Why are rates of conditions like autism, asthma, obesity, and allergies exploding at an unprecedented pace? Why are humans living longer, getting smarter, and having far fewer kids? How might your lifestyle affect your unborn children and grandchildren? If Darwin were alive today, how would he explain this new world? Could our progeny eventually become a different species — or several?
In Evolving Ourselves, futurist Juan Enriquez and scientist Steve Gullans conduct a sweeping tour of how humans are changing the course of evolution — sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. For example:
Globally, rates of obesity in humans nearly doubled between 1980 and 2014. What’s more, there’s evidence that other species, from pasture-fed horses to lab animals to house cats, are also getting fatter.
As reported by U.S. government agencies, the rate of autism rose by 131 percent from 2001 to 2010, an increase that cannot be attributed simply to increases in diagnosis rates.
Three hundred years ago, almost no one with a serious nut allergy lived long enough to reproduce. Today, despite an environment in which food allergies have increased by 50 percent in just over a decade, 17 million Americans who suffer from food allergies survive, thrive, and pass their genes and behaviors on to the next generation.
In the pre-Twinkie era, early humans had quite healthy mouths. As we began cooking, bathing, and using antibiotics, the bacteria in our bodies changed dramatically and became far less diverse. Today the consequences are evident not only in our teeth but throughout our bodies and minds.
Though these harbingers of change are deeply unsettling, the authors argue that we are also in an epoch of tremendous opportunity. New advances in biotechnology help us mitigate the cruel forces of natural selection, from saving prematurely born babies to gene therapies for sickle cell anemia and other conditions. As technology enables us to take control of our genes, we will be able to alter our own species and many others — a good thing, given that our eventual survival will require space travel and colonization, enabled by a fundamental redesign of our bodies.
Future humans could become great caretakers of the planet, as well as a more diverse, more resilient, gentler, and more intelligent species — but only if we make the right choices now.
Intelligent, provocative, and optimistic, Evolving Ourselves is the ultimate guide to the next phase of life on Earth.
“If you think that human evolution occurred only in the past, think again! Evolving Ourselves is a scintillating, witty, and sometimes scary account of how rapidly changing technologies are altering human evolution in consequential ways. The book boldly predicts our species’ evolutionary future.”
— DANIEL E. LIEBERMAN, Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences, Harvard University; author of The Story of the Human Body
“A refreshingly human-centered take on the future of nature, Evolving Ourselves shows how natural selection has become a participatory team sport. That’s right: Evolution itself is evolving, human beings are the cause, and we all better wake up and do this more consciously before we domesticate ourselves into extinction.”
— DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF, author of Present Shock
“For anyone with an interest in understanding the complexity that defines us as human beings, there is plenty to absorb in the cleverly woven pages of Evolving Ourselves. Written in an engaging and often entertaining style, the book pinpoints the unique situation in which Homo sapiens find themselves: deciding what we become next.”
— DR. LOUISE LEAKEY, Turkana Basin Institute
“How far should we go in our ability to control every aspect of the world we live in, including our own bodies? Evolving Ourselves is a fascinating investigation of the global questions and microscopic details that will decide the fate of the human race.”
— GARRY KASPAROV, former world chess champion
“How big dare we dream? This intriguing, optimistic, and exhilarating book takes us into the laboratories of today’s highly innovative molecular biology to explore the possible futures of humankind. If he were alive today, Darwin would be delighted and astonished by the way his ideas have inspired such creative modern research.”
— JANET BROWNE, author of Charles Darwin: A Biography; Aramont Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University
“We are going from evolution by natural selection to evolution by human design. The game has changed, and this book provides the new rules of engagement.”
— PETER H. DIAMANDIS, chairman/CEO, XPRIZE; author of Abundance
“This book will be a long-lived classic; it is what Darwin would write if he were alive today. Few yet comprehend the awe-inspiring nature of synthetic biology and its implications for life on the planet going forward; by providing a simple, no-nonsense, humorous, and somewhat scary framework, Enriquez and Gullans allow all of us to understand the changes we live with every day as we guide, and decide, our own evolution.”
— JAY WALKER, curator of TEDMED
“This book provokes terror and inspiration in equal measure. Terror because humankind has become a potent evolutionary force affecting all life on the planet, including itself. Inspiration because with awareness comes the capacity to direct humanity’s — and the planet’s — evolutionary trajectory. Read this book and you will never think the same way about evolution ever again.”
— PAUL SAFFO, technology forecaster
“Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans convincingly argue that Darwin’s driving force of natural selection no longer holds true in a world where little remains natural and free of the hand of man. Their book raises important questions that we all should consider deeply as individuals, as nations, and as a global community as we venture forth into this next phase of evolution.”
— DONALD INGBER, M.D.,Ph.D., Founding Director, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University
“Thoughtful and thought-provoking, Evolving Ourselves is rich in the fascinating details of how we work, how we got there, and how we are changing. Enriquez and Gullans take us down a path of observations and logic that leads to either your grandest hopes or darkest nightmares. Fasten your seat-belts, this rocket is about to take off.”
— MARTIN BLASER, author of Missing Microbes
“Enriquez and Gullans take off all the blinders and explore the myriad, astounding ways we humans are rapidly influencing and shaping, both intentionally and not, our future selves. With mounting knowledge around what makes our species tick, they describe how we’ll have the power to direct our evolutionary path.”
— LINDA AVEY, co-founder 23andMe
“A provocative and sobering vision of the evolutionary forces at work in our modern, post-Darwin world, and the control that humans exert over our genetic destinies. Essential reading for anyone who retains hope that humanity, through shear application of ingenuity, will persevere, survive, and surmount the inestimable challenges that lie ahead.”
— GEORGE DALEY, MD, PhD, Professor, Harvard Medical School
“Timely and exceptionally rich, this book is guaranteed to stimulate reflection on what the new biology means for our species.”
— DR. ERLING NORRBY, Former Permanent Secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
“Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans brilliantly describe a future of extreme possibility and extreme responsibility. Thinking deeply about the implications of their work improves our chances of creating a desirable version of that future.”
— TIM BROWN, CEO of IDEO, and author of Change by Design
“In a rapidly changing world, considerations of human evolution are rarely taken into account as a critical factor that shapes the immediate future. but Enriquez and Gullans will convince you otherwise. They will make you rethink what constitutes a victory (antibiotics! air travel!) over our natural biological constraints and its unintended consequences.”
— HIDDE PLOEGH, Professor of Biology, MIT and member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research