Tag Archives: Mark O’Connell

More Books I Read in June

Notes From an Apocalypse Mark O’ConnellNotes from an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back by Mark O’Connell follows his Wellcome Prize-winning exploration of transhumanism To Be a Machine with another book about the future, this time looking at the ways in which people prepare for ecological and societal collapse. O’Connell travels to South Dakota to visit underground survival bunkers, attends a Mars convention in California, visits New Zealand to find out why it is the favoured location for billionaires to ride out the end of the world, and goes to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in which the post-apocalyptic scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster has become a popular tourist attraction in recent years.

In the paperback edition, O’Connell notes in a new foreword that the timing of the hardback publication in April 2020 was “impeccable”. Nevertheless, it does mean that certain parts read a bit differently from how they would have done without a global pandemic. For example, the actions of the “preppers” who stockpile supplies to live on in the event of a possible worst-case scenario now seem a lot less extreme these days. O’Connell’s writing is dense and cerebral and ‘Notes from an Apocalypse’ contains as much food for thought as his first book, albeit with an even larger dose of anxiety about the future this time round. Continue reading

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To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell

Over the next few weeks, I will be shadowing the Wellcome Book Prize shortlist with fellow book bloggers Rebecca, Laura, Annabel and Paul. The £30,000 prize is awarded to a book about any aspect of health, medicine or illness and this year’s six shortlisted titles are:Wellcome Book Prize 2018 shortlist

I read and reviewed the only fiction title Stay With Me last year which leaves the five non-fiction titles to read over the next few weeks. First up is ‘To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death’ by Mark O’Connell which was also shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction last year. While most of the books on the Wellcome Book Prize shortlist deal with illness, ‘To Be a Machine’ is more about what it is to be human or “post-human” in which O’Connell, a freelance journalist, explores the transhumanist movement which is “predicated on the conviction that we can and should use technology to control the future evolution of our species” (p.2) and advocates “nothing less than a total emancipation from biology itself” (p.6). In other words, transhumanists want to eliminate ageing as a cause of death. Continue reading

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