Award-winning journalist and documentary-maker Jenny Kleeman explores how technology is fundamentally altering our notions of birth, food, sex, and death and introduces readers to the quirky entrepreneurs who are capitalizing on these changes.
Kleeman approaches the future as a reporter firmly grounded in the present; her method is to journey to the frontier and take a long look around. The book leans heavily on conversations between the writer and various figures with stakes in the game ... In Kleeman’s telling, futuristic technologies are not accidents of history that drive unexpected social changes. They are designed to fit the worldviews of specific kinds of people—men, mostly—and are fueled by hubris, spin and private equity ... Kleeman’s exploration of the frontier sometimes leads her into the weeds. Her section on reproductive technology takes a long detour through Men Going Their Own Way, a ghoulish anonymous message board for straight men who have sworn off women and are also—perhaps not unrelated—largely uninteresting. But more often, Kleeman’s capacious curiosity opens up a kaleidoscopic view of an issue ... When Kleeman does venture to speculate...her insights feel earned. Perhaps that’s because she seems less invested in predicting the future than she is in questioning the people who are so obsessed with shaping it.
Midway through Jenny Kleeman’s entertaining survey of the latest advances in life sciences, I began to worry about female obsolescence ... She is an accomplished storyteller, capturing the silliness of these future salesmen—some of whom are every bit as comic as sexbot merchant Ron Lord in Jeanette Winterson’s recent novel, Frankissstein—without losing sight of the dark implications of what they are selling. Like Atwood and Winterson, Kleeman is attuned to the ways these technologies, dreamt up by men, usually rest on patriarchal assumptions ... All the same, Kleeman’s arguments about how clean-meat and death machines will negatively impact women feel more tenuous—and the fact that the book is based on five years’ worth of long-form Guardian reports may lead you to question how up-to-date her insights are. Still, she’s strong on how our desire to solve social and environmental problems means that we are all too readily ceding control to machines.
Kleeman, a journalist and documentary-maker who specialises in tech and social affairs, makes a compelling and thoughtful attempt to understand where such inventions might lead us. Her book is less a pearl-clutching polemic against progress than a concerned squint at what the future might hold ... Kleeman approaches her subject with a winning scepticism ... Reading her book, you are left dismayed not so much by what lies ahead as by the current reality of the men with planet-sized egos vying with one another to control birth, food, sex and death. It’s a habit that’s as old as the hills.