The Glass Cage: Automation and Us
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At once a celebration of technology and a warning about its misuse, The Glass Cage will change the way you think about the tools you use every day.
In The Glass Cage, best-selling author Nicholas Carr digs behind the headlines about factory robots and self-driving cars, wearable computers and digitized medicine, as he explores the hidden costs of granting software dominion over our work and our leisure. Even as they bring ease to our lives, these programs are stealing something essential from us.
Drawing on psychological and neurological studies that underscore how tightly people’s happiness and satisfaction are tied to performing hard work in the real world, Carr reveals something we already suspect: shifting our attention to computer screens can leave us disengaged and discontented.
From nineteenth-century textile mills to the cockpits of modern jets, from the frozen hunting grounds of Inuit tribes to the sterile landscapes of GPS maps, The Glass Cage explores the impact of automation from a deeply human perspective, examining the personal as well as the economic consequences of our growing dependence on computers.
With a characteristic blend of history and philosophy, poetry and science, Carr takes us on a journey from the work and early theory of Adam Smith and Alfred North Whitehead to the latest research into human attention, memory, and happiness, culminating in a moving meditation on how we can use technology to expand the human experience.
Nicholas Carr is among the most lucid, thoughtful, and necessary thinkers alive. He’s also terrific company. The Glass Cage should be required reading for everyone with a phone. (Jonathan Safran Foer)
Artificial intelligence has that name for a reason―it isn’t natural, it isn’t human. As Nicholas Carr argues so gracefully and convincingly in this important, insightful book, it is time for people to regain the art of thinking. It is time to invent a world where machines are subservient to the needs and wishes of humanity. (Don Norman, author of Things that Make Us Smart and Design of Everyday Things, director of the University of California San Diego Design Lab)
Written with restrained objectivity, The Glass Cage is nevertheless scary as any sci-fi thriller could be. It forces readers to reflect on what they already suspect, but don't want to admit, about how technology is shaping our lives. Like it or not, we are now responsible for the future of this negligible planet circling Sol; books like this one are needed until we develop an appropriate operating manual. (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, professor of psychology and management, Claremont Graduate University)
Engaging, informative …Carr deftly incorporates hard research and historical developments with philosophy and prose to depict how technology is changing the way we live our lives. (Publishers Weekly)
Nick Carr is our most informed, intelligent critic of technology. Since we are going to automate everything, Carr persuades us that we should do it wisely―with mindful automation. Carr's human-centric technological future is one you might actually want to live in. (Kevin Kelly, Senior Maverick for Wired Magazine and author of What Technology Wants)
Most of us, myself included, are too busy tweeting to notice our march into technological dehumanization. Nicholas Carr applies the brakes for us (and our self-driving cars). (Gary Shteyngart, author of Little Failure)
Carr brilliantly and scrupulously explores all the psychological and economic angles of our increasingly problematic reliance on machinery and microchips to manage almost every aspect of our lives. A must-read for software engineers and technology experts in all corners of industry as well as everyone who finds himself or herself increasingly dependent on and addicted to gadgets. (Booklist, Starred Review)
Fresh and powerful. (Mark Bauerlein - Weekly Standard)
Nick Carr is the rare thinker who understands that technological progress is both essential and worrying. The Glass Cage is a call for technology that complements our human capabilities, rather than replacing them. (Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus)
A sobering new analysis of the hazards of intelligent technology. (Hiawatha Bray - Boston Globe)
The Glass Cage is a worthy antidote to the relentlessly hopeful futurism of Google, TED Talks and Walt Disney… The same way no popular conversation on cloning can be had without bringing to mind Michael Crichton's techno-jeremiad Jurassic Park, Carr's book is positioned to stake out similar ground: To suggest moral restraint on future development with a well-timed and well-placed ‘what-if?' (James Janega - Chicago Tribune)
A stimulating, absorbing read. (Michelle Scheraga - Associated Press)
An elegantly written history of what role robotics have played in our past, and the possible role that they may play in our future… The Glass Cage urges us to take a moment, to take stock, and to realize the price that we’re paying―if not right this second, then certainly at some point in the future―in order to live a life that’s made easier by technology. (Elisabeth Donnelly - Flavorwire)
Helps us appreciate why so-called gains of ‘superior results’ can come with a steep price of hard-to-see tradeoffs that are no less potent for being subtle and nuanced. (Evan Seliger - Forbes Magazine)
[A] deeply informed reflection on computer automation. (G. Pascal Zachary - San Francisco Chronicle)
Smart, insightful… paint[s] a portrait of a world readily handing itself over to intelligent devices. (Jacob Axelrad - Christian Science Monitor)
Forces the reader to think about where we're going, how fast, and what it all means. (Phil Simon - Huffington Post)
Brings a much-needed humanistic perspective to the wider issues of automation. (Richard Waters - Financial Times)
One of Carr’s great strengths as a critic is the measured calm of his approach to his material―a rare thing in debates over technology… Carr excels at exploring these gray areas and illuminating for readers the intangible things we are losing by automating our lives. (Christine Rosen, Democracy)
There have been few cautionary voices like Nicholas Carr’s urging us to take stock, especially, of the effects of automation on our very humanness―what makes us who we are as individuals―and on our humanity―what makes us who we are in aggregate. (Sue Halpern - New York Review of Books)
largest sources of individual differences in performance on complex tasks is simply what and how much people know: declarative, procedural, and strategic knowledge acquired through years of training and practice in a domain.”30 Automaticity, as its name makes clear, can be thought of as a kind of internalized automation. It’s the body’s way of making difficult but repetitive work routine. Physical movements and procedures get programmed into muscle memory; interpretations and judgments are made
behind. A GPS device, by allowing us to get from point A to point B with the least possible effort and nuisance, can make our lives easier, perhaps imbuing us, as David Brooks suggests, with a numb sort of bliss. But what it steals from us, when we turn to it too often, is the joy and satisfaction of apprehending the world around us—and of making that world a part of us. Tim Ingold, an anthropologist at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, draws a distinction between two very different modes
people’s daily routines. Among all the leisure activities reported by their test subjects, the one that generated the greatest sense of flow was driving a car. CHAPTER TWO THE ROBOT AT THE GATE IN THE EARLY 1950S, Leslie Illingworth, a much-admired political cartoonist at the British satirical magazine Punch, drew a dark and foreboding sketch. Set at dusk on what appears to be a stormy autumn day, it shows a worker peering anxiously from the doorway of an anonymous manufacturing plant. One of
denverpost.com/nationworld/ci_19653967. Deaths from terrorist acts are not included in the figures. 18.Interview of Raja Parasuraman by author, December 18, 2011. 19.Jan Noyes, “Automation and Decision Making,” in Malcolm James Cook et al., eds., Decision Making in Complex Environments (Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 2007), 73. 20.Earl L. Wiener, Human Factors of Advanced Technology (“Glass Cockpit”) Transport Aircraft (Moffett Field, Calif.: NASA Ames Research Center, June 1989). 21.See, for
(2000): 286–297. 22.David B. Kaber et al., “On the Design of Adaptive Automation for Complex Systems,” International Journal of Cognitive Ergonomics 5, no. 1 (2001): 37–57. 23.Mark W. Scerbo, “Adaptive Automation,” in Raja Parasuraman and Matthew Rizzo, eds., Neuroergonomics: The Brain at Work (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 239–252. For more on the DARPA project, see Mark St. John et al., “Overview of the DARPA Augmented Cognition Technical Integration Experiment,” International