My latest book…Posthumanism: A Guide for the Perplexed

“A wide-ranging, informative and engagingly written book on the emergent field of posthuman studies”

—Stefan Herbrechter, Research Fellow, Coventry University, UK

posthumanismcover

My latest publication, a trade academic book from Bloomsbury Academic just came out at the start of March, 2017. It’s called Posthumanism: A Guide for the Perplexed and it’s available from Amazon, libraries and select bookshops worldwide. It explores how humans and humanism are changing through interactions with technology, science and medicine; it considers how advances in the fields of technology, science and medicine challenge and redraw the usual distinctions made between humans, animals and machines.

I must admit that this book had something of a difficult birth: the half-completed first draft of it was stolen, along with my computers and back-up drives, in a break-in at our house in Vancouver in October, 2013. I had started work on the book again, not a little disheartened, when, one night in February, 2014, the writing process encountered another setback: our house was flooded with sewage back-up during a power outage, which caused the sump-pumps to stop working. I also had the great good fortune to discover the sewage back-up by falling into it in the dark (not a night I’ll soon forget, let me tell you). We had to leave our house so the restoration could be completed, and so began a long odyssey of moving from temporary accommodation to temporary accommodation, while the world’s most incompetent crew of ‘restorers’ (thanks for nothing, Sevicemaster), spent the next six months doing a job we were assured would last only six weeks.

During this disruptive peripatetic existence, I was working on the book whenever I could. But the book had begun to change from what had been the half-completed stolen draft. I found that as I researched, I was becoming more and more skeptical of the ‘science and technology studies’ approach to technology and science favoured in the humanities; that same approach has also informed a lot of what has been written about posthumanism. It seemed to me that such an approach was severely limited in what it could say about science and technology because it could not properly get to grips with the science and technology it was purporting to criticize/analyze. In practice, such an approach is confined to making shallow comments about ‘representations’ of technology and science, which wind up making ill-informed (and often outlandish) claims about technoscience that cannot help but put off those who actually know something about how science and technology actually work. I resolved that I’d try to avoid such shortcomings by giving my reader a more technically informed overview of the technoscientific advances–such as gene editing and artificial intelligence–I discussed in the book. My approach also meant that I had to try and speak across the deep divisions that separate the sciences from the humanities: not an easy task.

Then, in October 2015, just as I was finishing up the complete draft for submission to the publisher, a now infamous fight over Halloween costumes at erupted at Yale. This fight, in its turn, set off a whole spate of outlandish ideological demands (and frankly outrageous claims) by students (and several of their ideologically-driven professors) at universities in America and elsewhere. As a result, I started to become more and more uneasy about (and mistrustful of) the state of the humanities, especially about what had been passing for the so-called ‘critical thinking’ in the humanities for decades. I decided that the book should therefore reflect my growing concerns about that form of ‘critical thinking’ and the harm it does the students subjected to it. I finally submitted the manuscript to the publisher in June, 2016.

Oddly enough, I now think looking back that if it hadn’t been for the break-in and subsequent delays, Posthumanism: A Guide for the Perplexed would have been a boring-by-the-numbers-academic-book.

I think the book may also hold the dubious distinction of being the first academic book to use the word ‘kek.’

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