- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Doubleday (February 28, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385540418
- ISBN-13: 978-0385540414
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death Hardcover – February 28, 2017
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“O’Connell… dissects the practices and beliefs of trans-humanism with extraordinary exuberance and wit… To Be a Machine is sometimes hilarious (triggering several bursts of uncontrollable giggles while I read it on the Tube) but even as O’Connell mocks the more absurd manifestations of trans-humanism he shows sympathy and understanding for its adherents.”
“Wryly humorous, cogently insightful…. To Be a Machine is a lucid, soulful pilgrimage into the heart of what humanity means to us now—and how science may redefine it tomorrow, for better and for worse.”
“O'Connell unleashes his prodigious researching and writing skills on what could be your future.”
“O’Connell is a writer of elegant precision and winning facetiousness… His ear and eye for detail are prodigious… O’Connell’s writing—full of high-low swerves and personal asides—is a constant reminder of the bathetic reality of being human.”
“[O’Connell] reveals a bounty of beguiling ingenuity and genuine absurdity, eliciting laughs and empathy, because we are our most human while trying to become something more than human.”
"O'Connell, a columnist for Slate, is a charming, funny tour guide. Writing on transhumanism often gets swept away by the inherent drama of its adherents' promises, but O'Connell's eye for small human details…keeps the narrative grounded in a way that rigorous scientific debunking wouldn't.”
"The game-changing technology being developed in Silicon Valley is often hard to wrap one's head around, and Mark O'Connell takes readers on a wild ride through this world in a way that makes one feel that anything is possible and everything is happening right now."
"In this thoughtful and readable book, [O’Connell] aims to understand the motivations of those who are guided by the belief that technology will enable humans to transcend the human condition. In an attempt to explore what it means to think of ourselves as machines, O’Connell takes readers on an all-encompassing tour…He writes in an agreeable, conversational tone, offering his opinions, doubts, and fears along the way.”
“O’Connell decides to dive into the transhumanist culture in the best way possible: by traveling the world in search of key figures in the movement… The result is a fast-paced travel-log-cum-existential inquiry into the science and the religious significance of this age-old human desire to live forever: To become, in effect, a god.”
—NPR’s 13.7 blog
“O’Connell, a journalist, makes his own prejudices clear: ‘I am not now, nor have I ever been, a transhumanist,’ he writes. However, this does not stop him from thoughtfully surveying the movement.”
“O’Connell’s book is skeptical but not cynical, and it functions as a witty overview of transhumanism.”
“O’Connell’s sensibility—his humanity, if you will—and his subject matter are a match made in heaven. It’s an absolutely wonderful book.”
“O’Connell has devised an indispensable GPS for negotiating today’s tomorrow-land.”
—Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
“Comedic, unsettling, ambivalent, and intriguing…O’Connell’s book is a worthwhile read for all audiences.”
“To Be a Machine is flat-out fascinating. O’Connell’s journey is a layman’s adventure through the technological looking glass, an opportunity to meet with a subculture existing on the fringes of the tech scene and a compelling peek at one possible future. Sharply-written and thought-provoking, To Be a Machine is a book that will undoubtedly set your mind to racing and your gears to turning.”
—The Maine Edge
“O’Connell writes with an intellectual curiosity that makes his esoteric subject matter accessible to lay readers…a stimulating overview of modern scientific realities once thought to be the exclusive purview of science fiction.”
"An enlightening tour of transhumanism… packed with eccentric characters…An unsettling but informative and sometimes-optimistic view of mostly legitimate efforts at life extension."
“Readers will appreciate O’Connell’s sense of humor and his fast-paced writing, and will at times feel like they’re having a dialogue with the author as he ponders the ethics, consequences, and dilemmas of these transhumanist activities embedded in society today. Those who are interested in artificial intelligence, bioengineering, technology, and human development will find this book to be deeply engrossing and informative on the topic of transhumanism and what it means to be a human today and in the future.”
"A voyage into the dark heart of transhumanism, where dwell many hopeful mind-uploaders, robo-warfighters, subdermal implanters, doomed immortalists, and sundry aging Singularitarians. A funny, wise, and oddly moving book."
—Nicholson Baker, author of House of Holes and Human Smoke
“Hilarious and moving…. To Be a Machine is super-detailed and cosmic and minute and high-stakes and funny and sad, all at the same time.”
—Elif Batuman, author of The Possessed
“O'Connell, like some dream combination of Jon Ronson and Don Delillo, switches effortlessly from profound to poignant to laugh-out-loud funny. A brilliant illumination of the techno-future, To Be A Machine is also, and more importantly, a joyful summation of what it is to be human.”
—Paul Murray, author of Skippy Dies and The Mark and the Void
“O'Connell's forensic investigation of the unnervingly fluid border between the human and the machine is elegant and gripping: at once a hilarious anthropological survey of the people who believe technology will give us eternal life and a terrifying account of how technology is changing the cardinal features of human existence.”
—Olivia Laing, author of The Lonely City and The Trip to Echo Spring
“Provocative, funny and not a little gonzo, it’s a great one to recommend to devotees of Jon Ronson”
"Mark O'Connell, in funny, reflective prose, finds in the transhumanists a desire to exceed these very limits – of the capacity for thought, of death, of the body."
—Globe and Mail (Canada)
“[A] beautifully written book… Ultimately, To Be A Machine is both an insight into transhumanist thought and O’Connell’s very relatable fears and anxieties about morality and the future.”
"To Be a Machine is an attempt to understand the transhumanist movement on its own terms… It’s O’Connell’s lack of stridency, as well as his often splendid writing, that makes him such a companionable guide.”
—The Guardian (UK)
“By exposing the ludicrous yet terrifyingly serious ideologies behind transhumanism, To Be a Machine is an important book, as well as a seriously funny one.”
—Sunday Times (UK)
“O’Connell invokes the twin spectres of death and child-bearing in an attempt to make sense of his subject—but he also manages to be staggeringly funny.”
—New Scientist (UK)
"[A] Homer’s Odyssey for the digital age.... A gentle, humorous and lovingly written book."
—The Times (UK)
About the Author
MARK O'CONNELL is Slate's books columnist, a staff writer at The Millions, and a regular contributor to The New Yorker's "Page-Turner" blog; his work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Observer, and The Independent.
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In other words, transhumanism sounds weird in the current context more because of its timing than because of the content of its ideas.
For example, many current medical procedures would have sounded like science fiction not that long ago. I recently went through a round of cardiac diagnostics myself, one of which involved an injection of an artificial radioactive isotope which emits gamma rays, just to get images of my heart vasculature both before and after a stress test on a treadmill. Fortunately the gamma rays didn't turn me into the Hulk or something. : ) If you could have gone back a century ago to describe to the medical experts in 1917 what modern medical imaging can do, apart from the primitive X-ray photographs they had at the time, they would have dismissed it as the wildest fantasy. As a friend of mine who follows the medical literature says, the Singularity in medical imaging has already happened, and we have only started to notice it.
O'Connell also tries to connect at least some transhumanists' hangups about their bodies with ancient religious beliefs like Gnosticism. I know quite a few transhumanists through my friends and acquaintances in the cryonics movement, and while I suppose you can find one here or there who feels uncomfortable in his instantiation, I don't get the impression that transhumanists feel that way about their bodies in general. Zoltan Istvan, to whom O'Connell devotes a whole chapter in his book, apparently spent his youth having action-adventure experiences as he sailed around the tropics in a sailboat that make him sound more like Indiana Jones than any stereotype about a transhumanist nerd who feels uncomfortable in his own skin. You can find the video on YouTube where he uses a snowboard to slide down the slopes of an active volcano on a South Pacific island, to see a sample of the kinds of things he did back then.
O'Connell also seems to have an issue with the dominance of white men in transhumanism, despite the early contributions of the Iranian transhumanist F.M. Esfandiary and the more recent work of the Egyptian-born transhumanist Ramez Naam and the Jewish transhumanists like Ray Kurzweil and Eliezer Yudkowsky. Russia also has its own, independent version of transhumanist philosophy that started around 1900, and that has seen a revival lately, called "Cosmism." Russian women seem somewhat well represented in the current Cosmist movement, and some of them have shown up in the U.S. as scientists pursuing graduate study or scientific research into the biology of aging. O'Connell could have written a more comprehensive book if he had talked to some Cosmists to show that transhumanist ideas transcend Western parochialism. I've gathered that some people in East Asian countries have also shown an interest in transhumanism, but they haven't raised much awareness of their existence in Western countries yet.
Still, the framing of transhumanism as an expression of alleged white male privilege signals something about transhumanism's potential importance. Social-justice obsessives, apparently including O'Connell, target a white male social space when they see wealth or power accumulating there, so that they can try to invade it and engage in rent-seeking under the phony pretexts of "inclusiveness" and "diversity." Notice that white men dominate sabermetrics, for example, but that the social-justice warriors have ignored it so far because no one cares about a bunch of white male nerds who study baseball statistics, despite the success of applied "moneyball" techniques in some areas outside of the sport like in predicting the outcomes of elections. If sabermetrics starts to attract some serious money, and it acquires the reputation as a nexus where society's white male movers and shakers gather to exert their influence over society, then I predict that we will hear calls for sabermetrics to become more diverse and inclusive.
On the whole, O'Connell's book doesn't impress me, and I keep looking for a better survey which explains what transhumanism really means.
Di recente l'argomento transumanista sta salendo alla ribalta e con esso tutto quello che implica il superamento della nostra mortalitá, quanto meno in termini biologici. Questo libro mi sembra uno dei piú completi a riguardo: partendo dagli impianti e passando attraverso la simulazione neurale, Kurzweil e la singolaritá offre un riassunto degli argomenti ed una visione chiara del tutto. Interessante.