“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
“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
“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
“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.”
What is transhumanism? Simply put, it is a movement whose aim is to use technology to fundamentally change the human condition, to improve our bodies and minds to the point where we become something other, and better, than the animals we are. It’s a philosophy that, depending on how you look at it, can seem hopeful, or terrifying, or absurd.
In To Be a Machine, Mark O’Connell presents us with the first full-length exploration of transhumanism: its philosophical and scientific roots, its key players and possible futures. From charismatic techies seeking to enhance the body to immortalists who believe in the possibility of ‘solving’ death; from computer programmers quietly re-designing the world to vast competitive robotics conventions; To Be a Machine is an Adventure in Wonderland for our time.
To Be a Machine paints a vivid portrait of an international movement driven by strange and frequently disturbing ideas and practices, but whose obsession with transcending human limitations can be seen as a kind of cultural microcosm, a radical intensification of our broader faith in the power of technology as an engine of human progress. It is a character study of human eccentricity, and a meditation on the immemorial desire to transcend the basic facts of our animal existence – a desire as primal as the oldest religions, a story as old as the earliest literary texts. A stunning new non-fiction voice tackles an urgent question…what next for mankind?