Books for the budding new grad: Computer science and technology

Inspiring reads to help you infuse deeper meaning into the work you do

As spring unfolds, so too do the petals of opportunity for a new batch of students. To help guide this graduating class as they venture forth to the next phase of life, we’ve gathered a bouquet of inspiring reads as reminders to embrace growth, do good, and find meaning in whatever path they may take. 

In this second collection, explore books on the bias of technology, the importance of human-centered design, technological ethics, and more.

More Than a Glitch: Confronting Race, Gender, and Ability Bias in Tech by Meredith Broussard

The word “glitch” implies an incidental error, as easy to patch up as it is to identify. But what if racism, sexism, and ableism aren’t just bugs in mostly functional machinery—what if they’re coded into the system itself? In the vein of heavy hitters such as Safiya Umoja Noble, Cathy O’Neil, and Ruha Benjamin, Meredith Broussard demonstrates in More Than a Glitch how neutrality in tech is a myth and why algorithms need to be held accountable.

“With the clarity that few technology scholars can muster, More than Glitch powerfully demonstrates why we must understand culture—not just computation—if we are to imagine and design a future that reaches beyond fairness to build equity and justice into our technological systems.” —Charlton McIlwain, NYU; author of Black Software

Value Sensitive Design: Shaping Technology with Moral Imagination by Batya Friedman and David G. Hendry

Implantable medical devices and human dignity. Private and secure access to information. Engineering projects that transform the Earth. Multigenerational information systems for international justice. How should designers, engineers, architects, policy makers, and others design such technology? Who should be involved and what values are implicated? In Value Sensitive Design, Batya Friedman and David Hendry describe how both moral and technical imagination can be brought to bear on the design of technology. With value sensitive design, under development for more than two decades, Friedman and Hendry bring together theory, methods, and applications for a design process that engages human values at every stage.

“This elegant volume is a compelling overview of value sensitive design—philosophy, strategies, methods, self-critique—delivered in clear, readable prose. This book will get you thinking and acting.” —Bonnie Nardi, University of California, Irvine; coauthor of Heteromation, and Other Stories of Computing and Capitalism

Computing and Technology Ethics: Engaging through Science Fiction by Emanuelle Burton, Judy Goldsmith, Nicholas Mattei, Cory Siler and Sara-Jo Swiatek

Should autonomous weapons be legal? Will we be cared for by robots in our old age? Does the efficiency of online banking outweigh the risk of theft? From communication to travel to medical care, computing technologies have transformed our daily lives, for better and for worse. But how do we know when a new development comes at too high a cost? Using science fiction stories as case studies of ethical ambiguity, this engaging textbook offers a comprehensive introduction to ethical theory and its application to contemporary developments in technology and computer science.

“An astonishing achievement. Weaving science fiction into the clearest and richest introduction to the subject I’ve encountered, this book opens up thrilling new ways to teach.” —Shannon Vallor, University of Edinburgh; author of Technology and the Virtues

Find Your Path: Unconventional Lessons from 36 Leading Scientists and Engineers by Daniel Goodman

This insightful book offers essential life and career lessons for newly-minted STEM graduates and those seeking a career change. Thirty-six leading scientists and engineers (including two Nobel Prize winners) describe the challenges, struggles, successes, satisfactions, and U-turns encountered as they established their careers. Readers learn that there are professional possibilities beyond academia, as contributors describe the paths that took them into private industry and government as well as to college and university campuses. Taken together, these essays make it clear that there is not one path to a profession in science, but many.

“An absorbing volume.” —Times Higher Education

Beyond Data: Reclaiming Human Rights at the Dawn of the Metaverse by Elizabeth M. Renieris

Ever-pervasive technology poses a clear and present danger to human dignity and autonomy, as many have pointed out. And yet, for the past fifty years, we have been so busy protecting data that we have failed to protect people. In Beyond Data, Elizabeth Renieris argues that laws focused on data protection, data privacy, data security and data ownership have unintentionally failed to protect core human values, including privacy. And, as our collective obsession with data has grown, we have, to our peril, lost sight of what’s truly at stake in relation to technological development—our dignity and autonomy as people.

“Renieris illuminates profound and urgent privacy challenges that we must confront in a post-digital world and sketches out an intriguing human rights–based solution.” —Jonathan Zittrain, Harvard University

Human-Centered Data Science: An Introduction by Cecilia Aragon, Shion Guha, Marina Kogan, Michael Muller and Gina Neff

Human-centered data science is a new interdisciplinary field that draws from human-computer interaction, social science, statistics, and computational techniques. This book, written by founders of the field, introduces best practices for addressing the bias and inequality that may result from the automated collection, analysis, and distribution of very large datasets. It offers a brief and accessible overview of many common statistical and algorithmic data science techniques, explains human-centered approaches to data science problems, and presents practical guidelines and real-world case studies to help readers apply these methods.

“This book is a must-read to expose the next generation of data scientists to the consequences of their work.” —Safiya Umoja Noble, author of Algorithms of Oppression

Forthcoming: Privacy Is Hard and Seven Other Myths: Achieving Privacy through Careful Design by Jaap-Henk Hoepman

We are tethered to our devices all day, every day, leaving data trails of our searches, posts, clicks, and communications. Meanwhile, governments and businesses collect our data and use it to monitor us without our knowledge. So we have resigned ourselves to the belief that privacy is hard—choosing to believe that websites do not share our information, for example, and declaring that we have nothing to hide anyway. In this informative and illuminating book, a computer privacy and security expert argues that privacy is not that hard if we build it into the design of systems from the start.

“By debunking some of the most pervasive myths about the alleged challenge of privacy protection, Hoepman empowers readers and encourages them to see solutions instead of obstacles.” —Marietje Schaake, Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center

Forthcoming: Insolvent: How to Reorient Computing for Just Sustainability by Christoph Becker

The deep entanglement of information technology with our societies has raised hope for a transition to more sustainable and just communities—those that phase out fossil fuels, distribute public goods fairly, allow free access to information, and waste less. In principle, computing should be able to help. But in practice, we live in a world in which opaque algorithms steer us toward misinformation and unsustainable consumerism. Insolvent shows why computing’s dominant frame of thinking is conceptually insufficient to address our current challenges, and why computing continues to incur societal debts it cannot pay back. Christoph Becker shows how we can reorient design perspectives in computer science to better align with the values of sustainability and justice.

“Becker provides rich ideas for reframing computing as an expression of the current political economy rather than a neutral set of tools.” —Bonnie Nardi, coauthor of Heteromation, and Other Stories of Computing and Capitalism

Code for What?: Computer Science for Storytelling and Social Justice by Clifford Lee and Elisabeth Soep

Educators are urged to teach “code for all”—to make a specialized field accessible for students usually excluded from it. In this book, Clifford Lee and Elisabeth Soep instead ask the question, “Code for what?” What if coding were a justice-driven medium for storytelling rather than a narrow technical skill? What if “democratizing” computer science went beyond the usual one-off workshop and empowered youth to create digital products for social impact? Lee and Soep answer these questions with stories of a diverse group of young people in Oakland, California, who combine journalism, data, design, and code to create media that makes a difference.

Awkward Intelligence: Where AI Goes Wrong, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do about It by Katharina A. Zweig

Before we know it, artificial intelligence (AI) will work its way into every corner of our lives, making decisions about, with, and for us. Is this a good thing? There’s a tendency to think that machines can be more “objective” than humans—can make better decisions about job applicants, for example, or risk assessments. In Awkward Intelligence, AI expert Katharina Zweig offers readers the inside story, explaining how many levers computer and data scientists must pull for AI’s supposedly objective decision making. She presents the good and the bad: AI is good at processing vast quantities of data that humans cannot—but it’s bad at making judgments about people.

“With sharp writing and amusing illustrations, Zweig’s critical look at AI in society is everything a citizen needs to know to be AI literate.” —Nick Diakopoulos, Northwestern University; author of Automating the News

Explore more books on technology from the MIT Press