The Biotech Century
Jeremy Rifkin, author of BIOSPHERE POLITICS (1991) and THE END OF WORK (1994) as well as coauthor of WHO SHOULD PLAY GOD? (1977), warns that once biotechnological processes are set in motion, it may be much more difficult to control them than it has been to control other technologies. Just as Thomas Malthus some two centuries ago predicted that the population of the world would in the foreseeable future outstrip the planet’s ability to feed that population, so does Rifkin’s clarion call predict gravely what might happen as biotechnology, with all its ethical and economic implications, creates whole new universes of human possibilities and dilemmas.
The modern convergence of computer technology and genetic engineering has, in Rifkin’s mind, provided the means of revolutionizing such fields as medicine and agriculture but has, simultaneously, raised the specter of an enticing and potentially treacherous commercialization of the new biotechnology that could have far-reaching consequences for life upon the planet.
The dangers of lost identity, curtailed civil rights, diminished privacy, and forms of mind control that might make the chilling predictions of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley pale by comparison, will almost certainly alter the course of human existence in startling and increasingly intrusive ways. Rifkin fears that once biotechnical processes are loosed, they may prove irreversible.
THE BIOTECH CENTURY: HARNESSING THE GENE AND REMAKING THE WORLD, a clear, well-written book, with a comprehensive bibliography and a useful index, is an essential volume. Even if time proves many of Rifkin’s conclusions, like those of Malthus, to be incorrect, it is necessary that thinking people consider the possibilities that he adroitly outlines in this engaging study.
Sources for Further Study
Business Week. April 13, 1998, p. 14.
JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association. CCLXXX, August 12, 1998, p. 575.
The Nation. CCLXVI, April 13, 1998, p. 11.
The National Catholic Reporter. April 24, 1998, p. 16.
Nature. CCCXCIII, May 7, 1998, p. 31.
The New York Review of Books. XLV, April 23, 1998, p. 14.
The New York Times Book Review. CIII, March 22, 1998, p. 34.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLV, February 16, 1998, p. 195.
The Progressive. LXII, May, 1998, p. 43.
Sierra. LXXXIII, September, 1998, p. 80.