“Make Way for the Superhumans” Review

Reviewed by Oliver Moody for The London Times, July 9, 2016.   The point of science fiction, the late Ray Bradbury once said, is not just to predict the future. It is to prevent it too. Some writers find this task straightforward. You take an issue in the modern world — automation, the creeping empire of social media, the depletion of the planet’s natural resources — and pursue it all the way to apocalypse. Wisdom dispensed. Job done. Yet all the good novelists in the genre recognise that the greatest and subtlest threats to our future often come not from the fears of their age, but from its highest ideals. That is why Brave New World is a far better book than Nineteen Eighty-Four; nobody would wish to live in Orwell’s Eurasia, but Huxley’s tidy world of gleaming chrome toys, state-sponsored orgies and chemically regulated happiness is easily mistaken for a utopia. Make Way for the Superhumans is a serious and orderly work of nonfiction about the near future of human “bio-enhancement” — the artificial augmentation of our minds and bodies. Michael Bess, a Vanderbilt University historian who specialises in how new technologies remake society, has spent 11 years drawing up this catalogue of cyborg fantasies, and it shows. Let’s start with the present day because, to anybody who has not kept abreast of developments in genetics, medicine and neuroscience, it already resembles an alien alternative universe. In 2013 a football-crazy Brazilian scientist called Miguel Nicolelis ran electrodes deep into the motor cortices of pairs of rats. When one pressed a lever, the brain activity was transmitted instantly into...

“Welcome to the Future”

A new article entitled “Welcome to the Future” written by Michael Bess appeared on http://stories.vanderbilt.edu/welcome-to-the-future.

AI, Bioenhancement, and the Singularity: Defer Radical Self-Modification, Says Historian, to Avoid Destabilizing Civilization

“They met for the first time in a hotel bar at Lake Tahoe in 1998, one evening after a technology conference. Bill Joy was an eminent computer-systems designer, chief scientist for Sun Microsystems. Ray Kurzweil was an award-winning inventor and technologist, whose many creations included a reading machine for the blind and an advanced music synthesizer. Their conversation focused on the future relationship between humans and machines….” Read the rest of Michael Bess’s article at Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology...