The Shattered Self by Pierre Baldi
The End of Natural Evolution

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Synopsis

Throughout history, we have selected and manipulated the genomes of plants, animals,
and even ourselves. Until now, however, such control could be exerted only at the level of the
entire organism. Scientific and technological advances now allow us to manipulate genomes directly
at the level of single genes and their constituents, with a speed and precision that far exceed what
natural evolution has been able to achieve over the past 3.5 billion years. These advances open new
possibilities for medicine, biotechnology, and society as a whole. We already have in vitro
fertilization and animal cloning; in the future human cloning and the exploitation of embryonic stem
cells, among other capabilities, may be routine. At the same time, we are developing machines that
will surpass the human brain in raw computing power and building an interconnected world of
information-processing devices that makes science fiction pale in comparison. In this book Baldi
explores what it is about these phenomena that makes us so uneasy -- the shattering of the human
self as we know it.

Through evolution our brains have been wired to provide us
with an inner sense of self, a feeling that each of us is a unique individual delimited by precise
boundaries. We have also been wired to reproduce ourselves in a certain way. Baldi argues that this
self-centered view of the world is scientifically wrong. Its past success lies in its being an
adequate model during our evolutionary bootstrapping: a world without molecular biotechnology, human
cloning, and the Internet. Eventually we must come to terms with the fact that genomes,
computations, and mind are fluid, continuous entities, in both space and time. The boundary between
the self and the world has begun to blur and ultimately may evaporate entirely. Baldi offers not
predictions but an open-eyed exploration of our current state of knowledge and the possibilities
that lie ahead.

 

About Pierre Baldi

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Pierre Baldi is Professor of Information and Computer Science and of Biological Chemistry (College of Medicine) and Director of the Institute for Genomics and Bioinformatics at the University of California, Irvine.
 
Published August 23, 2002 by The MIT Press. 259 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Nature & Wildlife, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, Computers & Technology. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Shattered Self

Publishers Weekly

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At the dawn of the 21st century, Baldi (a professor of computer science and biological chemistry at UC-Irvine) says, the human genome has been mapped;

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Project MUSE

The convergence of an increasingly technology-based world that is changing at unprecedented rates and of a discomforting world-view that is very different than the one we have depended on for thousands of years is now taking place, and with unpredictable consequences.

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