Viking Press, 1983
* Algeny — New Word, New World
Algeny is a challenging and controversial reevaluation of Darwinism, a critique of the coming era of bioengineering, and a critical examination of the way we view our relationship with nature. Jeremy Rifkin, author of the best-selling Entropy, reasons that our decision to develop biotechnology is potentially far more dangerous than our decision to split the atom. Beyond the promise of miracles may lie the reality of extinction.
For the first time in history, humanity is able to convert living material into new shapes and forms, to redesign existing organisms, and to engineer wholly new ones genetically. It is a time that marks a qualitative break from our entire past relationship with nature. Our children will grow up in a world populated with their own artificial creations, and thus their conception of the very meaning of life and existence will differ fundamentally from that of every other generation preceding them in history.
What are the far-reaching implications of humanity's new-found ability to create life? Every society invents a concept of nature that justifies its technology and social order, thus claiming to have the natural order on its side. Inexorably, then, we are shedding the Darwinian concept of nature, which has legitimized industrial society for five generations, for a new concept that will legitimize the emerging biotechnical society-a concept with cybernetics as the organizing framework, computers as the organizing mechanism, and living tissue as the organizing material.
Will this new concept of nature be any closer to the truth than Darwin's and the countless other explanations of nature that humanity has entertained over the millennia? Rifkin says no, and offers a revolutionary new critique of the history of Western thought to support his contention.
From its succinct depiction of a world in the act of reconceiving itself, to its truly challenging thoughts on the moral implications of our new cosmos, Algeny is a pioneering chart for the navigation of the future's awesome seas.
*As "alchemy" defined man's long struggle to transform materials, "algeny" (coined by Dr. Joshua Lederberg, president of The Rockefeller University) denotes the transformations of the biological revolution.
"This book may well be one of the most important documents of the decade."
— Senator Mark Hatfield
"Compelling and exciting Rifkin brilliantly plumbs the essential issues thrust on us by biotechnology."
— Los Angeles Herald Examiner
"Rifkin brilliantly presents a revelation about a process as dangerous as the nuclear arms race As citizens of conscience, we have a moral responsibility to fully understand what could become a social issue that will affect the whole of humankind."
— Congressman Ronald V. Dellums