Monday, July 20, 2015

The Glass Cage: Where Automation is Taking Us, by Nicholas Carr

Staff review by Chris Saliba

Technology writer Nicholas Carr looks at the benefits and dangers of computer automation. 

Where is the age of ever escalating computer automation taking us? Are we letting phone apps and Google algorithms do most of our thinking? Will robots decimate middle-class jobs in law, accounting and medicine? These are the questions that technology writer Nicholas Carr tries to answer in The Glass Cage: Where Automation is Taking Us.

The book offers an assessment that is somewhere between sombre and grim. The march of progress in computing power is unstoppable. This is mainly because it’s so seductive and makes life easier. But there is a cost. As we rely more on computers to think and do for us, they in turn are deskilling us. Where once we tackled a problem and learnt through experience, we now defer to computers.  In the future, even doctors may be little more than data processors who tap patient symptoms into Google. Research has even shown that human reliance on GPS technology, rather than wrestling with a traditional map, may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

Nicholas Carr’s book is not anti-technology. He celebrates the use of tools, but suggests they should be used with more restraint. As it stands, he sees us entering a world where more and more of our experience and knowledge is shaped by algorithm.

The Glass Cage: Where Automation is Taking Us, by Nicholas Carr. Published by Bodley Head. ISBN: 9781847923097  RRP: $35

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