by Rob Reich
“Read this if you want to understand how to shape our technological future and reinvigorate democracy along the way.”—Reed Hastings, cofounder 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
In no more than the blink of an eye, a naive optimism about technology’s liberating potential has given way to a dystopian acceptance of a Big Tech behemoth that brings with it biased algorithms, surveillance capitalism, and job-displacing robots. Too many of us have simply accepted a 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 roots of our current predicament: how Big Tech’s relentless focus on optimization 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, the director of the undergraduate computer science program who was also an early Google engineer, and a political scientist who served under Barack Obama—reveal how we can hold that power to account. These professors 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.