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Read this if you want to understand how to shape our technological future and reinvigorate democracy along the way. Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix
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A forward-thinking manifesto from three Stanford professors which reveals how big tech’s obsession with optimization and efficiency has sacrificed fundamental human values and outlines steps we can take to change course, renew our democracy, and save ourselves.
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In no more than the blink of an eye, a naïve optimism about technology’s liberating potential has given way to a dystopian obsession with biased algorithms, surveillance capitalism, and job-displacing robots. Yet too few of us see any alternative to accepting the onward march of technology. We have simply accepted a technological future designed for us by technologists, the venture capitalists who fund them, and the politicians who give them free rein.

It doesn’t need to be this way.

System Error exposes the root of our current predicament: how big tech’s relentless focus on optimization is driving a future that reinforces discrimination, erodes privacy, displaces workers, and pollutes the information we get.

Armed with an understanding of how technologists think and exercise their power, three Stanford professors – a philosopher working at the intersection of tech and ethics, a political scientist who served under Obama, and the director of the undergraduate Computer Science program at Stanford (also an early Google engineer) – reveal how we can hold that power to account.

As the dominance of big tech becomes an explosive societal conundrum, they share their provocative insights and concrete solutions to help everyone understand what is happening, what is at stake, and what we can do to control technology instead of letting it control us.

Reviews

Enough with the breathless dreams of digital utopias and poisonous polemics about technological dystopias! In System Error, we finally have a book about the digital revolution that is serious rather than sensationalistic. Read this if you want to understand how to shape our technological future and reinvigorate democracy along the way. -- Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix
System Error offers a powerful account of how our lives, our politics, and our values have been reshaped by technology in ways that we are just starting to comprehend. Full of stories and insights, this remarkable book charts a path forward for creating a healthy digital future. -- Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation
Albert Einstein once lamented that 'our technology has exceeded our humanity.' That danger is ever more pressing as powerful artificial intelligence technologies are transforming society at a pace never seen before. From the heart of Silicon Valley comes a profoundly important book that examines the ethical and social impact of the digital technologies and offers a more human-centered framework. This is a must-read for every student, engineer, businessperson, policymaker, or anyone who cares about our society's collective future. -- Dr. Fei-Fei Li, Professor Computer Science, Co-Director of Stanford's Institute for Human-Centered AI, and member of the National Academies of Engineering and Medicine
System Error is a triumph: an analysis of the critical challenges facing our digital society that is as accessible as it is sophisticated. Best of all, the authors offer actual solutions for a reboot that are both timely and feasible. -- Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America