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Cyborg Citizen: Politics in the Posthuman Age Paperback – 28 Feb 2002

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Amazon Review

Some great science fiction has asked about robots and the right to vote--but what happens when we're 51 per cent artificial ourselves? Cyberculture scholar Chris Hables Gray looks at the ever-changing human body in Cyborg Citizen: Politics in the Posthuman Age and makes some well-educated guesses on the makeup of the future cybernetic body politic. Though he does go out of his way to remind the reader that nearly all of us are bio-enhanced (that is a vaccination scar, isn't it?), he's neither a chrome-eyed Extropian nor a Rifkinesque fear-mongerer. His thesis is refreshingly simple in a world overfilled with postmodern complexity: We're changing our bodies more and more radically, and we ought to think about how this will change our way of life. Examining health care, social interactions, and politics, Gray's focus is largely on particular modifications and enhancements such as prosthetic limbs, artificial organs, performance-enhancing drugs, and their descendants. The book never dips into freak show territory, though; even if Gray uses colourful examples to illustrate his points, he still maintains a humanistic attitude throughout. His simple thesis, coupled with this attitude, create a web of thought that is simultaneously entertaining and enlightening. Though our track record on dealing with change preemptively is spotty at best, reading Cyborg Citizen is still a good prescription for keeping the posthuman jitters at bay. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"[An] eruption of tomorrow's topics....."
-Andrei Yuri Lubomudrov, "Willamette Week
..."insightful and well formulated.."
-Andrei Yuri Lubomudrov, "Willamette Week
"An intriguing social survey perfect for discussion groups.."
-Reviewer's Bookwatch
..."a supremely readable book, enlivened by weird science and slap-shot one-liners.."
-"Wired, Mark Dery, May 2001
...""Cyborg Citizen is a ripping good yarn-just the thing for Dr. Moreau's waiting room.."
-"Wired, Mark Dery, May 2001

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9d548618) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa8c343fc) out of 5 stars Call Me Cyborg 23 Oct. 2001
By Panopticonman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Written in the personal, post-modern style, down to earth, and occasionally profound, Cyborg Citizen is an instructive meditation on the interpenetration of the machine and the human, the machine and the non-human, the human and the non-human. Hables Gray reviews most of the relevant academic literature (Haraway and others) draws examples of cyborg lifestyles from the news (Christopher Reeves and others), from pop culture (TV, Sci-Fi, comic books) to make his larger point that the signs of cyborgization are everywhere now, and that we are all cyborgs now, whether we know it or not. Though penetrated by technoscience, most of us are not aware of the extent to which we have become drafted in the great cyborg experiment. Hables Gray argues we need to find new ways of thinking about the intersection of science, technology, and living things in order to make better (or at least some!) choices about where the technoscience juggernaut is taking us.
He explores a variety of different areas where political thinking has either been ineffective or brushed aside by the exigencies of technoscience and capitalism: Frankenfoods, franken-species, cloning, in-vitro fertilization practices are all covered, as are transgendering and cyborgization in pursuit of sexual fulfillment. He does equal justice to all the complexities these collisions entail. That's why I didn't give the book the full 5 stars, actually, because not all these topics deserve examination at the same length. But that's a minor complaint, of course.
After reading Cyborg Citizen you will find examples of cyborgs everywhere. Of course, as tool users and builders and putterers, we've always been cyborgs -- as much shaped by our tools as the things we've shaped with them -- but the recognition of this fact and how it plays out across the realms of the civic, the economic, the scientific and technological as described in Cyborg Citizen will show the reader how far we are from Rousseau's state of nature -- if indeed there ever was such a place -- but that we may not have much further to go before the tools and cyborgs we build remake the world into place where we would not choose to live, indeed, a world where we may not be able to live. Not anti-techoscience, but rather, pro-thoughtful technoscience, Gray lays out the conundrums simply and argues that to be only pro or anti-techoscience is a luxury we cannot afford. Ultimately, he argues that as cyborgs we have to start thinking about what that really means.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c4dcea0) out of 5 stars A man with a vision 7 Feb. 2005
By The Vanatru Techno Maven - Published on
Format: Paperback
Not only does his book have a dazzling perspective into all the ways that the body is modified within modern practice he also brings it to a level that even the most novice of readers can grasp. Having been a philosophy student of Mr. Gray's in 1997 I must say it is not quite as enlightening as being in person with him, but it still shows his brilliance and true connection to the cyborg-mentality. Frankly if you can find a way to meet him, every second is worth it. But if you can't, this book is a good close second, and well worth your $ and reading time.
11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ca25ba0) out of 5 stars Almost achieves coherence, but not quite 1 April 2002
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Why does it seem that all books written about human interaction with emerging technologies are written in postmodernist lingo? Gray's book is not nearly as objectionable in this regard as others (note, especially, the works of Pierre Levy, for truly awe-inspiring levels of incomprehensibiliy). At times he hits on topics that struck me as having a lot of merit (he takes the editors of WIRED to task, for instance, for promoting a sort of hipster-oh-man-this-is-so-awesome approach to technology, and he appropriately skewers libertarianism, etc.). However, I saw two main problems with the book: (1) The author appears to see everything and everybody in the world today as a cyborg of some sort - for example, ultrasound renders the fetus in the womb a cyborg, etc. The concept is so widely applied that it ceases to have meaning. (2) The regrettable lapses into postmodernist drivel, while thankfully infrequent are still discouraging. There is also a little (not a lot) of political correctness a la feminist theory to deal with. For instance, he spends some time skewering (no pun intended) the development of penile implants (cyborg penises!), and points out that the existence of such a phenomena validates the male-centric nature of technology so insightfully criticized by feminist theory. Odd, but no mention of breast implants is made. Purely an oversight, I'm sure!
There are so many serious topics to deal with in the area of our current and future relation to technology - when will someone write a coherent book addressing them?? While this book is an occasionally enjoyable read, in the end it can't be taken all that seriously.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d5489cc) out of 5 stars From PET scans to genetic food entering the body 19 May 2001
By Midwest Book Review - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The growing blend of humans and technology, from PET scans to genetic food entering the body, is changing concepts of the mind/body connection and has fostered a new era of 'cyborg' blends. Cyborg Citizen offers the first guide to 'posthuman politics', examining the key issues which blend political rights issues with technological advancement. An intriguing social survey perfect for discussion groups.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c944558) out of 5 stars An intriguing survey of changing images of civil rights 5 Jun. 2002
By Midwest Book Review - Published on
Format: Paperback
In Cyborg Citizen, the author argues that the creation of cyborgs calls for new definitions of citizenship. Examples can include Internet offerings and the legal and political issues raised by its use, and issues affecting the mechanization of humans with artificial parts. An intriguing survey of changing images of civil rights and liberties.
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