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To Be a Machine

Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death
Narrated by: James Garnon
Length: 8 hrs and 45 mins
4 out of 5 stars (112 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Meet the visionaries, billionaires, professors, and programmers who are using groundbreaking technology to push the limits of the human body - our senses, our intelligence, and our lifespans

Once relegated to the fringes of society, transhumanism (the use of technology to enhance human intellectual and physical capability) is now poised to enter our cultural mainstream. It has found adherents in Silicon Valley billionaires Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis. Google has entered the picture, establishing a biotech subsidiary aimed at solving the problem of aging.

In To Be a Machine, journalist Mark O'Connell takes a headlong dive into this burgeoning movement. He travels to the laboratories, conferences, and basements of today's foremost transhumanists, where he's presented with the staggering possibilities and moral quandaries of new technologies like mind uploading, artificial superintelligence, cryonics, and device implants.

A contributor to Slate, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Magazine, O'Connell serves as a sharp and lively guide to the outer limits of technology in the 21st century. In investigating what it means to be a machine, he offers a surprising, singular meditation on what it means to be human.

©2017 Mark O'Connell (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"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, best-selling 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)

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  • aaron
  • los angeles, CA, United States
  • 03-04-17

An Excellent All-Encompassing Look at Futurists

While futurists like Kurzweil and Elon can write their own books (Kurzweil), and have books written about them (both), this one of the best books I've read about Futurists (Transhumanists, et al) in general. It is wide-reaching, well researched, and at times quite funny! O'Connell spared no expense in talking to as many experts in the field as he could possibly find, and the listener is greatly rewarded for his efforts.

His writing style reminds me a lot of Jon Ronson's, but maybe a tad more scientific and a tad less witty.

If you're looking for a good primer on where the mindset of Transhumanists, Futurists, and Scientific Optimists are at these days, this is the book for you. It gives a litany of perspectives on where we're headed as a society, in terms of technological advancement, and very few of these lack believability. To that point, depending on which side of the argument you fall on, the stuff on A.I.s eventually driving us to extinction was particularly disconcerting, and worth the read all by itself.

The narrator was great.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Don't Bother<br />Completely free of valuable insights.

This is the type of useless drivel you get from letting an English major write about science.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful book. Very engaging and well written.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end. The author asked a lot of insightful questions, chronicled many actors in the transhumanist movement, and pointed out intelligent metaphors to human desires in the past. Also, his writing style is both humorous and informative. Wonderful book. I will keep an eye for any other books from this author.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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no research, snarky and dismissive

author speaks very eloquently about how he had the opportunity to speak to leading researchers on anti aging, and simply dismissed them without getting onto the details of their research. no attempt to understand scientifically the experts, simply arrogant and smug. narrator good, not at fault. terrible AB for those interested in the science of transhumanism and life extension. worst part is 2nd half he tours with a wacko riding a bus to political platform 4 prez on transhumanist ticket. objectivist/transhumanists will not happy about that. makes fun of Aubrey de greys beard and way he talks. no attempt to understand his research. cruel and dismissive of a brilliant man. read "Ending Aging" by Aubrey DeGrey instead

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A must read!

An excellent overview of Transhumanism. Tech geeks aspirations at becoming the priests of techno centric religion that hopes to avoid death by the induction of technology into the human mind and body. A modern day recreation of the Tower of Babel. Well written, informative, humorous, entertaining and well read.

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Fascinating horrifying and funny

O'Connell has written a wonderful book, well researched and thorough, encompassing all kinds of possible implications for our future. He is also delightfully witty and self aware. The narration is excellent, though occasionally veers unnecessarily into a slightly snide tone. He also reads all women's voices as if they were on the air headed side.

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Wonderful insight into our future

Whether you are aware of Transhuman work or not, the future is coming and it is not scifi!

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Mercifully, this book had an ending

Almost no new information presented regarding the subject matter. 95% fluff. Suppose I was writing a book on a new medical procedure. Now suppose that 95% of everything in my book was nothing more than the description of my cab ride to visit the doctor who invented the procedure. That’s what you have with this book. For now, we are all going to die. Don’t waste your precious time reading this book.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful