The Death Algorithm and Other Digital Dilemmas
208 pp., 5 x 7 in,
- Published: December 4, 2018
- Published: November 9, 2018
Provocative takes on cyberbullshit, smartphone zombies, instant gratification, the traffic school of the information highway, and other philosophical concerns of the Internet age.
In The Death Algorithm and Other Digital Dilemmas, Roberto Simanowski wonders if we are on the brink of a society that views social, political, and ethical challenges as technological problems that can be fixed with the right algorithm, the best data, or the fastest computer. For example, the “death algorithm ” is programmed into a driverless car to decide, in an emergency, whether to plow into a group of pedestrians, a mother and child, or a brick wall. Can such life-and-death decisions no longer be left to the individual human?
In these incisive essays, Simanowski asks us to consider what it means to be living in a time when the president of the United States declares the mainstream media to be an enemy of the people—while Facebook transforms the people into the enemy of mainstream media. Simanowski describes smartphone zombies (or “smombies”) who remove themselves from the physical world to the parallel universe of social media networks; calls on Adorno to help parse Trump's tweeting; considers transmedia cannibalism, as written text is transformed into a postliterate object; compares the economic and social effects of the sharing economy to a sixteen-wheeler running over a plastic bottle on the road; and explains why philosophy mat become the most important element in the automotive and technology industries.
In The Death Algorithm, Simanowski offers a series of learned and conversational meditations on troubling technologies, ranging from addictive social networking to a new phrenology that claims to predict people's criminality and intelligence from their facial features. Steeped in philosophical insight, it both grounds and transcends today's debates on regulation of artificial intelligence by articulating basic prerequisites for the preservation of human dignity in an era of rapid technological advance. This is engaged scholarship that demonstrates the enduring importance of humanistic inquiry in societies ever more granularly shaped via systems of algorithmic control.
Frank Pasquale, University of Maryland Carey School of Law