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In the first decades of the twenty first century, advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, prosthetics and biogenetic technologies have begun to challenge seriously the very definition of the human itself. As we humans have become more and more reliant upon, entwined with and rewritten by our technologies, perhaps “human” is no longer an adequate or appropriate concept through which to view ourselves. It is perhaps time to consider ourselves posthuman.
In Posthumanism: A Guide for the Perplexed, Peter Mahon gives his readers an overview of posthumanism, examining the intoxicating-and often troubling-entanglements of humans, animals and technology in science, society and culture that constitute its field. Mahon not only explores the key scientific advances in information technology and genetics have made us and society posthuman, but also how certain strands in art (such as science fiction and video games) and philosophy (for example, in the work of Andy Clarke and Jacques Derrida) have played-and continue to play-a crucial role in shaping how we understand those advances. Central to Mahon's analysis of posthumanism is an understanding of technology as a pharmakon-an ancient Greek word for a substance that is both a poison and a cure. In the light of this analysis, Mahon considers our posthuman future, as envisioned by a range of futurists, from Ray Kurzweil to those at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute. What seems clear is that this future will require massive shifts in how we think about ourselves as techno-biological entities, about the benefits and threats of intelligent technologies and about the roles consumerism and universal basic income will play in societies. Posthumanism is our present, our future and a challenge to which we must rise.