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Michael Cromartie

Our Posthuman Future

A conversation with Francis Fukuyama

A new book by Francis Fukuyama is always an event. That has been true since the publication of his essay "The End of History" in The National Interest in 1989 and the book that grew out of it in 1992. A decade later, the "end of history" debate still has some life to it. Meanwhile, Fukuyama himself has modified his thesis. While he continues to see signs of a "convergence toward liberal democracy around the globe," he now acknowledges that there's a potent joker in the deck: science. "Much of late twentieth-century technology," Fukuyama observes in the preface to his new book, Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), "like the so-called Information Revolution, was quite conducive to the spread of liberal democracy. But we are nowhere near the end of science, and indeed seem to be in the midst of a monumental advance in the life sciences."

Fukuyama is currently Bernard Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. Michael Cromartie, who interviewed him in the July/August 1999 issue of Books & Culture on the publication of his previous book, The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order, met with Fukuyama in Washington to talk about his new book and the challenges posed by biotechnology.

What are the promises and the dangers of the biotechnology revolution?

The promising stuff is pretty clear. There is the possibility of therapies for all sorts of genetically linked diseases, perhaps including cancer. I don't see any moral objection at all to using biotechnology in this way, for therapeutic ends. I think that it becomes more problematic when it's used for enhancement purposes, when it is used to consciously take an otherwise normal human being and make him or her into something very different. I think that's where the danger lies. To me, the single greatest danger will come when genetic engineering ...

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