Escape Velocity (Book Cover)

Mark Dery replies:

The fun side of post-humanism, which we can never remind ourselves enough is an altogether science-fictional notion (at least for the moment), is its promise of bodiless kinesis and info-vertigo, its Marvel Comics vision of massively parallel brainpower and cyborgian brawn.

Who hasn't dreamed of disembodied barrel rolls over the fractal geographies of cyberspace, reincarnated as one of the infomorphs envisioned by Charles Platt in his unforgettable novel, "The Silicon Man"? And what writer isn't seduced by the idea of a cybernetically enhanced mind so vast that it sweeps the entirety of human knowledge into its compass, and can leap, in a picosecond, from the secret sex lives of Cheng and Eng to the diameter of JFK's cranial exit-wound to the number of glial cells in Einstein's brain? I'm particularly taken by O.B. Hardison's sublime, magnificently lonely vision, at the end of "Disappearing Through the Skylight," of a human consciousness "downloaded" into a deep space probe, gliding past the rim of infinity on solar sails.

But what price this sublimity? Platt's achingly painful evocation of the man, "downloaded" against his will, who realizes he is a cloud of electrons in computer memory who will never hold his wife and child in arms of flesh again has never stopped haunting me. (Leftist intellectuals can find a cloud for every silver lining, can't we?)

Brainstorms Tomorrow Mind to Mind