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How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies In Cybernetics, Literature, And Informatics Paperback – 5 Mar 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 74th edition (5 Mar. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226321460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226321462
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 271,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This book began with a roboticist's dream that struck me as a nightmare. Read the first page
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 May 2002
Format: Paperback
In this book of panoramic scope Hayles considers no less than the fate of the human race. In a rich and detailed discussion ranging from the science fiction of Greg Bear and Philip K. Dick to the science of Norbert Wiener's cybernetics and Claude Shannon's information theory, Hayles traces the changing conception of human consciousness and claims that a great many of us are already posthuman. A posthuman is someone who has been reconstructed in some sense, either physically or mentally, such that he or she exceeds, or believes they can exceed, the boundaries of a human. About ten percent of Americans can be considered cyborgs in the technical sense by virtue of having some kind of artificial implant - these people would qualify as posthuman since they have compensated for some limitation of their bodies through technological augmentation. However, Hayles claims that to be posthuman no prosthesis is necessary, simply the way in which we think about ourselves as conscious agents needs to change. The advent of Shannon's information theory has led to the modern convention of treating information as if it were entirely non-physical. If this idea is applied to the information in our heads - that is, the collection of memories that make each of us unique - then we quickly arrive at the conclusion that our consciousness can be uploaded into a computer, decanted into a robot-body, or even backed-up onto computer disk, giving us eternal life.
This is the story of how information lost its body and it is an idea which is now well established in Western culture and technology. Yet, Hayles believes it to be misguided. Any informational pattern, be it pebbles on the beach or electrons whizzing across the internet, must have a physical embodiment to exist.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on 10 May 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are looking for a book that discusses cloned figures in science fiction then this book may not be for you as Hayles' focus is on cybernetics, informatics and how these have affected the concept of 'human' and 'nonhuman'. In spite of this, her introductions and conclusions, in which she makes general comments about the posthuman figure and how they can function in literature are very compelling. Hayles argues that there is no paradigm in how the posthuman figure can be portrayed; the posthuman can either be exciting because it opens up new ways of looking at what being human means, or the poshuman can be a fearful figure because their presence suggests the end of mankind. The posthuman figure also reflects the fears and hopes of generations and so they can evolve over time. However, such evolution is a continuum and there are no sharp breaks or distinctions in changes to how the posthuman is conceived. The book is very interesting and I would definitely recommend it to any student studying science fiction, or science in fiction.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 Feb. 1999
Format: Paperback
HOW WE BECAME POSTHUMAN by N. Katherine Hayles (Chicago, $18, paper) explores the relation between the computer revolution and our changing ideas of what it means to be a human being. Her pet theme: how information became an entity in itself, divorced from the material that carries it, in both science and literature. Norbert Wiener meets P.K. Dick. (p. 178)
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 Mar. 1999
Format: Paperback
Read this book to see how an American writes in that obtuse French post-modern style. She covers the psybernetic/media territory from 1943 to 1999 the best I've ever seen. Zig-zags from Gregory Bateson & Alan Turing on to William Gibson and covers the very interesting idea that "information" probably does not exist like we generally think of it...a la Franciso Varela. Most importantly, She retreives Embodiment as the fundamental ground of all consciousness..that no feature of consciousness is ever not physical and even "information"-bits & bytes on/in the 'Net... cyber"space" is always embodied in servers/fiber optic lines/memory storage magnetic fields,etc.
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By PHILIP on 19 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's a reference book. Although a scientific "jargon" is there, the thinking is well presented.
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