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Sunday, April 28, 2019

Hitting the Books: When better living through technology isn't enough | Personal Computing - Engadget

Welcome to Engadget's newest series, Hitting the Books. With less than one in five Americans reading just for fun these days, we've done the hard work for you by scouring the internet for the most interesting, thought provoking books on science and technology we can find and delivering an easily digestible nugget of their stories.

Because who wouldn't want to live forever?, summarizes Andrew Tarantola, Senior Editor at Engadget.

Photo: gremlin via Getty Images

The Transhuman Roots of Becoming Superhuman 

As a kid, I loved the opening sequence of The Six Million Dollar Man, which begins with footage of an aeronautic catastrophe. Astronaut Steve Austin is barely alive, and over scenes of surgery and bionic schematics a voice declares: "We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better ... stronger ... faster." These three words are the title of the 2011 New Yorker profile of Tim Ferriss; two of them also appear in the title of the 2016 self-help book Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. A clip from a 1970s TV show, of using science and technology to enhance human performance, lingers as a way of describing an aspiration to be superhuman.

Two of [mononymed author] Tynan's most popular titles are Superhuman by Habit and Superhuman Social Skills. Tim Ferriss's book The 4-Hour Body is, according to its subtitle, An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman. The mantra of his TV show is that "you don't need to be superhuman to get superhuman results ... you just need a better toolkit." The bionic man's treatment was not only therapeutic: he was enhanced. Similarly, the goal of optimal hacking is to transcend the nominal.

Of course, the desire to rise above is not new. In Greek mythology, Icarus flew too close to the sun. In Abrahamic mythology, the people of Babel dared to build a tower that could reach heaven...

The ultimate irony of the extropian view, of better living through technology, is that the optimal life is achieved only when it ceases to be living, in the biological sense. Until then, though, there are lots of other hacks for being better, stronger, faster—and even smarter.

Excerpted from Hacking Life: Systematized Living and Its Discontents by Joseph M. Reagle, Jr. (The MIT Press, 2019)

Source: Engadget