I just hate giving up on a book. Well, not giving up, because I really was enjoying the book, but setting it aside for who knows how long because I wasn’t able to give it the kind of attention required. That’s what I have decided to do with How We Became Posthuman by Katherine Hayles. It’s a hard thinker of a book that requires regular, sustained attention. Even though I knew this I kept shooting myself in the foot. I would settle down with the book, spend twenty minutes figuring out what was going on when I last left off, and then read for an hour, put the book aside and weeks would pass before I would pick it up again.
Clearly this person isn’t posthuman enough. If I were I would have no trouble picking up right where I left off because I would have not terabytes, but yottabytes of memory all indexed and accessible. Since this is not the case, I had to spend more and more time at each sit down with the book reorienting myself.
I do want to give the book a go again some other time because it is ever so fascinating. It is about information theory, cybernetics, techno utopia and what this means for humans and literature. Because, you know one day, say the techo wizards, we won’t need to have bodies, we won’t grow old, we can live forever because we will be able to upload our consciousness to a computer. The problem is, they all assume that life as a computer will be just like or better than life as a human. But part of being human is having a body. When there is no more body, what does that mean? And what does it mean for literature. Literature, like humans, has a body–the body of the text, the body of work, etc. It belongs to a very physical world connected to the human body. When humans don’t have bodies anymore, what will happen to literature? Something worth pondering.
That is just the first couple chapters of the book. When I started the next chapter in which the deep dive of exploration begins, I felt I had too shaky a grasp on the beginning due to my start and stop reading pattern. I could have decided to start over, but this is a library book from the university where I work and I have already had it since January. The prospect of starting over at this point was too discouraging. Just not the right time. I am glad I began it though because I know for sure I would like to read it. Maybe I’ll try again at the end of the year over a long holiday vacation.