To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death

Mark O’Connell. Doubleday, $26.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-385-54041-4
Transhumanism—defined here as “a liberation movement advocating nothing less than a total emancipation from biology itself”—is scrutinized in this compact, provocative exploration of the techniques and technologies currently being advanced to extend human intelligence and life spans. Slate columnist and debut author O’Connell takes an open-minded but skeptical approach to his subject as he leads the reader on a tour of modern facilities devoted to enhancing the human “meat machine”: cryonics storehouses that freeze brains and bodies for future resuscitation, whole-brain emulation labs studying the scanning and uploading of human consciousness, robotics researchers attempting to create simulacra capable of human function, cyborg “grindhouses” crafting renegade interfaces between the body and smart technology, and gerontology institutions that are trying to “cure” aging. O’Connell writes with an intellectual curiosity that makes his esoteric subject matter accessible to lay readers, and he tempers his observations with the existential anxiety that the concept of transhumanism evokes, as when he describes it as “an expression of the profound human longing to transcend the confusion and desire and impotence and sickness of the body, cowering in the darkening shadow of its own decay.” His book is a stimulating overview of modern scientific realities once thought to be the exclusive purview of science fiction. Agent: Amelia Atlas, ICM Partners. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/07/2016
Release date: 02/28/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-101-91159-4
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio

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