Man Plus - Frederick Pohl

Frederick Pohl's Man Plus is a cynical consideration of posthumanism. Rather than terraforming Mars, scientists operate on a spaceman to create a being suited for life on an otherwise inhospitable planet. Why is this cynical?

First, the book is a cynical take on posthumanism because of the commentary regarding environmentalism. The answer to our environmental problems isn't in making an environment right for men. Instead it's the opposite. Change man to fit his ruined environment. In other words, and as we will shortly argue, ruin man too.

Second, the book is cynical because the surgical modifications do not create a better human. Rather, it results in the physical and psychological destruction of a man. The result is hideous. The man becomes a creature that neither recognizes himself or is capable of acceptance into the society of men. 

Did I say men? I really meant women. His wife leaves him once she see's the crazy result. There's nothing that remains of the original spaceman to classify him as a man. He's ruined for life on earth as a result of the disfiguration as operation. His only future is a sterile existence on Mars, a glorified station in a relay, monitoring communication channels between Earth and Mars.

Posthumanism is fun to think about. It's nice to look at glossy pictures of androids standing on the surface of exotic planets staring up at the stars. But you would never want to find yourself in the android's position. Mankind is importantly an embodied thing and is accustomed to living with other humans. The feedback loop of communicating with others and knowing that we are known, understood, even cared for, that's what makes a man. That's what makes a woman. That's what makes a society.

While the future of technology and healthcare may allow us to create some odd variations on the human, we must concentrate our efforts on stabilizing our environment so that humans are not forced to become horrible versions of themselves, and so that humans aren't forced to flee Earth or at least Earth's surface.

-End Transmission-