Op-Ed

Richard B. Norgaard

Current developments in genetic engineering, combined with foreseeable developments in nanotechnology and robotics, have the potential to redefine and extend human life. But if we follow this technology along the course favored by its advocates, some humans could acquire characteristics so superior to our own, or so entirely new, that what it means to be human, even for those left behind, would be forever lost. Will we say "enough" and set up the controls necessary to prevent the transformation of a portion of the human population into superpeople?

As the consequences of global warming were becoming apparent to climate scientists during the late 1980s, Bill McKibben wrote The End of Nature (1989), a resounding warning to laypeople that the natural world and the rich history of human relations with nature were coming to an end. Now McKibben has delivered another equally prophetic popular book. Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age (2003) portrays the possibilities, favorable and formidable, of the application of genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics to people.

Though the literature on engineering a new breed of people is...