Mark O’Connell wins Wellcome Book Prize 2018

'To Be a Machine: Adventures among cyborgs, utopians, hackers and the futurists solving the modest problem of death', is this year's Wellcome Book Prize winner.  

Front cover of To Be a Machine

Credit: Wellcome

Mark O’Connell won the Wellcome Book Prize for 'To Be a Machine', which explores the philosophy and science behind transhumanism.

Mark O’Connell’s extraordinary debut explores the philosophy and science behind transhumanism, the movement that aims to cheat mortality and use technology for human evolution.

Through encounters with self-proclaimed cyborgs, developers working out how to convert minds to code and cryogenically frozen bodies waiting for future resurrection, ‘To Be a Machine’ takes a humorous look at the individuals attempting to transcend human limitations. It showcases an obsession with immortality, and the potential of technology to change the future for us all. 

Edmund de Waal, chair of the 2018 judging panel, said that the book will "start conversations and deepen debates" and that O’Connell "brings into focus timely issues about mortality, what it might mean to be a machine and what it truly means to be human".

Wellcome Collection’s publisher and book prize manager, Kirty Topiwala, called the book "fresh, funny and disquieting".

Mark O’Connell is the second Irish author to win the annual £30,000 prize after being selected from a shortlist of six titles by a judging panel. This year’s shortlist centred around the subject of mortality, illuminating on themes of loss, fragility of life and medical innovations being developed to prevent dying.

The other titles shortlisted for the 2018 Wellcome Book Prize were:

  • Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
  • The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris
  • With the End in Mind by Kathryn Mannix
  • Mayhem: A memoir by Sigrid Rausing
  • The Vaccine Race by Meredith Wadman.

More information