April 29, 2012

Review - The Fate Of The Species (Fred Guterl)

The sixth "mass extinction event" in the history of planet Earth is currently under way, with over two hundred species dying off every day. The cause of this seismic event is also the source of the single biggest threat to human life: our own inventions.
But for all our talk about sea levels and biotechnology, do we really know what our future will actually look like? Will our immune systems be attacked by so-called super bugs, always evolving, and more easily spread than ever? Will the disappearance of numerous species cripple the biosphere? And if it does, what happens then? In this provocative, gripping book, Scientific American editor Fred Guterl explores these and other looming scenarios in vivid detail—the way they might really happen—and then proffers the means to avoid them.
We find ourselves in a trap: Technology got us into this mess, and it’s also the only thing that can help us survive it. Guterl’s riveting book is a grand and necessary thought experiment, not merely a scary story, but a fresh perspective on the world we’re remaking, and a route to safe harbor.

Review
The end is near. But just how near? And what will be the cause? In his book The Fate Of The Species Scientific American editor Fred Guterl delves into what may cause our extinction and what we can do about it.
There are many books out there discussing this topic, most of them in a very sensationalist and wildly exaggerating style. Luckily for me, this isn't the case here as the author sets a matter of fact tone which I was immediately taken with. Written in a conversational style and painting both vivid and plausible scenarios of what could happen, he takes the reader from super viruses past climate change straight to what he obviously sees as the most likely culprit of all - scientific and technological progress. Our own inventions as source and cause of our possible extinction might not sound quite as exciting as a meteor striking, but according to this survey it's scarily likely.
Regrettably, it's the minutely detailed examples, highlighting present day research, which create an imbalance, sometimes long-winded enough to break up a chapter, and often reducing the fascinating question of what might happen to a mere afterthought. Another thing I found slightly unfortunate were the thoughts on solutions being pooled into the last chapter instead of complementing the individual chapters. A general conclusion would have been more fitting in my opinion.
In short: Technology as our downfall - an interesting excursion into what may cause the next mass extinction event on our planet!

3/5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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