Reader, Come Home

Maryanne Wolf has a new book about how and why we are reading less in our distracted digital age.

Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World

Her earlier book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain looked more generally at how reading affects the brain. I should confess that I bought a copy when it came out and have yet to read it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Why We Find Self-Driving Cars So Scary

Jerry Kaplan:

“If proponents of autonomous technologies—from self-driving cars to military drones to eldercare robots—are to make their case in the court of public opinion, they will need more than cold statistics and controlled testing. They must also address the legitimate expectation of consumers that the new generation of AI-driven technology will fail in reasonable and explainable ways. As the old joke goes, to err is human, but it takes a computer to really foul things up.”

From a WSJ op-ed, republished at Skynet Today: Why we find self-driving cars so scary

Trumping Ourselves to Death

Ezra Klein on Vox:

Since Trump was elected, the bookshelves and op-ed pages have been alive with fears of Orwellian fascism – fears that, for the most part, remain far from manifesting. But even as Orwell’s dystopia has failed to materialize, Huxley’s dystopia has: We areburied under ignorance disguised as information, confused by entertainment masquerading as news, distracted by a dizzying procession of lies and outrages and ginned-up controversies, inured to misbehavior and corruption that would’ve consumed past administrations. We have lost control of our attention, if not of our government.

It is hard to read this paragraph from Postman without feeling he is speaking specifically about us:

When Orwell wrote in his famous essay “The Politics of the English Language” that politics has become a matter of “defending the indefensible,” he was assuming that politics would remain a distinct, although corrupted, mode of discourse. His contempt was aimed at those politicians who would use sophisticated versions of the age-old arts of double-think, propaganda and deceit. That the defense of the indefensible would be conducted as a form of amusement did not occur to him. He feared the politician as deceiver, not as entertainer.

Link: Amusing ourselves to Trump (I might have gone with “Trumping ourselves to death”)

via LibrarianShipwreck

Get the book: Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Hartzog and Selinger: Ban Facial Recognition

A good, strongly-worded article from Woodrow Hartzog and Evan Selinger, arguing for an outright ban instead of regulation on facial recognition systems.


“A call to ban facial recognition systems, full stop, is extreme. Really smart scholars like Judith Donath argue that it’s the wrong approach. She suggests a more technologically neutral tactic, built around the larger questions that identify the specific activities to be prohibited, the harms to be avoided, and the values, rights, and situations we are trying to protect. For almost every other digital technology, we agree with this approach.

But we believe facial recognition technology is the most uniquely dangerous surveillance mechanism ever invented. It’s the missing piece in an already dangerous surveillance infrastructure, built because that infrastructure benefits both the government and private sectors. And when technologies become so dangerous, and the harm-to-benefit ratio becomes so imbalanced, categorical bans are worth considering.”

Link: Facial Recognition Is the Perfect Tool for Oppression (Medium)

Kara Swisher on Zuckerberg

A good op-ed by Kara Swisher on the state of Facebook and the internet generally in 2018.


“At a recent employee Q. and A. I did at YouTube, for example, one staffer told me that their jobs used to be about wrangling cat videos and now they had degenerated into a daily hell of ethics debates about the fate of humanity.”

Link: The Expensive Education of Mark Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley (NY Times)