"World Without Mind": a MUST read

How do we “optimize” for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness when we have no way of seeing (must less understanding) the algorithms that shape so many dimensions of our public and private lives?

As I have previously written, that dilemma sits at the heart of a must-read book, Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil.

If you care about how to form young people for an age of exponential change, there is another book that you must read: World Without Mind, by Franklin Foer.

Foer lays down the gauntlet in the Prologue:

"What we need to always remember is that we're not just merging with machines, but with the companies that run the machines."

Like Cathy O'Neil, Foer believes that we have unwittingly entered into a devil's bargain with Google, Facebook, and Amazon: we have traded privacy for efficiency, with potentially cataclysmic consequences for civic life, for commerce, for privacy, and perhaps most of all for our ability to think independently and clearly.

Here is another provocation from Foer:

"Our faith in technology is no longer fully consistent with our belief in liberty. We're nearing the moment when we will have to damage one of our revolutions [scientific and political] to save the other. Privacy can't survive the present trajectory of technology. Our ideas about the competitive marketplace are at risk. The proliferation of falsehood and conspiracy through social media, the dissipation of our common basis for fact, is creating conditions ripe for authoritarianism. Over time, the long merger of man and machine has worked out pretty well for man. But we're pulling into a new era, when that merger threatens the individual."

Whether or not you agree with Foer's analysis, learners--teachers and students--need to explore these big ideas now.

How are you preparing students to do something about a "world without mind"?


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Christian Talbot