cover image System Error: Where Big Tech Went Wrong and How We Can Reboot

System Error: Where Big Tech Went Wrong and How We Can Reboot

Rob Reich, Mehran Sahami, and Jeremy M. Weinstein. Harper, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-306488-1

Philosopher Reich (Just Giving), computer scientist Sahami, and Stanford professor of political science Weinstein offer in this timely survey tips for how to “exercise our agency, reinvigorate our democracy, and direct the digital revolution to serve our best interests.” Opening with the January 6 Capitol riots, the authors showcase the tension that marks society’s relationship with technology—social media was used to foment distrust in election results, and the leaders of Facebook and Twitter later leveraged immense power when they banned Donald Trump from their platforms. The authors explore major issues that they posit society needs to grapple with: the rise in the outsourcing of decision-making to algorithms, the immense amount of user data collected by tech companies, increasing automation, and the proliferation of hate speech and disinformation online. Their suggestions for how the country might better balance democracy and technology are evenhanded and nuanced: “A far more aggressive commitment to a right to data protection, alongside government agencies capable of enforcing that right, should be the first critical check on corporate power.” Never falling into the trap of offering easy answers over deep analysis, this study is worth a look for readers worried about the outsize influence of technology on their lives and society. (Sept.)