In This Review

Our Posthuman Future
Our Posthuman Future
By Francis Fukuyama
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2002, 272 pp.

In this groundbreaking inquiry, Fukuyama warns that advances in drugs and genetic engineering will allow society to control human behavior and manipulate physical characteristics -- and this power could alter our understanding of what it means to be human. At risk are the bedrock notions of human nature in which liberal democracy and modern ethics are rooted. Fukuyama finds this scientific revolution so threatening precisely because its effects are subtle and indirect, and because biotechnology advances are so alluring in their promise to improve or prolong human life. One good example is the current debate, pitting scientists against religious groups, over issues of cloning and stem-cell research. In trying to find an answer to the dilemma of progress, Fukuyama shows that there are political and nonreligious reasons for regulating the new technologies. Basic ethical notions are threatened by a postmodern future in which individuals are seen increasingly as social constructions rather than dignified moral creatures. The book concludes by making an unflinching case for government regulation -- and ultimately international regulation -- for these new spheres of scientific activity. In a contentious and fast-moving policy area, Fukuyama provides a remarkably sensible and human vision of what is at stake and what needs to be done.