Book Talk: The Mutant Project: Inside the Global Race to Genetically Modify Humans
“ That rare kind of scholarship that is also a page-turner. "
―Britt Wray, author of Rise of the Necrofauna
About the Book
An anthropologist visits the frontiers of genetics, medicine, and technology to ask: Whose values are guiding gene editing experiments? And what does this new era of scientific inquiry mean for the future of the human species?
At a conference in Hong Kong in November 2018, Dr. He Jiankui announced that he had created the first genetically modified babies―twin girls named Lulu and Nana―sending shockwaves around the world. A year later, a Chinese court sentenced Dr. He to three years in prison for "illegal medical practice."
As scientists elsewhere start to catch up with China’s vast genetic research program, gene editing is fueling an innovation economy that threatens to widen racial and economic inequality. Fundamental questions about science, health, and social justice are at stake: Who gets access to gene editing technologies? As countries loosen regulations around the globe, from the U.S. to Indonesia, can we shape research agendas to promote an ethical and fair society?
Eben Kirksey takes us on a groundbreaking journey to meet the key scientists, lobbyists, and entrepreneurs who are bringing cutting-edge genetic engineering tools like CRISPR―created by Nobel Prize-winning biochemists Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier―to your local clinic. He also ventures beyond the scientific echo chamber, talking to disabled scholars, doctors, hackers, chronically-ill patients, and activists who have alternative visions of a genetically modified future for humanity.
The Mutant Project empowers us to ask the right questions, uncover the truth, and navigate this brave new world.
Reviews & What Readers Say
“ This book is a beautiful mutant, part mystery, part horror story, part genetic science and totally engaging. Kirksey takes us adventuring―whirling through an exciting and informative journey we encounter genes, CRISPR, technology, scientists, people, hopes, dreams and land smack dab in the mess of 'human nature.' If you only read one book about genomic technologies and human futures, this should be it."
―Agustin Fuentes, Professor of Anthropology, Princeton University
“ Would you like to meet the first genetically modified people? From high-tech biology labs in Shenzhen to ACT UP activists in Berkeley, Eben Kirksey brings to life a ragtag crew of scientists and bio-hackers trying to mutate the human family, and maybe even cure cancer along the way. At turns terrifying and liberating, this infectiously readable book probes the limits of life itself, how we live it now and how it might be lived in the future."
―Alexander R. Galloway, author of The Interface Effect
“ A riveting jaunt to the cliff-edge of the future, where scientists, engineers, patients and biohackers struggle over the power, function and meaning of human gene editing. Will gene editing save us or destroy us? Some of us or all of us? With rare access to key players, Kirksey is the perfect guide to this unsettling new ethical and political terrain. This engrossing book deftly integrates science, ethnography, and social fiction through the lens of the author’s peerless analytic imagination. Empathetic, provocative and probing, it is a must read."
―Alondra Nelson, Harold F. Linder Professor, Institute for Advanced Study and author of The Social Life of DNA
“ Written with the gumption of an ethnographer, historian, and investigative journalist all in one, The Mutant Project is a fascinating record of close-up encounters at the vanguard of human genetic engineering. That rare kind of scholarship that is also a page-turner."
―Britt Wray, PhD, author of Rise of the Necrofauna: The Science, Ethics, and Risks of De-Extinction
St. Martin's Press
Note: Now available. Click here
EBEN KIRKSEY is an American anthropologist and Member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. He has been published in Wired, The Atlantic, The Guardian and The Sunday Times. He is sought out as an expert on science in society by the Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Democracy Now, Time and the BBC, among other media outlets. He speaks widely at the world’s leading academic institutions including Oxford, Yale, Columbia, UCLA, and the International Summit of Human Genome Editing, plus music festivals, art exhibits, and community events. Professor Kirksey holds a long-term position at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.