In this latest version of humanity, we are equipped with a fully re-engineered immune system; the latest set of cultural assumptions about gender, ethnicity, and sexuality; and a suite of customized enhancements, including artificial joints, neurochemical mood modulators, and performance-boosting hormones. In The Techno-Human Condition, Braden Allenby and Daniel Sarewitz explore what it means to be human in an era of incomprehensible technological complexity and change. They argue that if we are to have any prospect of managing that complexity, we will need to escape the shackles of current assumptions about rationality, progress, and certainty, even as we maintain a commitment to fundamental human values.
Humans have been co-evolving with their technologies since the dawn of prehistory, when tool making and meat eating co-evolved with brain development and social complexity. What is different now is that we have moved beyond external technological interventions to transform ourselves from the inside out—even as we also remake the Earth system itself. Coping with this new reality, say Allenby and Sarewitz, means liberating ourselves from such categories as "human," "technological," and "natural" to embrace a new techno-human relationship. Describing the- terms of this relationship, and exploring sociotechnical systems ranging from railroads to modern military technology, Allenby and Sarewitz ultimately locate individual authenticity in the quest for a new humility in the face of the rapidly disappearing moorings of the Enlightenment.
About the Authors
Braden R. Allenby is Founding Director of the Center forEarth Systems Engineering and Management, Lincoln Professor of Engineering andEthics, and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Arizona StateUniversity. He is the author of Reconstructing Earth: Technologyand Environment in the Age of Humans.
Daniel Sarewitz isProfessor of Science and Society and Codirector of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University. and the author of Frontiersof Illusion.
“[A] valuable book” — Andrew C. Revkin, Dot Earth-A New York Times blog
“The Techno-Human Condition will infuriate some, be dismissed out-of-hand by a few, but will unsettle almost all readers. The reason is, that while Allenby & Sarewitz’s analysis of current problem solving is a bitter pill to swallow, there is an underlying understanding that their approach is not only correct but also essential to embrace. The book is a fast-paced, easy read. I couldn't put it down.”—Leonardo
“An important, provocative, and wide-ranging volume on the role of technology in our rapidly changing Anthropocene-era world. Essential reading for anyone interested in Methods to Shape the Future, World Futures, Security, Sustainability, and science/technology in general... a stimulating and timely book.” — Michael Marien, Global Foresight Books
"A smart, articulate, and even witty investigation that avoids derailing into either the utopian or the dystopian. If the best is enemy of the good, The Techno-Human Condition is the good at its best."
Richard Rhodes, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Making of the Atomic Bomb
"I loved this book! I literally couldn't put it down! It made me think about the broad implications of my own research. My program is now to think about the issues the authors raise, and then to re-read the book in light of those musings. I just wish I could have the authors in my living room for a few hours (or days) to probe the issues they raise."
Wm. A. Wulf, University Professor, University of Virginia; President Emeritus, National Academy of Engineering
"The Techno-Human Condition is first a cogent description of modernity from the perspective of a technological worldview and second a prescription for our problems through a rejuvenation of key Enlightenment precepts. The authors have clearly outlined how and why we are facing a fundamental cultural crisis precipitated by 'wicked complexity,' and this book is a clarion call for radical adjustment. I predict it will become a touchstone for reorienting our thinking about techno-society and the need to reconsider how global problems are faced by industrial societies."
Alfred I. Tauber, Professor of Philosophy and Zoltan Kohn Professor of Medicine, Boston University