Jean-Pierre Changeux

The Artificial Man Publication date : November 8, 2007

Contact lenses and intraocular lens implants, cardiac valves and pacemakers, palm pilots, pocket calculators, cell phones: artificial prostheses that make up for our failings or extend our powers have taken over our lives. To some degree, we have all become cyborgs.

The contributors to this volume review the latest advances in organ-replacement medicine. They recount how artificial kidneys have saved millions of lives and how cochlear implants have allowed thousands of deaf children to hear. They assess gene therapy and the current state of research into artificial retinas (designed to restore sight to the blind) and into the production of artificial blood (which would resolve the penury of blood-based products).

How has the development of “spare parts” medicine upset our lives and ways of thinking? The authors explain that even the notions of physical handicap and of the rights of the handicapped have changed over the past thirty years.

Also included here are descriptions of electronic medicine, in which both the diagnosis and the choice of treatment are machine assisted, and of electronic justice, where computers play a part in judges' deliberations.

How should relations between humans and nature and humans and artifice be understood? To what extent is the brain a machine? Will synthetic biology eventually be capable of producing a living cell out of inanimate material?

Are the developments described here a sign of the victory of human creativity over the hazards of life and over the weaknesses and limitations of the body? Or, on the contrary, are they a sign of subjection to robots and dehumanisation? Should we fear these “artificial humans”? Can they be of service to society?

The contributors to this volume, who are all renowned experts in their fields, examine these issues in the light of technical history, anthropology, biology, medicine, surgery, neuroscience, law, literature and philosophy.

Jean-Pierre Changeux is the author of L'Homme neuronal and L'Homme de vérité. He is a professor at the Collège de France and at the Institut Pasteur, and a member of the French Academy of Sciences.

Contributors to this volume: Pierre Corvol, Antoine Danchin, Patrick Degoulet, Stanislas Dehaene, Mireille Delmas-Marty, Luc Douay, Anne Fagot-Largeault, Alain Fischer, Françoise Héritier, Bruno Jacomy, Aldo Naouri, Christine Petit, José A. Sahel, John Scheid and Erich Spitz.