The best books on why we should rise up against our robot overlords

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a philosopher, writer, and illustrator from Wales, UK. I grew up on ’70s sci-fi—Star Wars (the original trilogy!), Battlestar Galactica (the original series!), The Black Hole (Remember that?! No? Oh well…). Space travel, flying cars, sassy computers you could banter with, cute robots who would be your best friend—it was a time when the future seemed just around the corner. But now, as these things finally start to arrive, I feel I’ve been mis-sold. Data theft? Mass surveillance? Killer drones? Election manipulation? Social media bot farms? This isn’t the future I signed up for! Or maybe I should have read the terms and conditions…


I wrote...

Book cover of MUNKi

What is my book about?

Inside every sci-fi writer are two people: a naive, tech-loving kid, and a more cautious adult, who’s come to realise the dark potential of all technology. With my novel MUNKi, I still wanted to explore those things the kid in me thought were cool—robots, AI, hackers, mind uploading, virtual reality gaming, self-driving cars—but also the impact of modern technology on individual people. Of course, everything’s rosy when the future is on your side, when Siri, Uber, and Spotify are oiling the wheels of your daily life. But what if that stops? What if—for instance!—you wake up one day to discover a giant global megacorporation has stolen your dead grandfather’s memories? Would you fight back? Would you fight the future?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Rebels Against the Future: The Luddites and Their War on the Industrial Revolution: Lessons for the Computer Age

Gareth Southwell Why did I love this book?

But can you fight the future? Isn’t it inevitable? This is often how tech companies try to make us think, and that anyone who opposes “progress” is a Luddite. But, as Patrick Sale makes clear in this excellent and heartbreaking historical study, the original Luddites—a protest movement that swept the industrial heartland of 19th Century England—were not anti-technology; they merely thought technology should serve people, not profit. Faced with the destruction of their livelihoods and their traditional way of life, they destroyed machines and burnt factories because that was the only outlet they had for their rage and desperation. And when the “inevitable march of progress” comes to trample you too, you may see that they had a point.

By Kirkpatrick Sale,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rebels Against the Future as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kirkpatrick Sale is at the tumultuous centre of a technology backlash, actively challenging Bill Gates on the one hand and the Unabomber on the other. The subject of bets, barbs, and grudging praise in the pages of WIRED, The New York Times, Newsweek, and The New Yorker, Rebels Against the Future takes us back to the first technology backlash, the short-lived and fierce Luddite rebellion of 1811. Sale tells the compelling story of the Luddites'struggle to preserve their jobs and way of life by destroying the machines that threatened to replace them he then invokes a new-Luddite spirit in response…


Book cover of The Cult of Information: A Neo-Luddite Treatise on High-Tech, Artificial Intelligence, and the True Art of Thinking

Gareth Southwell Why did I love this book?

Technology is always moving on. And so it should be forgiven the author that many of the concrete examples in this book are now somewhat dated. They provide some interesting insight into the history of computing and media technology, but the real value of Roszak’s argument lies in his analysis of how—thanks to computer technology—society has become obsessed with “information”. It’s almost a cult. But information is not knowledge, data does not in itself provide understanding. In fact, in a peculiarly paradoxical way, the more information we have, the less we actually know. Thirty years later, as we swim daily in the disinformation of the murky waters of social media and disappear down Youtube rabbit holes, Roszak’s point seems more pertinent than ever.

By Theodore Roszak,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cult of Information as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As we devote ever-increasing resources to providing, or prohibiting, access to information via computer, Theodore Roszak reminds us that voluminous information does not necessarily lead to sound thinking. "Data glut" obscures basic questions of justice and purpose and may even hinder rather than enhance our productivity. In this revised and updated edition of "The Cult of Information", Roszak reviews the disruptive role the computer has come to play in international finance and the way in which "edutainment" software and computer games degrade the literacy of children. At the same time, he finds hopeful new ways in which the library and…


Book cover of Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous

Gareth Southwell Why did I love this book?

The Luddites supposedly got their name from their shadowy founder, a certain Ned Ludd, who was apparently the first to take a hammer to the instruments of industrial progress. As such, his name became a sort of protective disguise for the purposes of anonymous protest: Who smashed the loom? “Ned Ludd did it!” In a similar way, computer hackers such as Anonymous have adopted the Guy Fawkes mask as an emblem of disruption, pranking, and activism. In this fascinating study, anthropologist Gabriella Coleman investigates Anonymous, tracing its origins from the message boards of 4chan, through the Occupy movement and the Wikileaks controversy, revealing firsthand through her interaction with the community the diversity and complexity of the hacking world, and the varying motives of its actors.

By Gabriella Coleman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here is the ultimate book on the worldwide movement of hackers, pranksters, and activists that operates under the non-name Anonymous, by the writer the Huffington Post says "knows all of Anonymous' deepest, darkest secrets." Half a dozen years ago, anthropologist Gabriella Coleman set out to study the rise of this global phenomenon just as some of its members were turning to political protest and dangerous disruption (before Anonymous shot to fame as a key player in the battles over WikiLeaks, the Arab Spring, and Occupy Wall Street). She ended up becoming so closely connected to Anonymous that the tricky story…


Book cover of Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America

Gareth Southwell Why did I love this book?

Do you still have a Facebook account? I do—though I feel increasingly torn about it. I still use it for professional purposes, but part of me would gladly delete it (not, you know, that anything would actually get deleted, I suspect…). Christopher Wylie agrees. This wonderful account traces his role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where a mysterious “political consulting firm” used Facebook data to help swing the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s successful presidential run. It’s a very personal story, which I love, and we get an insider’s view not only on the shocking and frankly terrifying practices Wylie became embroiled in, but also his own moral struggle to get out of them. A wonderful book.

By Christopher Wylie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mindf*ck as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For the first time, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower tells the inside story of the data mining and psychological manipulation behind the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum, connecting Facebook, WikiLeaks, Russian intelligence, and international hackers.

“Mindf*ck demonstrates how digital influence operations, when they converged with the nasty business of politics, managed to hollow out democracies.”—The Washington Post

Mindf*ck goes deep inside Cambridge Analytica’s “American operations,” which were driven by Steve Bannon’s vision to remake America and fueled by mysterious billionaire Robert Mercer’s money, as it weaponized and wielded the massive store of data it had harvested on individuals—in…


Book cover of God, Human, Animal, Machine: Technology, Metaphor, and the Search for Meaning

Gareth Southwell Why did I love this book?

Those who laid the foundations for the scientific revolution—Newton, Bacon, Descartes—were religious men. But, so the story goes, science has now left religion behind—except it hasn’t. In this extraordinary book, Meghan O’Gieblyn argues that, having turned its back on God, science and technology are now sleepwalking us into a new religion: transhumanism. Faced with the increasing and enormous complexity of artificial intelligence, like priests interpreting the oracle, the programmers and analysts of today must simply guess how an algorithm has arrived at a particular solution—and have faith that it is correct. They lust for the Rapture-like Singularity, where machines will take over the future, gifting us all digital immortality. Hmm, is this starting to sound a bit familiar…?

By Meghan O'Gieblyn,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked God, Human, Animal, Machine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A strikingly original exploration of what it might mean to be authentically human in the age of artificial intelligence, from the author of the critically-acclaimed Interior States.

"Meghan O’Gieblyn is a brilliant and humble philosopher, and her book is an explosively thought-provoking, candidly personal ride I wished never to end ... This book is such an original synthesis of ideas and disclosures. It introduces what will soon be called the O’Gieblyn genre of essay writing.” —Heidi Julavits, author of The Folded Clock
 
For most of human history the world was a magical and enchanted place ruled by forces beyond our…


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Book cover of Creativity, Teaching, and Natural Inspiration

Mark Doherty Author Of Creativity, Teaching, and Natural Inspiration

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Why am I passionate about this?

I am a highly experienced outdoorsman, musician, songwriter, and backcountry guide who chose teaching as a day job. As a writer, however, I am a promoter of creative and literary nonfiction, especially nonfiction that features a thematic thread, whether it be philosophical, conservation, historical, or even unique experiential. The thread I used for thirty years of teaching high school and honors English was the thread of Conservation, as exemplified by authors like Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Edward O. Wilson, Al Gore, Henry David Thoreau, as well as many other more contemporary authors.

Mark's book list on creative nonfiction books that entertain and teach through threaded essays and stories

What is my book about?

I have woven numerous delightful and descriptive true life stories, many from my adventures as an outdoorsman and singer songwriter, into my life as a high school English teacher. I think you'll find this work both entertaining as well as informative, and I hope you enjoy the often lighthearted repartee and dialogue that enhances the stories and experiences.

When I started teaching in the early 1990s, I brought into the classroom with me my passions for nature, folk music, and creativity. This book holds something new and engaging with every chapter and can be enjoyed by all sorts of readers, particularly those who enjoy nonfiction that employs wit, wisdom, humor, and even some down-to-earth philosophy.

Creativity, Teaching, and Natural Inspiration

By Mark Doherty,

What is this book about?

Creativity, Teaching, and Natural Inspiration follows the evolution of a high school English teacher as he develops a creative and innovative teaching style despite being juxtaposed against a public education system bent on didactic, normalizing regulations and political demands. Doherty crafts an engaging nonfiction story that utilizes memoir, anecdote, poetry, and dialogue to explore how mixing creativity and pedagogy can change the way budding students visualize creative writing: A chunk of firewood plunked on a classroom table becomes part of a sawmill, a mine timber, an Anasazi artifact...it also becomes a poem, a song, an essay, and a memoir. The…


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