Humans now live longer and better than ever before, and we are the most populous big animal on earth. Meanwhile, our closest living relatives, the now-endangered chimpanzees, continue to live as they have for millions of years. We are not like the other animals, yet we evolved through the same process. What are we then? And now we have remade the world, what are we becoming?
Setting out to answer this question Gaia Vince tells a remarkable evolution story about us. Unlike any other species on earth we determine the course of our own destiny, a fact that Vince argues rests on a special relationship between our genes, environment and culture. Exploring cutting-edge advances in population genetics, archaeology, palaeontology, psychology and more that fundamentally change our understanding of how we developed as a species, Transcendence compels us to reimagine our ancestors. To think of us as a sort of smarter chimp with cool tools is to miss what is truly extraordinary about us and the way we operate on this planet. Look around you: we are the intelligent designers of all you see – including ourselves.
Gaia Vince is a science writer and broadcaster interested in the interplay between humans and the planetary environment. She has held senior editorial posts at Nature and New Scientist, and her writing has featured in newspapers and magazines including the Guardian, The Times and Scientific American. She also writes and presents science programmes for radio and television. Her research takes her across the world: she has visited more than 60 countries, lived in three and is currently based in London. In 2015, she became the first woman to win the Royal Society Science Book of the Year Prize solo for her debut, Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made.
"A hugely enjoyable sprint through human evolutionary history [...] Read it."
– Tim Radford, Nature
"Beautifully written [...] At her best Vince takes dizzying leaps, making connections between archaeology, anthropology, genetics and psychology. She is especially good on the delicate interplay between genes, environment and culture. Vince steps with lightness."
– Tom Whipple, The Times
"The storming success of Yuval Noah Harari's books has inspired many others that aim to span the epic sweep of human history with grand theories and cor-blimey factoids. This book does both."
– The Times, Best Science and Medicine Books of the Year
"Here is the miraculous creature we are: unlikely, poignant, astonishing [...] Much to think about. This book gives rise to many such thoughts and is written with merciful clarity."
– Sebastian Barry
"Wonderful [...] enlightening."
– Robin Ince
"Richly informed by the latest research, Gaia Vince's colourful survey fizzes like a zip-wire as it tours our species' story from the Big Bang to the coming age of hypercooperation."
– Richard Wrangham, Professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University and author of The Goodness Paradox
"An imaginative and inspiring adventure into the origins and evolution of what we hold most dear: our human culture."
– Uta Frith, Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development UCL
"This book goes from the Big Bang to the Hundred Thousand Genome Project to make a convincing case that Homo sapiens has become a super-organism. I learned a lot from it and so will you."
– Steve Jones, Emeritus Professor of Human Genetics UCL, author of Almost Like a Whale