#47 - Reengineering Humanity: A wake-up call to question the world we're building for our children and for future generations.

An interview with Brett Frischmann, the author of this book

This podcast interview focuses on the impact of product innovation on our society and in particular our changing role in that society, and my guest is Brett Frischmann, author of the book Reengineering Humanity, which was recently selected by The Guardian as one of the Best Books of 2018.Product innovation

Brett is the Charles Widger Endowed University Professor in Law, Business and Economics, at Villanova University. In this role, he promotes cross-campus research, programming, and collaboration; fosters high-visibility academic pursuits at the national and international levels; and positions Villanova as a thought leader and innovator at the intersection of law, business, and economics.

Brett’s work has appeared in leading scholarly publications, including Columbia Law Review, Journal of Institutional Economics, and Review of Law and Economics. His research spans various disciplines and topics: infrastructure, knowledge commons, and techno-social engineering of humans (i.e. the relationships between the techno-social world and humanity).

This is what the scope of his latest book Reengineering Humanity is all about –

And that triggered me, hence I invited Brett to my podcast. We explore the evolving impact of product innovation and technology and the influence this has on us in our day to day professional life. We discuss examples of how we engineer ourselves, and how we are engineered by others. In particular, the latter can become a risk to all of us. Therefore we should ensure that the focus shifts to making humans better and more valuable, rather than using smart technology to actually make the user dumber.

Here are some of his quotes:

“Humans have always developed tools and technologies. They often augment who we are, enable us to grow, develop, pursue our passions, and develop capabilities. 

The big idea is that we’re on a slippery slope path toward a world in which more and more of our lives, of who we are and who we can be as individuals and collectively is managed and governed by supposedly smart techno‑social systems.

The idea that one of the most important constitutional questions in a lower case C sense for us to be considering in the 21st century is how are we going to sustain our freedom to be off? To be free from the engineered influence of others.

We’re building the world for our children, for future generations. Sometimes, we don’t stop to think about whether we’re happy about the world we’re building and why we’re building it a certain way as opposed to another way.”

By listening to this interview, you will learn three things:

  1. That we need to be very considerate about the type of solutions we’re building and why we’re building them in a certain way. Humanity’s techno-social dilemma is already large enough.
  2. Why the real value of the technology potential is in Human Augmentation – i.e. becoming better – but only if that’s in the light of who we want to be, how we can remain to have choices and be different.
  3. That we should challenge ourselves whenever we use the word ‘smart’ in relation to our product innovation and solutions – How is it smarter? What benefits does it give, and to whom? Too often it’s the user that’s made dumber….


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About the author

Sales Pitch

Ton Dobbe is a former B2B software product marketer who's on a mission to save mission-driven SaaS CEOs from the stress of 'not enough' traction. He's the author of The Remarkable Effect, the host of the Tech-Entrepreneur on a Mission podcast, and writes a daily newsletter on the secrets to mastering predictable traction.