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

Mark O'Connell

2017


A review of transhumanist ideas by an avowed sceptic.

Transhumanism is a difficult belief system to tackle. At its more extreme end it rests on the idea of the "singularity", the point at which scientific and technological problem-solving become so advanced that any solvable problem is solvable quickly – which of course includes the "problems" of sickness, death, brain uploading, and a host of other radical ideas. (In recent years the singularity is assumed to involve super-intelligent AI, although that wasn't originally the conception, and such AI could be regarded as a consequence rather than a cause of the singularity.)

It's an easy notion to ridicule, which this book sets out to do, and does well. But the long-term notion of accelerating progress isn't as fragile as it can be made to appear. The ideas deserve a better exploration than this book attempts. It's good for laughs and for making the participants sound like either idiots or charlatans – and maybe they are, but there's also some interesting and solid science going on that goes beyond these stereotypes, beyond those seeking publicity rather than knowledge.

Finished on Sat, 15 May 2021 00:00:00 -0700.   Rating 3/5.