This is an important, impressive, and infuriating book that should be read by all those interested in the posthuman movement, the possibility of a cyborg future, and the nature of cyberspace. I agree with other reviewers that it is a penetrating analysis of the cultural revolution taking place in information and what it means for human (and posthuman) society. It is important as a powerful statement of the post-modern concern with embodiment and what that might portend for the future of humanity. It is impressive as a wide-ranging analysis of the inter-linkages of technology, culture, and the human body. It is infuriating because of the jargon-filled text and convoluted nature of the writing. That last criticism is one that is generic for post-modern works such as this, and certainly not a specific criticism of this book.
UCLA professor of English N. Katherine Hayles makes the case that the body (or lack thereof) is central to this posthuman future. She notes that the body is lost in the information age, as disembodied voices/knowledge/data came to dominate thinking about a posthuman evolutionary stage. She also explores the development of the concept of the cyborg, and what the merger of humans and machines might eventually come to mean. She undertakes the analysis through a series of case studies. One of the best of them is her chapter on the science fiction of Philip K. Dick, whose novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" was made into the classic feature film "Blade Runner." His obsession with artificial life, and by extension "real" life, consumed much of Dick's writing and has much to say about the essence of the posthuman.
The most challenging and interesting part of this book is Hayles argument that Homo sapiens as a species are endangered in ways we have never conceptualized. Hayles notes that the rise of artificial life will lead to the next stage of the evolution of life on Earth. "If the name of the game is processing information," she writes, "it is only a matter of time until intelligent machines replace us as our evolutionary heirs. Whether we decide to fight them or join them by becoming computers ourselves, the days of the human race are numbered" (p. 243). The author does not view this with serious trepidation. As her last sentence in the book states: "Although some current versions of the posthuman point toward the anti-human and the apocalyptic, we can craft others that will be conducive to the long-range survival of humans and of the other life-forms, biological and artificial, with whom we share the planet and ourselves" (p. 291).
I think Hayles would agree with the Borg's slogan, "resistance is futile," but not with the dystopian concept of the human future it offers.