About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

MIT Press to publish Humanity Enhanced

MIT Press has sent me a contract for my proposed book on legal and political responses to genetic technologies: (provisionally titled) Humanity Enhanced.

This book will be based on my Ph.D dissertation from Monash University (which was entitled "Human Enhancement: The Challenge to Liberal Tolerance"); however, the published version will be revised, updated, and generally reworked. Like the dissertation on which it is based, Humanity Enhanced will focus on the politics of human enhancement technologies - or, more specifically, the political challenge posed by a range of genetic technologies. It will explore the principles that should be used when laws are enacted to regulate or prohibit them. I ask how people of reason should respond politically to such prospects as human reproductive cloning and attempts at genetic engineering for enhanced intelligence or longevity. Should we tolerate these things, and if not ... on what ground that is acceptable in secular, liberal societies?

I will argue against the tendency to ban or heavily burden the use of these emerging technologies, and specifically against the sorts of sweeping prohibitions that were enacted in many parts of the world - almost in panic mode - in the immediate aftermath of Dolly's announcement in 1997. We can do better than this.

To whet your appetite for the book, I refer readers again to my article "Enhancement Anxiety" in a recent issue of Free Inquiry. (I don't believe the article can be viewed on the internet in its entirety any longer, but many of you will have the issue in hard copy. Also, there is a thread about it on Richard Dawkins' site if you missed it late last year.)

For me, the remainder of 2012 will be spent getting two books into shape for publication a year or two from now - Humanity Enhanced and 50 Great Myths About Atheism (which Udo Schuklenk and I are co-authoring for Wiley-Blackwell).

So that's my big news. I'm looking forward to the work itself and to seeing the product take form. To state the obvious, Humanity Enhanced has found an excellent publisher in MIT Press. As you can imagine, I'm very excited about this, so you can look forward to many updates, thoughts on the issues, and so on.


Jean Hollis Weber said...

That's great news, Russell!

Darrick Lim said...

Awesome news Russell. :D

I don't think that you're a gamer (are you?), but the video game 'Deus Ex: Human Revolution' tackles the ethics, politics and socioeconomics of human enhancement. The writers really did their homework with the science and history of cybernetics and transhumanism, and their imaginative extrapolation of these subjects into the near future is compelling.

Jean Kazez said...

Congratulations, Russell. That IS big news!

spiral_shell said...

Russell, great news indeed that you are publishing this issue.
The speaking position at the Humanity+ Conf in May 5-6 is still open if you are around Melbourne close to that time.

I will look forward to reading it!

Ophelia Benson said...

Woohoo!!! That's exciting news all right all right.

Russell Blackford said...

Sorry, spiral_shell, not likely to be in Melbourne that week.

Thanks, everyone.