Radical Evolution | Notes & Review

Posted on September 10, 2010


Joel Garreau. Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies — and What It Means to Be Human. Broadway Books, 2005. (384 pages)


Prologue: The Future of Human Nature

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.

– Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn

This gulf between what engineers are actually creating today and what ordinary readers might find believable is significant. It is the first challenge to making sense of this world unfolding before us, in which we face the biggest change in tens of thousands of years in what it means to be human. … For example, there’s the problem you encounter when asking people what they’d do if offered the chance to live for a very long time — 150 years or more. Nine out of 10 boggle at this thought. Many actually recoil. You press on. Engineers are working on ways to allow you to spend all that time with great physical vitality — perhaps even comparable to that of today’s 35-year-olds. (3-4)

Most of the prospective readers of this book…don’t care about gee-whiz technology. Why should they? Neither do I, truth be told. What they care about is what it means to be human, what it means to have relationships, what it means to live life, to have loves, or to tell lies. If you want to engage such people, you have to tell a story about culture and values — who we are, how we got that way, where we’re headed and what makes us tick. That’s what has always interested me; it’s what my reporting has always been about. The gee-whiz technology is just a window through which to gaze upon human nature. (4)

Four interrelated, intertwining technologies are cranking up to modify human nature. Call them the GRIN technologies — the genetic, robotic, information and nano processes. (4)

Competitive bodybuilding is already divided into tested shows (i.e., drug free) verses untested shows (anything goes). (5)

Then there’s the military. Remember the comic-book superheroes of the 1930s and 1940s, from Superman to Wonder Woman? Most of their superpowers right now either exist or are in engineering. If you can watch a car chase in Afghanistan with a Predator, you’ve effectively got telescopic vision. If you can figure out what’s inside a cave by peering into the earth with a seismic ground pinger, you’ve got X-ray vision. Want super strength? At the University of California at Berkeley, the U.S. Army has got a functioning prototype exoskeleton suit that allows a soldier to carry 180 pounds as if it were only 4.4 pounds. At Natick Labs in Massachusetts, the U.S. Army imagines that such an exoskeleton suit may ultimately allow soldiers to leap tall buildings with a single bound. (5)

My thesis is that in just 20 years the boundary between fantasy and reality will be rent asunder. Just in five years from now that boundary will be breached in ways that are as unimaginable to most people today as daily use of the World Wide Web was 10 years ago.

– Rodney Brooks, director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

We are at an inflection point in history. (6)

For all previous millennia, our technologies have been aimed outward, to control our environment. … Now, however, we have started a wholesale process of aiming our technologies inward. (6)

The net frontier is our own selves.

– Gregory Stock, director of the Program on Medicine, Technology and Society at the UCLA School of Medicine

The people you will meet in Radical Evolution are testing these fundamental hypotheses:

  • We are riding a curve of exponential change.
  • This change is unprecedented in human history.
  • It is transforming no less than human nature.

This isn’t fiction. … We have been attempting to transcend the limits of human nature for a very long time. (6)

Look at the girl who today is your second-grade daughter. Fifteen years from now, she is just home for the holidays. … It is her first time home in months. But the difference between this touching tableau and similar ones in the past is that in this scenario — factually grounded in technologies already in development in the early years of the 21st century — changes in human nature are readily available in the marketplace. She is competing with those with the will and wherewithal to adopt them. … She knows her dear old parents have read in their news magazines about some of what’s available. But actually dealing with some of her new classmates is decidedly strange.

  • They have amazing thinking abilities. They’re not only faster and more creative than anybody she’s ever met, but faster and more creative than anybody she’s ever imagined.
  • They have photographic memories and total recall. They can devour books in minutes.
  • They’re beautiful, physically. Although they don’t put much of a premium on exercise, their bodies are remarkably ripped.
  • They talk casually about living a very long time, perhaps being immortal. They’re always discussing their “next lives.” One fellow mentions how, after he makes his pile as a lawyer, he plans to be a glassblower, after which he wants to become a nanosurgeon.
  • One of her new friends fell while jogging, opening up a nasty gash on her knee. Your daughter freaked, ready to rush her to the hospital. But her friend just started at the gaping wound, focusing her mind on it. Within minutes, it simply stopped bleeding.
  • This same friend has been vaccinated against pain. She never feels acute pain for long.
  • These new friends are always connected to each other, sharing their thoughts no matter how far apart, with no apparent gear. They call it “silent messaging.” It almost seems like telepathy.
  • They have this odd habit of cocking their head in a certain way whenever they want to access information they don’t yet have in their own skulls — as if waiting for a delivery to arrive wirelessly. Which it does.
  • For a week or more at a time, they don’t sleep. They joke about getting rid of the beds in their cramped dorm rooms, since they use them so rarely.

Her new friends call her “Natural.” They call themselves “Enhanced.” Those who have neither the education nor the money to even consider keeping up with enhancement technology? These they dismiss as simply “The Rest.” (7-8)

I call the scenario above “The Law of Unintended Consequences.” (8)

Thus the Industrial Revolution created fertile ground for steeply hierarchical corporations to blossom. … Indeed, the entire 20th century can be described as an era of ideological, economic and military warfare over how to handle the great social upheavals created by this shift in technology and social affairs. (10)

Two “aha” moments:

The first was the reminder that innovation arrives more rapidly than does change in culture and values. … If that is so now, then the cultural revolution for which we are due is just beginning to emerge. (10-11) Today, the story is no less attitude-adjusting. it is about the defining cultural, social and political issue of our age. It is about human transformation. (11)

Imagine that technology allows us to transcend seemingly impossible physical and mental barriers, not only for ourselves but, exponentially, for our children. What happens as we muck around with the most fundamental aspects of our identity? What if the only thing that is truly inevitable is taxes? This is the transcendence of human nature we’re talking about here. What wisdom does transhuman power demand? (11)

At the University of Pennsylvania, male mouse cells are being transformed into egg cells. If this science works in humans, it opens the way for two gay males to make a baby, each contributing 50 percent of his genetic material — and blurring the standard model of parenthood. (12)

The powerful driver of this roller coaster is the continuing curve of exponential change. (12)

At least three alternative futures flow from this accelerated change, according to knowledgeable people who have thought about all this… The first scenario is one in which, in the next two generations, humanity is rapidly replaced by something far more grand than its motley self. Call that The Heaven Scenario. The second is the one in which in the next 25 years or so, humanity meets a catastrophic end. Call it The Hell Scenario. … The third scenario is more complex. It is the one we might call The Prevail Scenario. (12)

There’s one thing that I’ve already learned writing this book. If you have a choice between starting your story with a telekinetic monkey or an attractive teenager in a wheelchair whose life might be changed by the technology the monkey represents, you have to lead with the bright young woman every time. For that’s what people care about. And that’s why the focus of this book is not on engineering — it is on the future of human nature. (13)

Be All You Can Be

The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed.

– William Gibson

The goal is to seamlessly merge mind and machine, engineering human evolution so as to directly project and amplify the power of our thoughts throughout the universe. (20)

Take young Billy Batson, for example. One night, he was led to a subterranean cavern and introduced to an ancient Egyptian wizard. For 3,000 years this mage had battled evil with the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. Hence his name, S-H-A-Z-A-M. (20)

Garreau introduces us to DARPA, the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency whose business is “creating better humans,” (22) and their “only character is radical innovation.” (23)

Jason and the crew of the Argo were among the first legendary explorers in human myth. Tales have been told about them now for 3,300 years. They were the greatest pioneers ever to light out for the Territory. They included Amphiaraus, the seer; Atalanta of Calydon, the virgin huntress and only woman; Caeneus the Lapith, who had once been a woman; Calais, the winged son of Boreas, the north wind; Heracles of Tiryns (Hercules), the strongest man who ever lived and the only human to be granted immortality among the gods; Periclymenus, the shape-shifting son of Poseidon who could take any form in battle; and 44 more. … We still celebrate what their story says about human nature. (26)

We do not fear the unknown, and we relish exploring the unknowable.

– Michael Goldblatt, DARPA

And who knows — history may not view his comparison as preposterous. For his program managers have been handed the keys to all creation and asked if they would like to take it out for a spin. (26)

Three things slow humans down in combat are pain, wounds and bleeding. (26) [to which there is developing a “pain vaccine,” “photo-biomodulation”–would healing acceleration, and “Regenesis”–regrowing body parts.] Others are working on making your immune system invulnerable, (31) by recognizing “a genetic personality.” (31) All to develop a Metabolically Dominant Soldier. (32)

Does this change human nature? (34)

The culture here allows you to say what if, and I’m willing to cross the boundary. What’s born here is a fundamental philosophy that says what if we can just increase the number of interconnects between living systems and the nonliving world — hardware and software — what could happen? (35)

We’re asking a fundamental question: Can the brain accommodate control and command of the new devices?” (36)

The Mesoscopic Integrated Conformal Electronics (MICE) program has already succeeded in printing electronic circuits on the frames of eyeglasses and helmets, weaving them into clothes, even putting them on insects. (40) … The object of the game is to produce machines — and the italics are his — “that truly know what they’re doing.” (40)

Will all these projects work? Unquestionably, no. Not all. DARPA’s attitude is that if an idea looks like a sure thing, let somebody else fund it. The National Science Foundation. Or venture capitalists, more to the point. A project is regarded as “DARPA-esque” only if few others would tackle it, but it would be earth-jolting if it did work. (41)

As Richard Satava, a DSO (Defense Sciences Office) program manager whose portfolio includes cyborg moths and robot surgeons, puts it, we are entering the “biointelligence age.” If we master this revolution, he believes,

we will be the first species to control our own evolution. (42)

What you don’t get is much of a sense of introspection. … Goldblatt replies, “Yes, of course. It’s your job. We even have a bioethicist on staff. But you can’t let the fear of the future inhibit exploring the future.” (43)

Fundamentally altering human nature would be an unintended consequence. – Michael Goldblatt (44)

The Curve

Ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the strange — “Changes,” by David Bowie

Moore’s Law, as the core faith of the entire global computer industry, has come to be stated this way: The power of information technology will double every 18 months, for as far as the eye can see. (49)

Sure enough, in 2002, the 27th doubling occurred right on schedule with a billion-transistor chip. (49)

This process is represented by an S-curve. At the flat bottom of the S, you have a period of stability such as the early 1800s. You leave that for the rapid change represented by the steep middle of the S. That’s when The Curve rises exponentially, as in the mid-1800s. Then things level out at the top of the S. … But The Curve did not stop. In 1975, Gordon Moore revised his Law to predict doublings “only” every two years. But he turned out to be too conservative. The computer industry regularly beats its clockworklike 18-month schedule for price-performance doubling. (51)

There are only four limits to computer evolution: quantum physics, human ingenuity, the market and our will. Actually, it’s not at all clear that there are any practical limits represented by quantum physics, human ingenuity and the market, at least not in our lifetimes. Whether our will can shape limits is the core issue of the rest of this book. (52)

You can see The Curve in human evolution. To get from the formation of the Earth to the first multicellular organisms took perhaps 4 billion years. Getting from tiny organisms to the first mammals took 400 million years. Getting from mammals to the first primitive monkeys took 150 million years. Getting from hominids to walking erect took 16 million years. Getting from walking erect to humans painting on cave walls at Altamira, Spain, took 4 million years. Getting from cave painting to the first permanent settlements took some 10,000 years. Getting from settlements to the invention of writing in Sumeria took about 4,000 years. At that point, biological evolution was trumped by cultural evolution. We could now store, recall and widely share our thoughts and insights. Intelligence became less the property of isolated bands and more the sum of civilization. As humans increasingly became capable of acting collectively, they could make advances in the arts, sciences and economics far beyond the capabilities of any individual, and The Curve really started to take off. Four thousand years to the Roman Empire, 1,800 years to the Industrial Age, 169 years to the moon and 20 more years to the Information Age. Where we now find ourselves. Wondering if and how this Curve ever stops and whether or not we like this game. Thinking about whether we are about to enter another transition. Considering the likelihood that we are engineering our own evolution. (58)

Diffusion of Innovations. First there are the Innovators (2.5%). The Early Majority follows (~33%). The Late Majority then kicks in (~33%). Finally come the Laggards (~17%). … This is the human dynamic that feeds the radical evolution of The Curve. (61)

The next time you pay more attention to your e-mail than to your children, the next time you feel like throwing up when your connection to the cosmos is ruptured, the next time the innermost recesses of your brain recognize a machine as part of you when it dies, remember this: You have crossed the line. For you, the revolution has occurred. The machines have not only changed you, they have become you. You have become Borg. Not metaphorically, but in a way as real and tangible as that keyboard you clutch. Resistance, apparently, is futile. (64-5)

Our mental maps have changed. It use to be that societies preserved their traditions and transmitted their values by telling stories about their past. … At some point, however, we turned our gaze. We started exploring and explaining ourselves by telling stories of our future. (66)

The Curve implies one of the all-time changes in the rules. Those who study it call it “The Singularity.” (67) Vernor Vinge introduced the idea (in 1993) to describe huge but unpredictable social change driven by The Curve. (71)

I argue in this paper that we are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth.

He’s anticipating the possibility of greater-than-human intelligence. He’s talking about some form of transcendence. (71)

As a metaphor for mind-boggling social change, The Singularity has been borrowed from math and physics. In those realms, singularities are the points where everything stops making sense. … Another borrowed metaphor is “the event horizon,” the point of no return as you approach a black hole. It is the place beyond which you cannot escape. (71-2)

Almost by definition, disbelief accompanies any notion that all the rules that humans have known for millennia might soon blow up. (74)

What Are Scenarios?

Scenarios are rigorous, logical, but imaginative stories about what the future might be like, designed to help people plan. Scenarios are not predictions. They are tools for preparation. Recall how pilots just returning from combat — no matter how complex the conditions they encountered — frequently say, “It wasn’t as bad as the simulator.” That is the value of scenarios. Simulators do not predict the future; they allow those who use them to carefully and calmly anticipate and rehearse their response to almost any sudden eventuality. Think of them as idea maps.

…a careful reading of history suggests that all past futures have turned out to be a combination of the scenarios that might have been written to anticipate them.

Scenarios have rules:

  • They must conform to all known facts.
  • They must identify “predetermineds.” These are future events so locked in by those of the past that they can usefully be viewed as inevitable. For example, a predetermined element of a U.S. presidential election is that it will occur every four years.
  • Scenarios then identify “critical uncertainties.” These are possibilities that logically might occur in the future but which are both highly uncertain and highly important. For example, a critical uncertainty about any U.S. presidential election is who might win.
  • Sometimes scenarios identify “wild cards.” These are possible but highly improbable eventualities that would have great impact should they occur–for example, the leading presidential candidate being assassinated just before the vote.
  • Scenarios reveal “embedded assumptions.” These are frequently unprovable and often unexamined foundations on which our thinking about the future rests. For example, no one expects the U.S. military to so dislike the outcome of a vote as to overthrow the government.
  • It is useful to identify in advance certain “early warnings” that serve as an alert that a particular scenario is coming to pass. For example, professional political operatives have known for decades that in a close presidential race, the mathematics of the Electoral College is such that if one party has California and the other has Texas, the outcome likely will be decided in Florida.

The Curve Scenario

In this scenario, information technology continues to explode at a rate comparable to that from 1959 through the early 21st century. These unprecedented rapid doublings of information power and dramatically reduced costs continue to spawn new transformative technologies, such as genetics, robotics and nanotechnology. Those in turn also proceed to grow at an unprecedented rate, merging and intertwining to produce novel opportunities and challenges. Within the current human generation, these events transform society and ultimately test the meaning of human nature itself.

Predetermined elements:

  • There are Curves of exponential change.
  • Many of these describe the realities of technology.
  • These Curves especially describe the increase in capabilities of information technology.
  • The Curves of information technology increasingly enable new Curves of exponential change to emerge in other fields, especially genetics, robotics and nanotechnology.
  • All of these Curves of exponential change have major impacts on society, culture and values.

Critical uncertainties:

  • Are The Curves of exponential change smoothly accelerating, or will they display unexpected slowdowns, stops or reversals?
  • Are these Curves of exponential change under the control of society’s culture and values, or are they impervious to human intervention?


Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.

– Katharine Hepburn, in John Huston’s The African Queen, 1951

We are gods and might as well get good at it.

– Steward Brand, in the statement of purpose of The Whole Earth Catalog, 1968

The best way to predict the future is to invent it yourself.

– Alan Kay

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

– Arthur C. Clarke

The essence of the Heaven Scenario is stealing fire from the gods, breathing life into inert matter and gaining immortlity. (106)

The Age of Enlightenment elevated scientists over priests. (107)

No doubt man will not become immortal, but cannot the span constantly increase between the moment he begins to live and the time when naturally, without illness or accident, he finds life a burden?

– Marie-Jean-Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet in Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind. 1795. (107)

“My personal philosophy,” Kurzweil says, “is there is no problem or challenge that comes along that there isn’t an idea to overcome that problem.” (110)

A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. It is the length of five carbon atoms in a row or the distance your fingernail grows in one second. If a nanometer were the size of your nose, a red blood cell would be the size of the Empire State Building, a human hair would be more than two miles thick, your finger would span the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and a person would be taller than six planet earths stacked one on top of the other. (118)

“The way to ‘meet our maker,’ so to speak, is, in fact, by staying alive. We will be part of this very rapid explosion of intelligence, and beauty, and a very rapid acceleration of this evolutionary process. And that, to me, is what God is. Evolution, I think, is a spiritual process because it moves closer to what we have considered God. It moves closer to infinity.” (128)

“I see [the Heaven Scenario], ultimately, as an awakening of the whole universe. I think the whole universe right now is basically made up of dumb matter and energy and I think it will wake up.” (129)


Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.

– Albert Einstein, letter to a friend, 1917.

Human nature will be the last part of Nature to surrender to Man. The battle will then be won. We shall … be henceforth free to make our species whatever we wish it to be. The battle will indeed be won. But who, precisely, will have won it? For th power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please.

– C.S. Lewis, The Abolution of Man, 1944.

No matter how much better off we may be than our ancestors, the easiest sell in the world is doom. (148)

Armageddon has a long and distinguished history. Theories of progress are mirrored by theories of collapse. (149)

The Shakespeare Test is based on the observation that historically, human nature changes much more slowly than do our circumstances. (158)

Today’s vitalists, however, are saying that playing God in biology will not be as technically easy as Victor Frankenstein or Craig Venter would have us believe. They think we will discover, one failure at a time, that there is something ineffable about life, some necessary, vital ingredient… (177)

…when computers can perform sufficiently more operations per second than can our brains, they will inevitably seem conscious. That is, they will demonstrate true intelligence. Indeed, they will be “spiritual.” (177)

“Technological and social systems shape each other. Technologies–such as gunpowder, the printing press, the railroad, the telegraph and the Internet–can shape society in profound ways. But on the other hand, social systems–in the form of governments, the courts, formal and informal organizations, social movements, professional networks, local communities, market institutions and so forth–shape, moderate and redirect the raw power of technologies.” (181-2)

Action and effective societal reaction have very different time scales. … Only an effective combination of foresight and leadership stands a chance of building these flying buttresses that are needed to protect the cathedral of civilization from abrupt shocks. (183)

“The physician who waits until dead certain of a diagnosis before acting is likely to wind up with a dead patient. Sometimes things develop so rapidly that only early action–back when you’re still somewhat uncertain–stands a chance at being effective, as in catching cancer before it metastasizes.” (183)


I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded form the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

– William Faulkner, Nobel Prize acceptance speech, December 10, 1950

If you were graphing Lanier’s idea, it would not be represented by smooth curves, either up or down, as in the first two scenarios. it would doubtless have fits and starts, hiccups and coughs, reverses and loops–not unlike the history we humans always have known. It would be messy and chaotic, like humans themselves. Technology would not be in control. It would not be on rails, inexorably deciding human affairs. At the same time, the outcome would definitely involve radical change. I call visions like this The Prevail Scenario. (196)

Players of infinite games enjoy being surprised. Continuously running into something one didn’t know will ensure that the game will go on forever. ” A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play. … Finite players play within the rules. Infinite players play with the rules. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is an infinite game… Infinite games are the real transcendence games. They allow you to transcend your boundaries. they allow you to transcend who you are. (197)

The Constitution is not a computer operating system but a human operating system. That’s the difference between a closed system and an open one. the great irony is that if we can measure something, it can’t be all that complex. How can we measure creativity? Human nature is the ultimate example of the immeasurable. (197)

All scenarios are to some degree faith-based. They rest upon assumptions that cannot be proven. In fact, that is one of the key points of scenario exercises–discovering what people’s hidden assumptions are… (208)

In both the Heaven and Hell Scenarios, the embedded assumption is that human destiny can be projected reliably if you apply enough logic, rationality and empiricism to the project. In the Prevail Scenario, by contrast, the embedded assumption is that even if a smooth curve does describe the future of technology, it is not likely to describe the real world of human fortune. (209)

Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing–after they have exhausted all other possibilities.

– Winston Churchill

Historically, there are two measures of the march of human progress: One is technological and economic advance. The second ramp is moral improvement. … The technological incline is a flawed measure of progress on many levels, most particularly because it suggests that the meaning of humanity can be reduced to zeros and ones. the moral ramp is a problem because, taken to its logical outcome, it requires more energy than humans have, and also can lead to holy wars. So [Lanier’s] version of Prevail rests on the proposition that a third ramp exists and that it is the important one. That is the ramp of increased connection between people. (210)

“We should start from the point of view that it is best to make the assumption that we know less than we think we do about reality. It’s hard to know for sure–it’s a guess–but probably there’s a lot more to reality than we think. If you think a human is just like a naturally occurring technology that’s almost understood–. If you think that a human is something that you just have to figure out a few little things about, but basically, the underlying theory about it is coming together and all you have to do is trace those genes and proteomics and a little bit of stuff about how neural networks work and in about another 20 or 30 years, basically, you’ll have it nailed–. If you believe that that would be a complete description of what a human is–. There is this danger that you might have missed something and you have reduced what a human is.” (212)


Transcend: to go beyond in some respect, quality or attribute; to rise above, surpass, excel, exceed.

– Oxford English Dictionary

Transcendence is the belief that you can win, break even, or get out of the game.

– Clay Shirky

It’s not transhumanism we should worry about; it’s dehumanization. (230)

The central argument about the future of human nature is whether it is fixed and immutable, once and forever, or whether it can continue to evolve. (235)

There is still no agreement about what “human nature” is–what, beyond trivial or temporary features of our physiologies or our cultures that happen to have been thrown up by history or evolution, is common to and exclusive to the creatures we recognize as human. Human nature, if it is proper to speak of such a thing, is not fixed: it ha changed in the past and could change again. Its continuity with the natures of other animals is part of its fluidity… How much our nature has to change before our descendants cease to be human is a question we are not yet ready to answer. In this respect it resembles the question about when, in the course of evolution, our ancestors became human–which is also unanswerable at the present stage of our thinking and knowledge.

That humans are uniquely rational, intellectual, spiritual, self-aware, creative, conscientious, moral, or godlike seems to be a myth–an article of faith to which we cling in defiance of the evidence. But we need myths to make our irresoluble dilemmas bearable. And our claims for our nature are more: not mere myths but also aspirations, still waiting to become true… For now, if we want to go on believing we are human, and justify the special status we accord ourselves–if, indeed, we want to stay human through the changes we face–we had better not discard the myth, but start trying to live up to it.

– Fernandez-Armesto

“If Mother Nature had been a real parent, she would have been in jail for child abuse and murder.” (243)

“Human beings  cannot endure emptiness and desolation. They will fill the vacuum by creating a new focus of meaning.” … “All of this stuff is linked to the desire for there to be Something else with a capital S. A force or a power. … Maybe this tells us something about human nature. That we are pattern-seeking, storytelling animals. If one sees belief as reflecting a hardwired need for meaning and values, then perhaps in the Axial Age we filled the emptiness of our emerging consciousness with the highest aspirations for human nature we could possibly imagine. (259)

If profound restatements of how the world works arose all over the planet the last time we had a transition on the scale of that from biological evolution to cultural evolution, will it happen again as we move from cultural evolution to technological evolution? (259-260)

Someday after mastering winds, waves, tides and gravity, we shall harness the energies of love. And then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will discover fire.

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (262)


Que sera, sera. whatever will be, will be. The future is not ours to see. Que sera, sera.

– Doris Day, 1956

We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.

– Alan Turing, 1950

— VIA —

As you can tell by the notes, this book is extremely dense and packs in way too much material for me to sum up or even reflect upon here. Many of the quotes I appreciated I included, but several were left out simply because of length.

I have no predilections as to what the future may hold. Really, I don’t think anyone does. As with all things, I’m sure it will be a conglomeration of everything stated above that will surprise everyone.

While this is a blog on faith and culture, I am deeply aware that a large portion of the faith community won’t even touch this book, simply because of the title on the cover. However, I believe these conversations are deeply important for us to have. Understanding, not just the evolution debate, but the advancement of technological innovation right now that is transforming our minds and our bodies is imperative for all of us in the arena of faith and culture. Any kind of science ought not be ignored or dismissed simply because of dissonant philosophies that may come with it. So, let’s converse, shall we, with the GRIN technologies, and DARPA, and Vitalists, and Myths, for if we truly believe that the God in whom we place our faith created “heaven and earth,” there is nothing in existence that can threaten God’s existence, nor God’s place in this universe. If anything is threatened, it may be our understanding, our perceptions, our assumptions, and if they are dethroned as idols, that can only be a good thing towards leading us closer to the mind of God.

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