Here at Future of You headquarters, also known as my desk, we’ve posted what we think are some compelling and thought-provoking book excerpts over the past couple of years. If you are looking to clear your post-New Year’s Eve haze, give these a read …

1. Stanford’s Virtual Reality Lab Turned Me Into a Cow, Then Sent Me to the Slaughterhouse

From “We Have the Technology: How Biohackers, Foodies, Physicians, and Scientists are Transforming Human Perception, One Sense at a Time,” by Kara Platoni

If you become a nonhuman in virtual reality, will you gain empathy? This was Platoni’s experience at Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, where she was, through the magic of VR, turned into a cow then unceremoniously killed.

“A wave of sadness and horror hits me with the word ‘slaughterhouse.’ The suddenness of the announcement, the feeling of being trapped, the guilt and responsibility I feel for my cow avatar, who I somehow feel is me … it’s remarkably heavy for having been in this virtual life only a few minutes.” 

Read the excerpt.

2. In the Era of Instagram, Narcissism as the New Norm

From “The Attention Merchants,” by Tim Wu

Social media has created an ‘attention economy’ that’s “devolved into a chaotic mutual admiration society, full of enterprising Narcissi,” writes Wu. With the advent of the smartphone and Instagram, “much of the power of a great film studio was now in every hand attached to a heart yearning for fame; not only could one create an image to rival those of the old icons of glamour, but one could put it on a platform where millions might potentially see it.” This, Wu argues, “warps our understanding of our own existence and its relation to others. That this should become the manner of being for us all is surely the definitive dystopic vision of late modernity.”

Read the excerpt.

3. Has Technology Ruined the Radiology Profession?

From “The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age,” by Bob Wachter

Because radiology was the first medical specialty to computerize, what has happened to the profession is our canary in the digital coal mine, Wachter writes. Radiology was once the “beating heart” of hospitals, where  “everybody from the lowliest student to the loftiest transplant surgeon” brought films for deciphering. Now? Game changing technology has created powerful new functionality that has some wondering if radiologists have not been turned into “disembodied functionaries, more akin to servicing technicians than professional colleagues.”

Read the excerpt.

4. Advanced Prenatal Testing Means More Gut-Wrenching Decisions Over Abortion

From “The Gene Machine,” by Bonnie Rochman

Advanced prenatal genetic testing has transformed every fetus into an “at risk” entity, says Rochman. “While there are women who’d never opt for an abortion, it’s disingenuous to ignore the fact that terminating a pregnancy is one possible outcome of earlier, more sophisticated genetic tests. The issue of how people feel about disability and, in turn, how that impacts their decisions regarding abortion is an essential aspect of any discussion about advances in prenatal testing.”

Read the excerpt.

More excerpts from Future of You:

Four Thought-Provoking Book Excerpts You May Have Missed 12 January,2018Jon Brooks


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is the host and editor of KQED’s health and technology blog, Future of You. He is the former editor of KQED’s daily news blog, News Fix. In 2014, he won a California Journalism Award for his coverage of ride services like Uber and Lyft and the taxi industry. A veteran blogger, he previously worked for Yahoo! in various news writing and editing roles. Jon is also a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S. He has written about film for his own blog and studied film at Boston University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

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