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Hacking Darwin: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humanity

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  2,173 ratings  ·  290 reviews

"A gifted and thoughtful writer, Metzl brings us to the frontiers of biology and technology, and reveals a world full of promise and peril." — Siddhartha Mukherjee MD, New York Times bestselling author of The Emperor of All Maladies and The Gene

Passionate, provocative, and highly illuminating, Hacking Darwin is the must read book about the future of our species for fans

Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published April 23rd 2019 by Sourcebooks
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Alexandermcwilliams I'd say the content of Hacking Darwin falls into two categories - the first of which, focused on actual science that's occurring now, has occurred in …moreI'd say the content of Hacking Darwin falls into two categories - the first of which, focused on actual science that's occurring now, has occurred in the past, or will likely occur in the very near future, accounts for the majority of the book. The second part, to me, the exciting bit, is his speculation. Some of it seems fantastical (hydras, for one!) but it's all within a degree of reason. Nothing too wild. If you're looking for science OR visions of the future, this book is for you.(less)

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May 12, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Another book rec plucked from Bill Gates' reading list.

Pros: There are a handful of interesting, thoughtful ideas about the near- and far-future consequences of genetic engineering, and the associated societal issues. It is a very good introduction to the state of genetic engineering (in animals, plants & people) today, where the technology is heading, and some of the outstanding ethical, policy, and geopolitical questions associated with it.

As an example, my favourite question the author asked
Jacob Hedlund
Aug 14, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The book does provide a decent synopsis of the history of genetic engineering, what is going on now and what to expect in the future. But he consistenly goes off on un-related tangents to bash religous people, politically conservative people and of course Donald Trump (Who doesn't bash on Trump these days?)

It is frustrating that when I wanted to learn about genetic engineering, I got bombarded with opinions of the authors in the form of left wing and atheistic propaganda. Leave your bias and pe
Ahmed Samir
The book is a good way to introduce yourself to the many aspects of genetic manipulation in humans. The author is occasionally able to strike a good joke to break the science, but it's a science book, so don't be too optimistic.

My problems with the title is that in some chapters it felt a little chaotic: there was no real drive or flow to the text and all seemed to be under the theme of the chapter, but nothing more.
Yzabel Ginsberg
[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

This book is not heavy on the actual science details—if you’re looking for those, you’ll be better to get another book, but if you don’t know that much about genetics, then there won’t be anything in there impossible to follow. It focuses instead on the various advances in genetics in terms of “what do they do”, “what do they entail”, “what could the results be”, and “how should be approach those?” (You can tell
Allysia K
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic read! I devoured it over the course of a few days of summer holidays. It ain't light summer reading, but I found it intensely easy, and relatively easy to understand for someone who knows little about genetic engineering.

My takeaway: The future of baby making is harrowing!
Paige Ruth
Nov 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was incredibly well researched. I had no idea how advanced genetic engineering technology has become and how much it can affect our daily lives. I highly recommend!
Alexander Rivas
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-books-read
Being a father of two this book created a moral and ethical argument within myself on the topic of genetic engineering. If there was a way to pick to apply gene editing prior to my two kids being conceived, I probably would have done some gene editing to my kids. I am someone that reads a lot and can see the benefits of gene editing and the statistical probability of increasing the experience of my children's lives to be better if I didn't choose gene editing. This is a dilemma because it seems ...more
Dipanshu Gupta
Not gonna waste anymore time on the book by writing an actual review on it.
Ksenia Kulichik
A very readable, relentlessly optimistic book about the future of genetic engineering and how it may be applied to human reproduction.

Jamie Metzl knows his subject matter very well and is an experienced writer: one does not need to have much familiarity with how human genome works or what the current state of science on the matter is to grasp his arguments. He covers a wide array of loosely related topics: genetic engineering, iPC research, IVF, embryo selection, genetic diseases, GMOs, politi
This is an important book that covers an important emerging issue. The main focus of this book is to bring awareness of the issues pertaining to the growing knowledge and implementation of human genetic manipulation and engineering, and to encourage dialog among all people who will be affected by it (which is potentially everyone).
I heard this author on the JRE podcast and was intrigued. While he covered most of the points in this book on the podcast, it should still be required reading.
One t
Kim McGee
This is a great scientific book to read if you don't normally read scientific books and let's face it - we are already dealing with DNA issues so it makes sense to be smart about it. Jamie Metzl provides insight through funny anecdotes, plain speaking English and sifts through all the facts and figures to give us a history of our DNA, what we know already and most important of all, where we are going in the not too distant future. Our children probably will be picking out our grandchildren from ...more
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An interesting and fascinating book about an interesting and fascinating topic.
I liked the style of writing, the clear explanations and how the author is able to talk about very complex topics in a clear and engaging mode.
This book is a lot of food for thought, highly recommended!
Many thanks to SOURCEBOOKS and Netgalley for this ARC. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book, all opinions are mine.
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After ‘The Gene: An intimate History’ I thought that any book about genetics would only be a disappointment. I was more than happily surprised. This is a book about genetics which starts where The Gene’ finishes and which looks to the future rather than the past -Where we are going rather than where we have come from - and it is jaw dropping. Engaging, often dryly humorous and not a little scary. Informative yet really enjoyable
May 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Easy to understand for those who aren’t familiar with genetic engineering, Informative and engaging!
This is going to be a long one, so buckle up if you're interested...
This was an interesting read. Author Jamie Metzl writes with a style that holds the reader's attention, while effectively communicating the information.
This easy writing style makes the book accessible to the layperson. It is not written in the overly technical manner that is a hallmark of many other science books.
He covers a lot of ground in here. He starts the book theorizing about the increased utilization of IVF technology
Feb 07, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book illustrates many of the ways that genetic engineering can help humans (and through them, the rest of the world but less so). It offers up a repeated narrative through time of a woman seeking to have a child through IVF and the options available to her as technology becomes more advanced.

The technology and genetics explored include: preventing serious disease, improving immune response, selecting for physical traits, identifying personality, etc. Some of this technology is already here
Jun 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
This is an absolutely fascinating book.

In 'Hacking Darwin,' author Jamie Metzl previews the future of human genetic engineering and the future of mankind. It's a science book for general audiences, so it's a bit of a lift but not unmanageable.

The book begins with a refresher on evolution and genetics, moves through a discussion of eugenics, and proceeds to discuss how mankind will press the "fast forward" button on human evolution to reduce genetic disease, slow the aging process, and select fo
Clarence Reed
Dec 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
ReedIII Quick Review: Brilliant scientific information with associated implications for humanity. Genetic engineering is already real but where are we headed? Real science but light enough for easy understanding.
Jeff Kim
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There may come a time when we meddle with our genomes in such a way that not being able to run a marathon at age 200 will be considered a profound disability. People will send you donations when you’re in that condition. Genetic Engineering imagines a world where humans transcend the limitations of our current Biology(Homo Sapiens has time-limited hardware and a very buggy software)

The future of human reproduction may lie in In vitro fertilisation(IVF) and embryo selection to screen for desired
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hacking Darwin is an intensely thought provoking look into genetic engineering and its potential consequences. Metzl covers the history of genetic engineering, the latest breakthroughs in science, and his visions what the future could look like.

Metzl's juxtaposition of state-of-the-art with future implications works extremely well for presenting research material while not burying the reader in piles of scientific literature. The questions he asks and the Gattaca-like future he pictures will lea
Darsh Bakshi
It was an okayish read. The book had some brilliant ideas and a lot of thought expirement stuff but majority of it was an exercise in predicting the future without any concrete evidence to support it. A lot of times I felt as if this is no different from any financial forecasting which we do. Knowing in hindsight that majority of the ideas he shared isn't going to be true in future I was a little skeptical yet hopeful. Still a good read. ...more
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, sb
“Our biology is about as complex as it has been for millions of years, but the sophistication and capacity of our tools is now advancing at exponential rates.”

Soon our tools will be capable of altering our own genes which will change what it means to be human. This book is an essential read for anyone interested in the technologies used as well as the related ethics questions the topic raises.
Jun 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly researched and well-written account of the science, ethics, and real-world impact of gene editing. A convincing case against natural conception is made without a hint a naive techno-optimism. Metzl’s perspective is realistic while also being deeply humane. Excellent popular science.
Full review to come!
Jun 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Evolution by natural selection is the most powerful force of nature. Starting from small self-replicating molecules almost four billion years ago it produced every single species alive today. Small changes accumulate over generations: if they are beneficial, they spread, if they aren't they are eliminated. Of course, most mutations are neither useful nor harmful, or they can be either depending on environmental factors. A single mutation causes sickle-cell anemia, but that very same mutation inc ...more
Josh Friedlander
I love finding books at the very outskirts of my understanding. Most pop-science books either do too much to cater to the lowest common denominator ("black holes are like BIG balls of ENERGY that go CRASH"), or else the opposite - they're written by domain experts like Stephen Hawking who try to explain their ideas without any maths ("black holes are, for reasons too complicated to explain here, shaped like eight-dimensional tori"). Unfortunately this book is firmly in the first category.

Diane Hernandez
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Hacking Darwin presents an evenhanded look at the future of genetic intervention from a non-scientist’s point-of-view.

The first “test tube baby” was born using IVF in 1978. The human genome was fully sequenced in 2003. CRISPR, a method to cut and paste different genetic code into DNA, was developed in 1988 but first used on human cells in 2013. The combination of these three advances will soon allow IVF embryos to be selected for freedom from disease, hair/eye color, and gender. The ability to s
Ashlee Bree
Oct 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, nonfiction
Point blank: genetic engineering is the future.

We're already seeing it or have already seen some preliminary examples of it in IVF, in targeted cancer treatments and immunotherapy, in genetic screenings which give people a warning about inherited conditions or potentially harmful mutations that are present in their DNA. With technology, science, and research gaining steam fast, Metzl argues it's only a matter of time before genetic manipulation becomes not only more feasible but more beneficial
Dec 29, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I felt like I had to finish this book to be able to give it a proper review, but I really did not enjoy it. I appreciate the effort to summarize complex scientific concepts in a comprehensive manner, but so many elements of the book detracted from the science. The author tries to portray a desire for equality in his push for these new biotechnologies, but makes REPEATED comments throughout the book that are ignorant, biased, and quite frankly racist/ableist. It was extremely frustrating to read. ...more
Casey Farrell
Metzl has been able to take such an advanced topic such as genetic engineering and break it down to be understood by someone who has never touched the topic beyond the occasional story on the news. That being said, genetic engineering is complicated, so this book can still be a heavy read if you go into this without knowledge of genetics.

Reading other reviews, it seems there is confusion on what the purpose of this book was. As a book informing the reader on the current technologies and advance
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Jamie Frederic Metzl is an American technology futurist, geopolitical expert, and writer, a former partner in the global investment company Cranemere LLC, and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He was formerly the Asia Society's Executive Vice President.


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If you love reading as much as our colleagues, then your summer fun itinerary will most likely include books. To help inspire...
114 likes · 38 comments
“whatever your genes might predict, height can be stunted if you don’t get the nutrients you need as a child.” 2 likes
“We wouldn’t expect to make perfectly fresh cheese from old milk, but it seems perfectly normal to us that two thirty-year-old adult humans can have a child who is born zero years old, not thirty or sixty. Clearly, our cells already have a way of resetting the clock.” 0 likes
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