‘King make[s] news out of culture, and without trivialising the second thing in favour of the first.’ Clive James, critic
‘Endlessly fascinating. An extraordinary inquiry into the hidden ways in which technology shapes and reshapes human being and our world, by one of our most stylish and elegant writers.’ Guy Rundle, journalist and critic
‘Like a cave-diver, Richard King steadily explores his way through the chambers of consequence that lie beneath, around, above and within our relationship with technology. Some are easily illuminated; others keep their shadows, but King sounds out the dimensions, the contours and the crags of this world in which human and machine are together becoming more and more submersed in unknown waters. Concerned and sceptical but not unjust, King surveys both the big innovations and the philosophical legacies of this tech age, somehow finding space for meditations on humanity, an astute grasp of upcoming invention, and the posing of fierce, urgent questions. It is, he says, “humanity’s ability to ask what is suitable – what is good, what is bad, what is progress, what is regress – that separates it from other species.” In this excellent, very readable, and laudably ambitious work, Richard King takes nothing for granted, but gives us a portrait of a species in the act of utterly changing itself, a terrible beauty being born.’ Kate Holden, journalist and author of the Walkley Award–winning The Winter Road
‘Technologies like artificial intelligence are changing our world. But all too often, technology is seen as destiny. Here Be Monsters is an important and engaging look at how these tools are using us, and how we must act to regain our essential humanity.’ Toby Walsh, chief scientist at UNSW AI Institute and the author of Machines Behaving Badly
‘Here Be Monsters is an intelligent and thoughtful meditation on the relationship between technology and humanity. Pulling together tech criticism, literary theory and history, King has created a text that is bigger than the sum of its parts. This thoroughly enjoyable text gives the reader the confidence to commit to a bold ambition for a more democratic technological future.’ Lizzie O’Shea, lawyer, activist and author of Future Histories and Empowering Women
We are in the midst of a technological revolution. Is it changing what it means to be human?
From genetic engineering to Chat GPT, from cybersex to cyberwar, and from mood-altering pharmaceuticals to the widespread automation of work, new technologies are rewriting the terms of our existence. We celebrate this as ‘progress’ but often these developments are in line with the priorities of power and profit. The bright young things of Silicon Valley celebrate their ability to ‘move fast and break things’. But what if new technologies are breaking us?
In this timely and provocative book, Richard King argues that modern societies need to develop a more critical attitude to new and emerging technologies. We need, he suggests, to rethink our relationship to our tools from a radically humanistic perspective, enlisting philosophy, anthropology and the arts in the fight against dehumanising machines. It is not enough to let the market decide which technologies are good for us. We need to ask what we want from technology. And the question of what we want is a question about who we are.
As science, technology and capitalism fuse, and activists and entrepreneurs talk openly of a ‘post-human’ future in which individuals will transform themselves using data and biotechnologies, we are entering unchartered territory – a territory marked with the mapmaker’s warning, Here Be Dragons … Here Be Monsters. It’s time for a lively conversation about humanity in tech-driven world.
Read an extract of Here Be Monsters in The Guardian.