We, Robots

We, Robots
Can technology solve all of our problems? You'd think that the existence of the atomic bomb, the AK-47, and the subprime mortgage would prevent an answer any more enthusiastic than a very qualified "yes." Yet many of our most famous journalists, pundits, and economists seem to think that "intelligent machines" and big data are a source of infinite good. This is the story they're telling us: that we should stop worrying and love our robot future.

But just because you tell a story over and over again doesn't make it true--indeed, it often makes that story more dangerous. One of our most brilliant and perceptive social critics, Curtis White knows all about the danger of a seductive story, and in As If, he turns his sights on the so-called thinkers who are convinced that the future is rose-colored and technologically enhanced. Labor, they say, will be flexible; government regulation will be redundant; social problems will be solved by brilliant robots. Tesla, Uber, and Google will run our lives, they say, and we'll be grateful for it.

Not only is this story horrifying, but it's also deeply wrong. With tremendous erudition and a punchy wit, White shows us how we've been deluded by technology before, and how we should be skeptical of anyone who tells us to put aside our individuality. And in As If's rousing final section, White gives us an alternative to a technologically determined life. This is the philosophy of "as if," and if we take it seriously, White says, we can introduce more contingency, humor, and open-endedness into our lives. Technology needn't be the answer, he suggests, because we're doing just fine on our own.

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