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Summary

A strikingly original exploration of what it might mean to be authentically human in the age of artificial intelligence, from the author of the critically-acclaimed Interior States.

"Meghan O’Gieblyn is a brilliant and humble philosopher, and her book is an explosively thought-provoking, candidly personal ride I wished never to end.... This book is such an original synthesis of ideas and disclosures. It introduces what will soon be called the O’Gieblyn genre of essay writing.” (Heidi Julavits, author of The Folded Clock)

For most of human history the world was a magical and enchanted place ruled by forces beyond our understanding. The rise of science and Descartes's division of mind from world made materialism our ruling paradigm, in the process asking whether our own consciousness — i.e., souls — might be illusions. Now the inexorable rise of technology, with artificial intelligences that surpass our comprehension and control, and the spread of digital metaphors for self-understanding, the core questions of existence — identity, knowledge, the very nature and purpose of life itself — urgently require rethinking. 

Meghan O'Gieblyn tackles this challenge with philosophical rigor, intellectual reach, essayistic verve, refreshing originality, and an ironic sense of contradiction. She draws deeply and sometimes humorously from her own personal experience as a formerly religious believer still haunted by questions of faith, and she serves as the best possible guide to navigating the territory we are all entering.

©2021 Meghan O'Gieblyn (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

O’Gieblyn’s loosely linked and rigorously thoughtful meditations on technology, humanity and religion mount a convincing and occasionally moving apologia for that ineliminable wrench in the system, the element that not only browses and buys but feels: the embattled, anachronistic and indispensable self. God, Human, Animal, Machine is a hybrid beast, a remarkably erudite work of history, criticism and philosophy, but it is also, crucially, a memoir.” (The New York Times

"Meghan O’Gieblyn’s essays are 'personal' in that they are portraits of the private thoughts, curiosities, and uncertainties that thrive in O’Gieblyn’s mind about selfhood, meaning, moral responsibility, and faith. There's nowhere her avid intellect won't go in its quest to find, if not 'meaning,' then the available modern tools we might use, today, as humans, to create it. O’Gieblyn is a brilliant and humble philosopher, and her book is an explosively thought-provoking, candidly personal ride I wished never to end. This book is such an original synthesis of ideas and disclosures. It introduces what will soon be called the O’Gieblyn genre of essay writing.” (Heidi Julavits, author of The Folded Clock

“Having abandoned Christian fundamentalism, the author of this investigation of human-machine interactions embarks on a search for meaning.... She finds that consciousness ‘was not some substance in the brain but rather emerged from the complex relationships between the subject and the world.’” (The New Yorker)

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  • Taveras Hansen
  • 17-10-21

Extraordinary

This is a gorgeous book.
I adored every single sentence in it and would seriously recommended it to anybody who is in search of knowledge. This author writes like a serious scholar.

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  • James Messelbeck
  • 28-09-21

where is our species headed?

I eagerly read this book, seduced by the title, hoping to learn O'Glebyn's view of how our species might evolve. I enjoyed her view of how technology might advance Homo sapiens. I was not interested in her speculation regarding where religion and technology overlap - what is belief and what is existential from learning.
What is completely ignored is biology and frontiers of genetic advancement. Will computer or genetic coding prevail? And what will our species become as these technologies merge?

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  • GJH
  • 03-11-21

Terrific!

This is an outstanding and thought provoking discourse on AI and its impact on our lives. My only quibble is with the pronunciation of Max Weber’s name. He was German and it should have been pronounced properly. Otherwise, the book was fascinating from beginning to end.

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  • Cary F. McGovern
  • 02-11-21

Brilliant

Meghan has articulated a path through religion, philosophy, technology and artificial intelligence, that pulls together, thought through the ages and ties it too current ideas of consciousness. Amazing.

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  • Jonathan F.
  • 28-10-21

Confessions of an Evangelical Pastor

It is hard to describe my emotions as I read God, Human, Animal, Machine. I, at once, empathized with and challenged the books basic precepts as OGieblyn slowly opened my eyes to a perspective beyond my previous comprehension. My only words to my closest pastoral colleague when I finished it was “Brilliant.” As a trained storyteller, I marveled at how O’Gieblyn intricately weaved her narrative experience with complex and nuanced concepts of physics, AI, and machine learning. In a way she “preaches” her way through her own deconstruction drawing on the very tools of her childhood context. Rhetorically, this provides depth I was not expecting to experience. This is a must read, if you can handle it that is. And now I replace my first reaction of “Brilliant” with “ encore”! I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.