Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September 10

Morozov, E. (2013). To save everything, click here: The folly of technological solutionism.

Argues that technology is changing the way we understand human society and discusses how the disciplines of politics, culture, public debate, morality, and humanism will be affected when responsibility for them is delegated to technology.



Cameron Tonkinwise review of Morozov “To save everything click here”



Evgeny Morozov: The Risks of Advanced Information Technology (67minutes)


To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism (75 minutes)


Group A

Lanier, J. (2013). Who owns the future?. [At a minimum read pages 123-140 on humors. Look at Table of Contents, skim first chapters, suggested read 107-123. ]

In this book the author, father of virtual reality, and one of the world’s most brilliant thinkers evaluates the negative impact of digital network technologies on the economy and particularly the middle class, citing challenges to employment and personal wealth while exploring the potential of a new information economy. This is his visionary reckoning with the most urgent economic and social trend of our age: the poisonous concentration of money and power in our digital networks. He has predicted how technology will transform our humanity for decades. He shows how Siren Servers, which exploit big data and the free sharing of information, led our economy into recession, imperiled personal privacy, and hollowed out the middle class. The networks that define our world, including social media, financial institutions, and intelligence agencies, now threaten to destroy it. But there is an alternative. In this book he charts a path toward a brighter future: an information economy that rewards ordinary people for what they do and share on the web.



Stanford Seminar – Who owns the future (76 Minutes)


In Conversation: Jaron Lanier talks to James Bridle on Who Owns the Future?

(71 Minutes)


Group B

Cowen, T. (2013). Average is over: Powering America beyond the age of the great stagnation.

There are more rich people and more poor people in our country than ever before. That widening gap means dealing with one big, uncomfortable truth: the middle is growing thinner and thinner. Globally renowned economist Tyler Cowen explains how this happened: high earners are taking ever more advantage of computers and achieving ever-better results. Meanwhile, low earners who haven’t committed to learning the new technologies have poor prospects. Nearly every business sector relies less and less on manual labor for high-value jobs, and this fact is forever changing the world of work and wages. About 3/4 of the jobs created in the United States since the great recession pay $13.52 an hour or less–there is no longer a steady, secure life somewhere in the middle. Here, Cowen reveals what the new features of this economy mean for taxes, government spending, employee benefits, debt and education. Most importantly, Cowen identifies the best path forward for workers and entrepreneurs and provides readers with a road map to a new economic landscape.–From publisher description.


FFF Economic Liberty Lecture Series: Tyler Cowen – “Is Average Over in an Age of Great Stagnation?” (68 Minutes)



11 thoughts on “Wednesday, September 10, 2014

  1. After reading the Ullman (2013) review of Morozov’s book “To save everything, click here” and watching the video of Morozov “The Risks of Advanced Information Technology”, I was really intrigued about the BinCam project because it is a really provocative idea (here’s the project website: I cannot decide if this project (where a phone takes pictures of your trash, posts it to Facebook, and has Turkers label your trash items to give you a score) is terrifying or interesting! It could be fun if you and some friends are all interested in recycling and created a custom list or group of people on Facebook who wanted to participate in this activity to share among each other; that would give you control and not show your trash pictures to your entire social network, which could hurt your privacy and also annoy your friends who really don’t want to see your trash pictures! However, even if you use privacy settings to show your trash and scores to only your friends on Facebook who care to see it, you are still exposing a lot of things to total strangers on Mechanical Turk. Will people then start having separate “real” trash cans, and leaving more socially desirable trash/recycling items for the photo trash can? Given Cohen’s talk in the video “Is Average Over in an Age of Great Stagnation?”, I also thought of BinCam in relation to the divide between high and low SES communities. Would something like BinCam be used mostly among well-off people who think it would be something fun to do, or in a Morozov sense, would it be used as surveillance to know more about people and enforce compliance (see ideas expressed in Morozov video “The Risks of Advanced Information Technology”) , perhaps more so in low SES communities with lack of power?


  2. I find that I am really intrigued by “To Save Everything Click Here”. I find some of his points to be slightly contradictory. For instance, it seems that one moment he is arguing against technology and the internet, and the next he wants most things to be connected to the internet. I find that I really enjoy his “adversarial design” solutions and I believe that there are many interesting ways to implement them. I think it could make very abstract concepts and data very tangible to people, as well as giving people the potential to understand their behavior and change it. I would be very interested in exploring this book and area of design further.

    In “Who owns the future”, a very important point was brought up. Many people want Robots to replace humans or train humans to do specific tasks, however the purpose of that robot would soon be outdated and no longer used, making it a temporary solution. I find that I really agree with this. An essential part of how humanity has survived is the ability to adapt to changes. By the time our technology gets to the point we want it to be at now, there will be a more important usage on the horizon that we will try to develop technology for. This is an endless cycle of temporary solutions that don’t provide as much as they should for us. What would be a better use of technology would be to create devices that we can make adaptable. By having technology perform one kind of task that isn’t focused on replacing humans, humans can then determine when it needs to be used and how it can be adapted. I believe that this could result in longer term solutions and a deeper understanding of what technology should be doing. I think the smart phone is a great example of this. He also brings up another great point about how all this technology we are developing can have unforeseen consequences, such as a rise in unemployment, and how we could pay for it in years to come. I think this is something that really needs to be examined.


  3. I think Morozov makes many good points and his book sounds both interesting and compelling, even if his ideas are polarizing. Although I agree with his views on internet-centrism – how transparent and open information and data quantification should not be “values” to live by – I feel a little uncomfortable because it sounds like he is generalizing all of tech into this one category. When one says ““the Internet” is a god to obey,” it seems unlikely to me that anybody actually believes that. Yet, when you look at some products or services (i.e. Bincam), it doesn’t seem all that unlikely again. I think while many people may not state explicitly that “the Internet” is a god, some fragments of that ideology can be seen in what they create – projects like Bincam that report the contents of your trash to a social network – my first reaction is why? and secondly, as with many projects, they are probably useful and applicable to only a small group of people. Outside of that context, the implications might be a little disturbing.

    I like Tonkinwise’s approach to Morozov’s book through the lens of design, obviously because it is more closely relevant to me, but also the idea that the target of his book and guilty proponents of “solutionism” are designers. Since the first year of design school, we have been taught that design will not save the world – and I do believe this, but I also sometimes find myself falling into the trap. I understand that design is not always the most important process, yet being a designer and being at design school, many of us do think that our work is the most meaningful and important thing. I really like his point about how we should view design(ing solutions) as not satisfying some “social need out there” but thinking about how that need came about and how it has evolved and will evolve.


  4. I found Morosov’s and Lanier’s writings to be a very interesting viewpoint which contradicts and highlights the dangers of an overly technologically powered world, contrary to last week’s readings. The various humors listed by Lanier show varying viewpoints but most point to a scenarios which pit man against machine in some sense whether by human obsolescence or some type of class polarization. The “free” knowledge that large data mining siren servers receive has an almost unimaginable worth but it is key to focus on the fact that each data point comes from an actual human being. Even thinking in terms of data, the large numbers gathered have importance simply because humans have psychological processes that push toward certain preferences for simply human reasons. In a completely connected world, the human reasons are shifted directly by data networks, hence creating a world of computers mining information from other computers using humans simply as a vector. On the other hand, although they prescribe that large amounts of privacy victimization is bad for individuals, it also allows people like me and you to use web services for free. Gmail, Facebook, etc. aren’t enemies of the people, no they instead they are enablers allowing citizens across the world to connect with friends and family, use professional services, and harness the power of the global network on the backbone of this trade of crowd-sourced information.

    Morsov’s view on the role of technology suggests that technology is not a solve all magic potion, which is true. Technology is only as good as those who program it and no program can calculate every single process happening on Earth. Thus, it is important to remember that people are the backbone of the global network, social media would not be social without people using it and thus follows that siren server data only exists because we value the data as a society. As Morsov and Lanier show it is imperative to understand the people’s role in future scenarios whether they involve natural processes or artificial processes that aren’t necessarily human.


  5. Morozov makes a very compelling argument as to why we can’t rely solely on technology and apps to solve our problems. His explanation is that creating an app can be the easy way to solve a problem while there are other, better ways to tackle problems. His example of controlling someone’s eating habits through sensors demonstrates this point, he states that maybe we should instead consider policy and regulations as a way to fix the problem. It seems like everyday our society does rely on technology to solve problems while many problems can be addressed at a much higher level through the government. We are solely relying on citizens to address the problem in a personal manner when we can address it in a more efficient manner by looking at the root causes of the problem.

    For Group B I found Cowen’s argument interesting and compelling. He states that outside of technology there hasn’t been much growth in the US economy, making our GDP misleading. He argues that 50 years ago energy was cheaper, life was more regulated, travel time to get places was less than now, and he was flying on the same planes that he is now. He also discusses that most of our GDP consists of Healthcare and Education, which are valued at cost and are two sectors that are highly regulated by the government. Additionally, we are also a country that does not have high exports which is a true indicator of how a country is doing.

    Cowen’s also makes interesting arguments in regards to inequalities, saying that the inequalities continue getting larger in many different regards not only in income. For example, that there are also geographical inequalities and educational inequalities. While his arguments are thought provoking, I don’t agree with them in their entirety because the U.S. is a country that does have a lot of exports and have a major U.S. presence worldwide, through clothes, food, and technology. And in regards to inequality while the top is getting richer the middle class does have more opportunities today than every before, and a higher percentage of our population is graduating from college.


  6. The author of the review paints Morozov as a suspicious argumentative zealot. Even though he is often right, he is overly righteous in his arguments. Morozov argues for the human voice against the rigidness of the machines. He views the Internet openness as a slippery slope to tyranny (do we really want all of our information out in the digital landscape to be closely scrutinized). And he denounces transparency, pointing out that no human relationship can survive extreme truthfulness (think of the antics portrayed in Liar Liar, the Jim Carey movie in which the main character must always speak the truth).

    But unlike many of the other authors we’ve read in this class thus far, Morozov balances out his point of view by warning against the pitfalls of technological defeatism. Technological defeatism is the idea that computing cannot be designed to solve the problems of humanity. Adversarial design can make us more reflective and force us to contemplate moral issues.

    Lanier’s “Who Owns the Future?” seems like a very socialist take on the tyranny of the Internet (an elite techie upperclass profiting off the backs of the peasants by mining their data in a way they don’t even realize). I have often thought of the thousands of people who tie everything to their Facebook accounts (or Google+ or twitter) making their information dossier that much more verbose and therefore that much more valuable to the Big Data miners and the advertisers that pay them.


  7. The rise of digital networking is enriching a relative few while moving the value created by the many off the books.
    Because the digital networking monetizes the value of ordinary people gives the global concentration around these digital services. It would appear the if we were to understand the valuable networks and give credit to those who are uncompensated, will indefinitely lead to a better future.

    I’m almost afraid of the idea that we think information is free simp lying by tap ping into google. It does seem that our information is underlying “free” so long as we have a phone or internet to tap into. The idea that media and software connects the institution of networks of information may as well be benevolent until the private data is spread to even the public sectors.

    I understand that lanier is correct to be cautious about hyper-unemployment since the world is growing without bounds. I agree that we must make are that our humanity heads towards the direction of better technology but we as the people must maintain our liberty to live with and without technology.

    Although the general public would discourage about payment of information, it is an ideal direction to maintaining and protecting the middle class. It would restrain and restrict the level of information, but would protect from any hyper-unemployment. Today the value of many industries do seem to be deprived of the rightful credit. Now a days the music industry is losing the high and esteem view of that one singer you only see once in your life. Opportunities and information seems so reachable that it is often taken for granted. It’s almost unpredictable where our future will end up. Though the idea of compensating the valuable services will be a start.


  8. It’s really interesting to read the two different takes on Morozov’s “Big Data is watching you”. I felt like Ullman’s review spoke about the “Panopticon effect” that is put upon people with the increase in technology. Ullman suggests that managing all these information shourl involve human expertise and should not be given as a responsibility for technology. While Tonkinwise argues something a lot further than just the panapticon effect of technology. He argues that technology should be viewed as openly as possible and that it’s use and influence should not be treated as the responsibility of some external entity but as a responsibility for everyone especially designers by taking into account its history,


  9. Once again, this week’s readings have questioned my overall optimism associated with the Internet and all things technology. Maybe I am at fault for believing that everything should strive to be efficient and open? I can’t help but think of the law and politics as two institutions that are very much anti the values of the internet, however maybe that is a good thing. In the quest to makes things more like the Internet, we might forget why our institutions exist the way they do. Innocent until proven guilty, the principle by which our legal system exist. How much time should be devoted to proving someone guilty. How do we deal with the skill level of the lawyers involved?The more you pay the better your lawyer the more innocent you are? That is what I have a problem with and I hope we can apply some principles of the internet too. Is there a way to open source the legal process? Is there a way to open source the way we create laws? Why are lawyers creating laws about the Internet? Should programmers be doing that? These are just some questions that I think about when considering the values of the Internet and how they are applicable to other disciplines.


  10. Morozov is saying a lot of things that need to be said, but I wish he wasn’t such a bully. Anyway, right. Solutionism and seeing everything as a problem to be solved. Goes along well with what we talked about in class today, actually. Design defines problems, engineering solves problems. By privileging engineering (by privileging technology as a whole), we’ve focused only on solving problems.

    Listening to Tyler Cowen, too, I got to wondering about how technology/information/communication has been the only sector that’s been moving. And I got to wondering about the recent focus on STEM in schools. Are we saying “STEM is the only place we’ve been moving forward, so let’s make sure we teach our kids that”? Will that continue to be true in the future? (As he suggests, the future will be marketing, getting people’s attention, psychology.) I mean, I don’t know how to fix everything that’s wrong with education, but I wonder if it’ll always continue to lag behind.


  11. I found several aspects of Morozov’s book “To save everything, click here” and Morozov’s “The Risks of Advanced Information Technology” to be really interesting. I do not necessary agree with his thoughts on the internet because I see the future and having technology to help us get on with our every day lives as useful and important. With technology and robotics there are many advancements that will occur in the fields of medicine, science, and technology,which is essential for our growth as a nation. Robotics can exceed human limitations in some aspects and can help save people’s lives. I feel that technology will help us live on forever. With medical advancements robots can greatly simplify our lives and could be used to treat patients. I agree that this could cripple our ability to be independent and self-reliant and perhaps cause us to become lazy. However, I do not believe that our society will just jump that far and it will take a while for us to adjust to having robots. Maybe robots can be designed to help promote new attitudes/an active lifestyle there is always a way to use robotics to make us independent and better humans. Morozov is concerned with a future in which technology dictates human problems and tries to solve problems for us. Morozov is fearful of “Internet-Centrism”- the ideology that information is “open and transparent” and “knowledge is created through data collection and algorithmic analysis”. He believes that we have lost value in being able to solve problems for ourselves and now simply rely on quantified data that will tell us to how to act/feel/and react to certain situations. We now understand ourselves through quantification, recorded, saved data.
    A machine is not a human and the transparency cannot be evaluated as true human emotion/ or compete with brain power. In this topic we also go into analyzing “Who owns the future?” It is important to understand what will control the way we think and how we look at problems such as obesity and climate change in the future. Are computer models just going to tell us what to do. We need to call attention to the exploiting powers of the internet in order to understand how it is really controlling us. A lot of the reason people are obsessive over the internet/technology to solve problems is largely correlated with the amount of money and power is put into updating/maintaining digital networks. Morozov wants us to understand that moral issues and adversarial design are will increase our knowledge/ and defines the limits for which the internet can act to solve our problems. In Lanier’s Who Owns the future, we can understand the level of transparency that is provided by the internet/ and the exposure it creates. It causes us to question if Big Data owns us, and is this what will inevitable control our thought power.


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