Cover Image: Intervolution


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4.75 stars. Where does technology end and humans begin? The book, Intervolution: Smart Bodies Smart Things, deliberates on the topic of the body and what that means when technology is used as extensions of themselves. Mark C. Taylor introduces the topic by discussing his personal experience using an insulin pump and what that means for the concept of the body. The topic is very interesting given how technology is increasingly an inescapable part of everyday life. The author explores what it means for technology to be used as a prosthetic (or the reverse of being a prosthetic to technology). The book considers dichotomies such as mind/body, natural/artificial and if these types of dichotomies are helpful or if they are overstated.

The book examines the topic by looking at various perspectives such as: philosophy, biology, technology, artificial intelligence. The book examined both the advantages and dangers of ubiquitous artificial intelligence and technology. 

Given the introduction, I was expecting a bit on disability theories but that might have been a bit too off-topic. I was a bit hesitant when reading the technology aspects since some authors tend to emphasis technology too much and so end up writing like a technology determinism. The book did a good job covering both sides and that there are multiple ways that technology could be used.

Overall, the book is an interesting consideration of what it means technology means for the individuals' perceptions of the self.

I recommend this to anyone who is interested in exploring the mind/body dichotomy and how technology might impact that. I would also recommend this book to those interested in reading about artificial intelligence. 
***I received an ARC copy from NetGalley***
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Intervolution: Smart Bodies Smart Things by Mark C Taylor is a volume (the first?) in the No Limits series. Going from Hegel and Kant through Kierkegaard and Heidegger to artificial intelligence and the Singularity Taylor discusses where our being and our environment meet and join.

Using his diabetes and reliance on an insulin pump as a jumping point to consider what exactly constitutes his body and/or whether the pump is part of him or simply attached. While he mentions Katherine Hayles he references an early article she wrote, but I think some of her thinking in her recent book Postprint would be useful here, primarily her concept of a cognitive assemblage. Much of what Taylor discusses here would fit into that category.

He uses the ideas of an intranet of the body, the internet of things, and the internet of the bodies to guide his thinking. This works quite well and makes many of his connections flow very well. When he gets to the area of AI and the potential Singularity, he mentions comparisons to Frankenstein, which brought to mind another recent book, Artificial Life After Frankenstein by Eileen Hunt Botting. She also addresses concerns about AI and Singularity. Where she used fictional works (political science fiction) Taylor primarily used philosophical works, yet many of the ideas were in line with each other.

While Taylor's reliance on an insulin pump presents a much clearer image of the blurring of distinction between biological and technological entities he cites many examples of ways in which we function largely as part of multiple cognitive assemblages. In other words, we are already all cyborgs. His use of Hegel to show that even then, within philosophy, the idea existed that we are made up of networks, thus his overall structure of intranet of the body, the internet of things, and the internet of bodies. 

Although not directly related to the main point(s) of this book, Taylor's ideas made me think about the way we tend to think in dichotomies. He mentions some of the ones most common, body/mind, etc. I couldn't help but think about whether these dichotomies would be better thought of as complements. While different, and often seemingly in opposition, they also work together to form the whole, to make understanding of either possible. Without light it is hard to consider darkness, without health it is hard to understand disease, and so on. But anyway...

I would recommend this to anyone who might be interested in looking at how, both philosophically and technologically, our concepts of self, body, and cognition are changing. The writing is accessible though I would recommend taking it slow so you can consider his ideas and connections thoroughly. 

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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