceived the old fashioned way? Would one “look” be so popular that races are effectively wiped out? Would this allow an entire generation to be wiped out by a new disease for which they are not protected by natural selection? Will we trust artificial intelligence to make humans that are smarter than even they are? Hacking Darwin is a thought-provoking treatise on decisions that will need to be made soon to achieve the best results in the future with genetic engineering. The best part of this book is the author’s easy-to-read style. He uses examples of people in the future casually selecting their baby’s height and IQ. There is nothing so technical here that an average fiction reader cannot understand, or worse, have to Google. Perhaps it is because I’m a book blogger but I think this book would be a great resource for writers looking for ideas for a plot. There are a lot of unspoken “what ifs” in here. Would the genetically engineered younger children dominate the naturally made older ones? Would the smarter children be able to outsmart their parents? Could a disease wipe out a world made up of Kardashian clones? I’m not even an author so imagine what a real author could think up. For that reason, plus this is just a fascinating and well-written book, Hacking Darwin deserves 5 stars! I can’t wait to read it in twenty years and see how close or far it is from the truth then. Thanks to Sourcebooks and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.