Biofiction: Emerging Technology Edition

 

CBHD often receives requests from educators and other individuals for popular resources that engage bioethics through various media (fiction, film, and television). In this resource, we offer an overview of materials relevant to emerging technology in fictional books and series. Readers are cautioned that these works represent a wide variety of genres and may not be appropriate for all audiences. If there is a work you think we missed, email us at info@cbhd.org.

 

Emerging Technology

  • Asimov, Isaac. The Foundation Series.
    • Foundation and Empire (1952; repr., Bantam Spectra, 2004)
    • Second Foundation (1953; repr., Bantam Spectra, 2004)
    • Foundation's Edge (1982; repr., Bantam Spectra, 1991)
    • Foundation and Earth (1986; repr., Bantam Spectra, 2004)
    • Prelude to Foundation (1988; repr., Bantam, 1989)
    • Asimov continues his famed Foundations Series, charting the emergence of the Mule, a human mutant with enhanced mental capabilities, who wreaks havoc with the carefully scripted Seldon Plan in his pursuit of galactic domination. The Second Foundation is forced to actively intervene in the galactic affairs of the First Foundation, threatening to expose its secretive existence. While the First Foundation emphasized the advances of the physical sciences, the Second Foundation has focused its energies on cultivating the cognitive and psychological sciences. With the fate of the galaxy at stake, the series climactically turns to a search for the mythical origin of planet "Earth" and the future of the human species. (Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Human Enhancement, Neuroethics, Personhood, Robotics)
  • Atwood, Margaret. MaddAddam Trilogy (Series)
    • Oryx and Crake (Anchor, 2004)
    • The Year of the flood (2010)
    • MaddAddam (2013)
    • The trilogy explores the aftermath of a cataclysmic bioterror pandemic that eradicates most of the human species. In the first volume, the main character Jimmy is the unwitting accomplice to the bioterror event for which his friend Crake/Glen is responsible. As Jimmy realizes the scope of what has happened he seeks to protect a humanoid species (the Crakes) that Crake has genetically-engineered, with a group of friends referred to as the MaddAddamites. The second volume follows an environmental cult, God's Gardeners, and two of their members - Toby and Ren - as they seek to survive in the aftermath of a landscape infested with genetically-engineered intelligent creatures. The final volume brings the survivors together as they seek to rebuild some semblance of civilization in the midst of threats from other humans who have seemingly lost their humanity. (Topics: Animal-Human Hybrids, Bioterrorism, Biotechnology, Egg Donation, Euthanasia, Genetic Engineering, Human Enhancement, Personhood, Posthuman, Research Ethics)
  • Bova, Ben and Eric Choi, eds. Carbide Tipped Pens: Seventeen Tales of Hard Science Fiction (Tor, 2014)
    • Carbide Tipped Pens is an anthology of seventeen short stories in the sub-genre of ‘hard science fiction,’ described by the editors as a “literature of change . . . that examines the implications—both beneficial and dangerous—of new science and technologies” (11-12).  Together with tales of outer space, aliens, and the survival of human beings, advancements in biotechnology likewise are creatively explored in the narratives. “Old Timer’s Game” imagines sports medicine’s transformation into performance enhancement that alters not only the players, but the popular world of professional sports. Meanwhile, “Skin Deep” envisions biomedical advancements through a custom-designed medical tattoo that shifts medicine from healing into more nefarious purposes. Without shying away from the technical aspects, these short stories intelligently explore the impact of advancing technology upon individuals and culture while making the ‘science’ in ‘sci-fi’ very practical and accessible to the reader. (Review written by Marie Butson, MDIV, MA) (Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Biotechnology, Genomics, Human Enhancement, Personhood)
  • Card, Orson Scott. The Ender Saga (Series, also referred to as the Ender's Game Series)
    • Ender's Game (1985)
    • Speaker for the Dead (1986)
    • Xenocide (1991)
    • Children of the Mind (1996)
    • Ender in Exile (2008)
    • A sci-fi series for young adults. Amidst the evolving storyline the series raises a number of issues related to technology and the complexities of their personal and societal implications. (Topics: Reproductive Technology, Genetic Engineering, Human Enhancement, Artificial Intelligence and Personhood, Radical Life Extension)
  • Card, Orson Scott. The Homecoming Saga (Tor Books) (Series)
    • The Memory of Earth (1992)
    • The Call of Earth (1992)
    • The Ships of Earth (1994)
    • Earthfall (1995)
    • Earthborn (1995)
    • This science fiction series picks up the narrative of the exiled human race 40 million years after its departure from a devastated planet earth. To prevent a recurrence, humans were enhanced to allow the subtle guidance of an artificial intelligence to protect them from developing advanced technologies that could again threaten destruction. The series follows their return to a revived Earth, where they encounter other sentient creatures that have developed during the human exile. (Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Genetic Engineering, Human Enhancement, Neuroenhancement, Personhood)
  • Card, Orson Scott. The Shadow Saga (Series)
    • Ender's Shadow (1999)
    • Shadow of the Hegemon (2001)
    • Shadow Puppets (2002)
    • Shadow of the Giant (2005)
    • Shadows in Flight (2012)
    • A sci-fi series for young adults. Amidst the evolving storyline the series raises a number of issues related to technology and the complexities of their personal and societal implications. (Topics: Reproductive Technology, Genetic Engineering, Human Enhancement, Artificial Intelligence and Personhood, Radical Life Extension)
  • China, Mieville. Perdido Street Station (Del Rey, 2011)
    • Mieville, the master of "weird fiction," creates a scintillating world melding science-fiction and fantasy where human enhancement and remaking have become commonplace, and technological alchemy blurs with mystical powers alongside the spontaneous emergence of artificial life. (Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Chimeras, Human Enhancement, Remaking Humanity)
  • Berry, Max. Machine Man (Vintage, 2011)
    • When a scientist becomes the victim of an industrial accident, he reasons that improved prosthetics can free him from the limitations of his physical body. Transhuman science fiction exploring the implications of the human body as the original prosthetic. (Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Cyborg, Human-Computer Interface, Human Enhancement, Research Ethics, Transhumanism)
  • Gibson, William. The Peripheral (Berkley, 2015)
    • (Topics: Nanotechnology, Robotics, Telepresence, 3D Printing)
  • McCarthy, T. C. The Subterrene War (Series)
    • Germline (2011)
    • Exogene (2012)
    • Chimera (2012)
    • Graphic Futuristic Wartime trilogy. Global super-powers have exhausted conventional and nuclear warfare options in pursuit of rare metals and turned to an escalating arms race of human enhancement and re-engineering. Each volume of the trilogy is told from a different perspective. Germline begins the series following an embedded military reporter who is the first to be permitted on the frontlines, where he encounters "genetics" (re-engineered female soldiers) and struggles to come to terms with their "personhood." Exogene picks up the narrative a few years later from the perspective of a female "genetic" grappling with her nature and purpose, while at the same time uncovering evidence of further attempts to develop the ultimate soldier. Chimera, the conclusion of the trilogy, resumes the story some years later with a human soldier wrestling with the need to embrace "genetics" as they face new generations of even more radically remade enemies. (Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Genetic Engineering, Human-Computer Interface, Human Enhancement/Remaking Humanity, Neuroenhancement, Personhood)
  • Naam, Ramez. Crux (Angry Robot, 2013)
    • In this sequel to Nexus, Kaden Lane, creator of the Neural-linking software Nexus, evades governments and covert organizations that are set on gaining access to the back doors in software that would allow for total neural control. As Nexus goes viral around the world, Lane desperately tries to locate his associates and thwart the rising threat of Nexus from being exploited as a tool of terrorists. Naam expertly explores a range of emerging technologies and the prospects, technical challenges, and societal implications that each may face. (Topics: Cognitive Uploading, Cyborgs, Human Enhancement, Nanotechnology, Neuroethics, Research Ethics, Transhumanism/Posthumanism)
  • Pearson, Mary. The Adoration of Jenna Fox (Square Fish, 2009)
    • From all appearances Jenna Fox is your typical teenage girl, except that she cannot remember anything about her past prior to the coma from which she has recently awoken. Something is off. Her legs and hands just do not seem right. When she accidentally cuts herself in the kitchen with a knife, it is clear she is not the same Jenna Fix as before the terrible car accident that caused her to be in a coma. In this first volume of the Jenna Fox Chronicles, Mary Pearson masterfully explores the personal and societal implications when parental desires to protect their children collide with vitalism and biotechnology. (Topics: Biotechnology, Cognitive Uploading, Nanotechnology, Neuroethics, Personhood, Vitalism)
  • Perry, Steve. The Ramal Extraction: Cutter's Wars (Ace, 2012)
    • A sci-fi action novel chronicling the hostage rescue of the captured daughter of one of New Mumbai's most important leaders. The mercenary extraction team sport a wealth of biological enhancement and technological augmentation, demonstrating the prospects and challenges of military deployment of human enhancement technologies. (Topics: Cybernetic Augmentation, Human Enhancement, Neuroethics)
  • Rajaniemi, Hannu. The Quantum Thief (Tor, 2011)
    • This posthuman crime mystery delves into a world where virtual reality and real life have ceased to be distinct. A world in which privacy is determined by electronic permissions and access to shared memories, and warfare is reduced to the best enhancements. (Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Upload, Digital Immortality, Human Enhancement, Posthumanism, Virtual Reality)
  • Reeve, Philip. Fever Crumb Series
    • Fever Crumb (Scholastic, 2009)
    • Web of Air (Scholastic, 2011)
    • Scrivener's Moon (Scholastic, 2012)
    • An expected tetralogy, the first three volumes follow Fever Crumb, a once-thought orphan who is trained as the first female engineer in a far distant post-apocalyptic, steampunk future. The novels are set some thousands of years after nuclear war has reshaped the physical world and destroyed human civilization, a world in which 21st century technology has become "old tech" that exists only through the maintenance of the pseudo-scientist guild of engineers and the less scientifically inclined technomancers. The protagonist, Fever Crumb, finds herself on a journey of self-discovery as she learns of her half-Scriven ancestry, and realizes that she is the sole remaining descendant of an enhanced humanoid race. Her journey woven through the sociopolitical conflicts that result from an immense technological undertaking, leads her beyond the biotechnological inventions of her grandfather Auric Godshawk to the origins of the Scriven as a race. (Topics: Genetic Engineering, Human Enhancement, Nanotechnology, Neuroethics, Personhood)
  • Roth, Veronica. The Divergent Trilogy (Series)
    • Divergent (Katherine Tegen Books, 2011)
    • Insurgent (Katherine Tegen Books, 2012)
    • Allegiant (Katherine Tegen Books, 2013)
    • In Divergent, the opening volume of the Divergent trilogy, Beatrice/Tris Prior faces a crucial decision during the annual rite of passage. The choosing ceremony of a post-apocalyptic Chicago presents teens with one of five tribal factions that uphold a single virtue of humanity. Will she choose the selfless faction Abnegation of her family, or the brave protectors of society, the Dauntless? The choosing ceremony leads to an unexpected revelation. Beatrice/Tris is divergent. But what does this mean? And, why is she able to control the neurostimulation of simulations and the fear landscape? (Topics: Neuroethics) In Insurgent, Tris Prior and other survivors of the simulation war struggle to resist the growing dominance of the Erudite faction and their Dauntless supporters. Meanwhile Tris uncovers a secret that others are dying to protect - a secret that may change the future of the factions and the basis of their whole society in post-apocalyptic Chicago - and may expose the true nature of what it means to be divergent. (Topics: Emerging Technology, Human Enhancement, Neuroethics, Research Ethics) Allegiant, the final volume of the Divergent trilogy, follows Tris Prior as she leads a band of former faction members outside of the city walls to learn more about the nature of the divergent and the city's original development. What she finds instead is a government operated facility, the primary purpose of which is to facilitate massive social engineering experiments. (Topics: Emerging Technology, Human Enhancement, Informed Consent, Neuroethics, Research Ethics)
  • Stephenson, Neal. Diamond Crash: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer (Bantam Spectra, 1995)
    • Labelled a postcyberpunk novel, the author of Snow Crash revisits a technologically advanced future now revolutionized by nanotechnology. As the narrator poignantly notes early in the narrative, "Now nanotechnology had made nearly everything possible, and so the cultural role in deciding what should be done with it had become far more important than imagining what could be done with it." The plot follows a coming-of-age narrative of two young girls who receive stolen copies of a digital interactive book (Young Lady's Illustrated Primer) that lead them from modest beginnings to navigate the sociopolitical realities of the global tribalism of their day. Prescient in its anticipation of e-books, telepresence, and 3D printing, the novel explores the social impact of emerging technologies and their potential to be transformative influences on individuals. (Topics: Nanotechnology, Neuroethics)
  • Stephenson, Neal. Snow Crash (Bantam Spectra, 1992)
    • Classic Cyberpunk novel located in a futuristic Los Angeles that is now governed by multinational corporations and private investor empires. Stephenson first coined the notion of a virtual reality "metaverse" in this sci-fi classic, which is being threatened by a cyber-drug referred to as "Snow Crash" that impacts reality as well. Hacker Hiro Protagonist uncovers this conspiracy that weaves together a literary tour de force drawing from archeology, computer science, cryptography, history, linguistics, philosophy, and religion. (Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Neuroethics, Human Enhancement, Virtual Reality)
  • Wilson, Daniel. Robogenesis (Doubleday, 2014)
    • In this sequel to Robopocalypse, humanity is picking up the pieces in the wake of the robot/AI rebellion known as the New War that nearly destroyed the human race. Beyond the sheer devastation and loss, all types of atrocities are coming to light from the robotic augmentation experiments that the AI Archos R-14 directed during the New War. As humanity and the free-born robots that joined in their defense are reestablishing pockets of civilization, a new AI threat emerges desiring to conquer humanity and the world. (Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Cyborgs, Human Enhancement, Neuroethics, Personhood, Robotics, Posthuman/Transhumanism)
  • Wilson, Daniel. Robopocalypse: A Novel (New York: Doubleday, 2011) [Interested readers who enjoy this volume may also like Daniel Wilson, How to Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion. (New York: Bloomsbury, 2005).]
    • Robopocalypse chronicles the birth and escape of an artificial intelligence named Archos on through the robot uprising at zero hour and to humanity's passionate fight for liberation from the ensuing robotic oppression. (Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Cyborgs, Human-Computer Interface, Human Enhancement, Neuroethics, Personhood, Transhumanism)

 

 

Updated December 2016