Your Computer Is on Fire
- Strategy & Business Best Business Books 2021, Tech & Innovation
Techno-utopianism is dead: Now is the time to pay attention to the inequality, marginalization, and biases woven into our technological systems.
This book sounds an alarm: after decades of being lulled into complacency by narratives of technological utopianism and neutrality, people are waking up to the large-scale consequences of Silicon Valley–led technophilia. This book trains a spotlight on the inequality, marginalization, and biases in our technological systems, showing how they are not just minor bugs to be patched, but part and parcel of ideas that assume technology can fix—and control—society.
The essays in Your Computer Is on Fire interrogate how our human and computational infrastructures overlap, showing why technologies that centralize power tend to weaken democracy. These practices are often kept out of sight until it is too late to question the costs of how they shape society. From energy-hungry server farms to racist and sexist algorithms, the digital is always IRL, with everything that happens algorithmically or online influencing our offline lives as well. Each essay proposes paths for action to understand and solve technological problems that are often ignored or misunderstood.
Janet Abbate, Ben Allen, Paul N. Edwards, Nathan Ensmenger, Mar Hicks, Halcyon M. Lawrence, Thomas S. Mullaney, Safiya Umoja Noble, Benjamin Peters, Kavita Philip, Sarah T. Roberts, Sreela Sarkar, Corinna Schlombs, Andrea Stanton, Mitali Thakor, Noah Wardrip-Fruin
"The collection of impactful tech issues interrogated over the span of decades in this book makes it recommended reading for anyone interested in the impact of tech policy in businesses and governments, as well as people deploying AI or interested in the way people shape technology."
“Technology is so embedded in our lives that we can sometimes forget it is there at all. Your Computer is on Fire is a vital reminder not only of its presence, but that we urgently need to extinguish the problems associated with it.”
"The book tech critics and organizers have been waiting for."
Los Angeles Review of Books
"An all-star collection of readable and complex stories, all aimed at ensuring the naive view of neutral technology gets buried and, please, left in the past."
"The authors fearlessly dismantle the technology industry's most sacred assumptions, forcing a rethinking of everything we've come to accept as true about our digital lives and the multibillion-dollar digital transformations going on inside our companies. Titles such as 'Gender Is a Corporate Tool,' 'A Network Is Not a Network,' and 'Coding Is Not Empowerment' pull no punches."
Strategy and Business
"A compelling case for the value of the humanities – and of history, in particular – in offering us a critical perspective to challenge the fantasies of genius innovators and streamlined progress."
Times Literary Supplement