Bioengagement - Summer 2013

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The promise and perils of advances in technology, science, and medicine have long been fodder for creative works in literature and cinema. Consequently, a variety of resources exist exploring the realm of medical humanities as well as those providing in-depth analysis of a given cultural medium or particular artifact. Th is column seeks to off er a more expansive listing of contemporary expressions of bioethical issues in the popular media (fi ction, fi lm, and television)—with minimal commentary—to encompass a wider spectrum of popular culture. It will be of value to educato rs and others for conversations in the classroom, over a cup of coff ee, at a book club, or around the dinner table. Readers are cautioned that these resources represent a wide spectrum of genres and content, and thus may not be appropriate for all audiences. For more comprehensive databases of the various cultural media, please visit our website at If you have a suggestion for us to include in the future, send us a note at


Maybe Baby

(2000, R for sexual content and language).

Reproductive Technology.

Real Steel

(2011, PG-13 for some violence, intense action, and brief language).

Artificial Intelligence, Personhood, Robotics.

Total Recall

(2012, PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity, and language).

Neuroethics, Robotics.

Remake of the 1990 film of the same title.


Asimov, Isaac.

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)

Artificicial Intelligence, Human Enhancement, Neuroethics, Personhood, Robotics.

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.

Asimov, Isaac. Pebble in the Sky

(1950; repr., Tor Book, 2008)

Biotechnology, Bioterrorism, Euthanasia, Human Enhancement, Neuroethics, Research Ethics.

The first novel from the sci-fi legend lays the groundwork for what Asimov later developed into the Empire Series and the subsequent Foundation Series. Pebble in the Sky follows Joseph Schwartz, a 20th century retired tailor who inexplicably finds himself living some 50,000 years in the future. Schwartz becomes the unwitting subject of a neuroenhancement research trial and is embroiled in an intra-galactic bioterrorism plot to bring an end to the reign of the Galactic Empire.

Baciagalupi, Paolo. The Windup Girl

(Night Shade Books, 2010).

Genetic Engineering, Human-Animal Hybrids, Human Enhancement/Remaking Humanity, Personhood, Transhumanism.

In the wake of environmental disasters and industrial bioterrorism, Thailand has survived as a refuge from the global influence of multinational bioengineering fi rms in high stakes pursuit of gene patents. Culturally resistant to genetically reengineered material, the streets of Bangkok are the home to Emiko, a discarded Windup Girl, the product of Japanese genetic engineering to create New People.

Perry, Steve. The Ramal Extraction: Cutter’s Wars

(Ace, 2012).

Cybernetic Augmentation, Human Enhancement, Neuroethics.

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.