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Here on the edge of the twenty-first century, we also stand poised on the brink of a revolution that may change everything about our world as deeply and pervasively as did the Industrial Revolution, and perhaps even as profoundly as did the Neolithic Revolution that changed us from wandering bands of hunter-gatherer nomads and gave us agriculture and towns: the Genetic Revolution.

Bioscience—genetic technology—may be the science that will shape our lives in the most significant ways during the twenty-first century, probably having an even more significant impact than the evolution of computer technology has had in the closing decades of the twentieth. Already, we’ve seen our daily lives changed by early manifestations of genetic technology, sometimes in behind-the-scenes ways that we hardly recognize. Everyone has heard about the controversy about cloning raised by the production of Dolly, history’s most famous sheep, but fewer realize that similar bioscience is behind the development of human-derived insulin and a dozen similar drugs on the cutting edge of medicine, or that they already live in a world where organisms created in a laboratory can be patented, or where genetically altered foods are available in every supermarket.

And this is just the thin edge of the wedge. Just ahead, perhaps in the next few decades, are changes driven by bioscience and genetic technology that will transform our daily lives almost beyond recognition, and perhaps even change us beyond recognition, that could change forever our ideas about what it means to be human. All our definitions of what makes a human being human, all of our “eternal verities,” all of the deep truths about human nature that have remained fundamentally the same since we came down from the trees at the dawn of time, all may be about to melt like snow—or, perhaps a better analogy, become molten and reshapable, like hot plastic, into any pattern we desire.

The prospect is both exhilarating and deeply terrifying.

Wonders and terrors await us ahead that, from our current perspective, are almost unimaginable.

In the anthology that follows, some of the world’s most expert dreamers take their best shot at imagining those coming wonders and terrors, doing a better job of pointing out the pitfalls and promise, the marvels and horrors, of the coming (hell, already almost here!) Genetic Revolution than you’re going to be able to find anywhere else. So, to buffer yourself from the oncoming tsunami of culture shock as well as anybody can be buffered, and also, not at all incidentally, to have a great time reading some of the most entertaining, colorful, and wildly inventive cutting edge speculations that science fiction has to offer, turn the page, while you’re still recognizably human (do you think you’ll still have fingers twenty years from now?), and enjoy!

For more speculations about how the Genetic Revolution will reshape our society and ourselves, check out the Ace anthologies Immortals, Clones, Nanotech, Hackers, and Future War.

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