Fareed Zakaria GPS Book of the Week
Weaving together vivid storytelling and groundbreaking science, The Body Builders explores the current revolution in human augmentation, which is helping us to triumph over the limitations and constraints we have long accepted as an inevitable part of being human
For millennia, humans have tried—and often failed—to master nature and transcend our limits. But this has started to change. The new scientific frontier is the human body: the greatest engineers of our generation have turned their sights inward, and their work is beginning to revolutionize mankind.
In The Body Builders, Adam Piore takes us on a fascinating journey into the field of bioengineering—which can be used to reverse engineer, rebuild, and augment human beings—and paints a vivid portrait of the people at its center. Chronicling the ways new technology has retooled our physical expectations and mental processes, Piore visits people who have regrown parts of their fingers and legs in the wake of terrible traumas, tries on a muscle suit that allows him to lift ninety pounds with his fingertips, dips into the race to create “Viagra for the brain,” and shadows the doctors trying to give mute patients the ability to communicate telepathically.
As science continues to lay bare the mysteries of human performance, it is helping us to see—and exist—above our expectations. The Body Builders will take readers beyond the headlines and the hype to introduce them to the inner workings and the outer reaches of our bodies and minds, and explore how new developments are changing, and will forever change, what is possible for humankind.
In this accessible work on bioengineering, former Newsweek editor Piore documents where humans stand in our attempt to borrow and build on nature's "sublime" healing solutions, which have been "refined by evolution over billions of years." Piore's aim is not to offer a clinical tome on scientific progress, but to reveal the "human spirit" that undergirds the search for ways to heal an array of debilitating physical and mental injuries and impairments. He checks in with researchers exploring a number of new technologies, including electrical deep brain stimulation, bionics derived from reverse-engineering the human body, and altering genetic details through "gene doping." Piore also speaks to scientists tinkering with the human brain, "the world's most sophisticated pattern recognition machine," which plays a role in "amazing feats of associative learning" such as intuition and the ability of blind people to "see" when exposed to "soundscapes." Piore makes a few overstatements, as when he writes that the human body "has been honed over millennia for maximum efficiency," but his central conceit that scientists may soon be successfully "hacking" the human body is on point. Piore writes gracefully, and with deep insight, about complex scientific endeavors that could ease human suffering but are fraught with myriad ethical perils.