Impressions from my first TEDbook

As of yesterday, I have a Kindle DX; my choice of (slightly early) birthday present. Yes, I gave up waiting for the new iPad, or a really good Android tablet, at least for e-reading. Today I bought and read a Kindle single, as they call them, from the newly launched series TEDbooks, which are short books, 5,000–30,000 word length, which in the case of TEDbooks are written by authors who have given TED talks.

My first reading was Homo Evolutis, by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans. At the price of $2.99 it was an easy impulse purchase. I read it in about an hour and a half, not so much because it is short, which it is, but because it is written in a very jumpy style that made me think I was reading the text dump from a computer slide presentation. The style made the book feel overly energetic, hectic even, but the authors do provide more than 100 endnotes with links to literature that supports their claims. They also promise a longer version, in hardback, and have a website at www.homoevolutis.com.

Let others discuss the elegance or not of the “home evolutis” neologism. The main impression I got was that of a couple of frantically hyperactive salesmen selling me, with considerable urgency, the idea that humans are still evolving. Many species of humans may coexist right now, they claim. It helps this claim that the definition of “species”, as the authors point out, is fluid and not universally agreed upon. We evolve, they claim, because of all the changes in our environment, such as the huge populations of bacteria we carry in our bodies, but also because of our own actions, botox injections included, as well as many human-improving (at least so intended) medical interventions. I am glad I read this booklet, since it had interesting tidbits and was entertaining. I am also glad that it taught me that I can avoid the time investment needed to read their hardback version, if and when it appears.

So that you don’t think I called the authors frantically hyperactive salesmen out of sheer jealousy for their engaging writing ability, I finally note that they co-founded Excel Venture Management and are clearly in the hunt for untold riches. Gullans has a more academic pedigree, with a Ph.D., and served as a professor of Harvard Medical School for 18 years, so there is this bit of information to suggest that Homo Evolutis, the breathless tract, actually does convey some scientifically sound ideas.