New Book: Enhancing Me – The hope and the hype of human enhancement

I just picked up a copy of Enhancing Me: The Hope and the Hype of Human Enhancement
by Pete Moore.  From the book description:

In Enhancing Me, Pete Moore examines the ways in which technology
can change our bodies, our brains, our emotions, and how long we live.
He talks to people who have actually been 'enhanced' to find out what
it's like and how beneficial it is; and to the experts to find out what
the future holds – including a look at some of the more controversial,
headline-grabbing claims.  He also looks at what drives us to want to
be 'superhuman', and the consequences for the individual and society

  • If you could live forever, would you want to?
  • If you could download your mind onto a computer, would you still be you?
  • Should we insert chips into our children, so we can track where they are?
  • Should we force violent criminals to have mood-controlling brain implants?
  • Would you want technology to improve your memory… or help you forget?

I've only read a couple of chapters, but it seems quite good.  It's written for a popular audience but is not too terribly dumbed down.  The glossy full-color presentation makes it look a bit like a museum guide (which it sort of is — see below) or a Rough Guide.  That also makes it a bit pricey at $20 in the US.  My only other quibble is that it's missing a bibliography or further reading guide (though Pete Moore does have suggestions on his own website).

Enhancing Me is part of a book series called TechKnow, produced by the Dana Centre, which is affiliated with the London science museum. The Dana Centre is "a stylish, purpose-built venue in London (UK). It is a place for
adults to take part in exciting, informative and innovative debates
about contemporary science, technology and culture." They host multiple events every week on science and technology issues. It sounds like a fantastic project — I wish they had something like that here.

So far there are four other books planned for the series, covering computer games, human enhancement in sports, living online, and the consumer electronics industry.  The site has previews, blogs, and videos for each.

Liveblogging Your Vasectomy

On a related note… Medical science blogger "Abel Pharmboy" liveblogged his vasectomy last week.  You can relive the adventure here if you have the stomach: Liveblogging the Vasectomy Chronicles.  It’s yet another proud milestone for the web.  I don’t know who is creepier — the blogger who did this or the readers who tuned in live.

(Via io9.)

Google Health: Privacy Disaster Waiting to Happen?

Those aren’t my words.  That’s from the title to a post by John Paczkowski on the Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital blog.  In regard to Google’s new pilot program with the Cleveland Clinic to store patients’ health records, he writes:

Of course, by making such records easier to share with medical providers,
Google may be making them easier to “share” with less well-intentioned
entities. Health insurance carriers. Potential employers. Online
marketers. The government.

Google, too.

As the World Privacy Forum pointed out yesterday, companies like
Google are not governed by the Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act or HIPAA. “Don’t assume your medical records are
protected no matter where they are: HIPAA privacy protections generally
do not follow the health-care files,” the WPF warned.
“HIPAA’s protections generally do not ‘travel’ with or follow a medical
record that is disclosed to a third party outside the health-care
treatment and payment system. … After you have disclosed your health
care information to a PHR (Personal Health Records) outside the privacy
protections of the health care system (HIPAA), your information can be
used or redisclosed by the PHR in ways that would not be permitted for
the same information if held by your doctor or health plan. Depending
on the applicable privacy policy, health records outside of HIPAA can
potentially be bought and sold, shared with merchants, and even
disclosed to employers.”

Link: New from Google: "Google Privacy Disaster Waiting to Happen"

Update: Lots of interesting discussion on this: see Michael Zimmer, Fred Stutzman.  Michael Zimmer has also been discussing privacy concerns with Microsoft about their similar efforts: More designing for privacy: Microsoft HealthVault.

Presidential Candidates Invited to Science Quiz, er, Debate

The Science Debate 2008 campaign sent out invitations to the four major candidates recently for the debate, now set for April 18th if anyone shows up.  In the invitation they write:

This is a policy debate.  It is not intended to be a science quiz. Nor
are we interested in state-level battles such as the evolution versus
creationism/ID debate.  Our goal is to find out how aware candidates
are of America’s major science and technology problems and
opportunities, and how they propose to offer the kind of visionary
leadership and policy solutions that will tackle those challenges and
ensure America’s place as the most scientifically and technologically
advanced nation on earth.  This is your opportunity to demonstrate that
you are such a leader.

It’s telling that they needed to reassure candidates that it’s not a quiz, because when Science Debate first came on the scene it was clear that many of the people pushing for it wanted a quiz.  There was gloating in comment boards about the chance to make fun of candidates who don’t believe in evolution or don’t understand science.  (Not that those are excusable — thank the gods that Mike Huckabee doesn’t have a chance of winning.)

There are important science and tech policy issues to discuss, but I’m still skeptical of the need for a separate debate on this.  (Previous post: Do we need a presidential debate on science?)

There have been several recent articles on the story:

Mohinder Suresh is Activating Evolution (on the Web)

The TV show Heroes has a new promotional tie-in site called Activating Evolution, on which the character Mohinder tells you all about evolution and the existence of radically evolved humans.  What’s creepy is the site’s resemblance to real sites on the web made by transhumanists and other proponents of radical human enhancement and/or a new eugenics (e.g. Better Humans).  I wonder if the transhumanists will start contributing to Mohinder’s wiki.

(via io9)