How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics

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University of Chicago Press, May 15, 2008 - Philosophy - 364 pages
In this age of DNA computers and artificial intelligence, information is becoming disembodied even as the "bodies" that once carried it vanish into virtuality. While some marvel at these changes, envisioning consciousness downloaded into a computer or humans "beamed" Star Trek-style, others view them with horror, seeing monsters brooding in the machines. In How We Became Posthuman, N. Katherine Hayles separates hype from fact, investigating the fate of embodiment in an information age.

Hayles relates three interwoven stories: how information lost its body, that is, how it came to be conceptualized as an entity separate from the material forms that carry it; the cultural and technological construction of the cyborg; and the dismantling of the liberal humanist "subject" in cybernetic discourse, along with the emergence of the "posthuman."

Ranging widely across the history of technology, cultural studies, and literary criticism, Hayles shows what had to be erased, forgotten, and elided to conceive of information as a disembodied entity. Thus she moves from the post-World War II Macy Conferences on cybernetics to the 1952 novel Limbo by cybernetics aficionado Bernard Wolfe; from the concept of self-making to Philip K. Dick's literary explorations of hallucination and reality; and from artificial life to postmodern novels exploring the implications of seeing humans as cybernetic systems.

Although becoming posthuman can be nightmarish, Hayles shows how it can also be liberating. From the birth of cybernetics to artificial life, How We Became Posthuman provides an indispensable account of how we arrived in our virtual age, and of where we might go from here.

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User Review  - zacchia - LibraryThing

"How we became posthuman" interprets the concepts and definitions of posthuman amist the evolution of technologies and their correlation to literature and society . Spanning a period between the 40th ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - veevoxvoom - LibraryThing

N Katherine Hayles is one of the most prominent scholars of cybernetics and the cultural theory of cyborgism. Her thesis in this book is that although in our modern age, there is an increasing move in ... Read full review


Toward Embodied Virtuality
Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers
Contesting for the Body of Information The Macy Conferences on Cybernetics
Liberal Subjectivity Imperiled Norbert Wiener and Cybernetics
From Hyphen to Splice Cybernetic Syntax in Limbo
The Second Wave of Cybernetics From Reflexivity to SelfOrganization
Turning Reality Inside Out and Right Side Out Boundary Work in the MidSixties Novels of Philip K Dick
The Materiality of Informatics
Narratives of Artificial Life
The Semiotics of Virtuality Mapping the Posthuman
Conclusion What Does It Mean to Be Posthuman?

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Page 3 - Its possessive quality is found in its conception of the individual as essentially the proprietor of his own person or capacities, owing nothing to society for them. The individual was seen neither as a moral whole, nor as part of a larger social whole, but as an owner of himself.

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