2021: A Tech-ish Reading List

Kate Darling’s new book, The New Breed

Releasing a book during a pandemic is not an easy feat. Instead of fun book talks with champagne toasts, we’ll all be sitting in our living rooms toasting through the tubes on Zoom and the like. Though I’m looking forward to it—the press, the book talks, all of it—I can’t say I’m not a little disappointed.

Still, I’m in great company—a ton of amazing people are in the same boat as me, with superb books coming out this year. This list is comprised of just a few of them, mostly by people with whom I’m acquainted, and is not meant to be exhausted. Still, if you’re looking to learn something, this is a great place to start!

On the left we have scholar Kate Darling’s new tome, The New Breed: What Our History with Animals Reveals About our Future with Robots. I’m so excited for this book; Kate is a fantastic thinker whom I trust to have thought far outside the usual box on this one. Due out 20 April.

An edited collection that looks at the inequalities and biases built into our technological systems

Your Computer is On Fire is an edited collection by a number of smart scholars that starts with the bold declaration that techno-utopianism is dead. That alone is enough for me to have clicked that pre-order button, but the author names on the list should be enough to convince anyone else who isn’t convinced by that thesis. This one’s out 9 March.

To the left is another edited collection, The Future Starts Now, edited by Theo Priestley and Bronywn Williams and with essays by great thinkers including Leah Zaidi, Kate O’Neill, and Mathana, this one’s due out 15 April and promises to give a diverse set of expert insights into the future of tech and its intersections with business and society.

Chandra Prescod-Weinstein’s new book

This next book, The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred, by Professor Chandra Prescod-Weinstein, is less tech and more big thinking about the world and our broader universe, but I’m excited nonetheless. Prescod-Weinstein is a theoretical physicist who is also a deeply humanist writer, and her book promises to open the mind. Due out 9 March.

Ethan Zuckerman’s latest book

Readers of my work will know that Ethan Zuckerman has played a huge role in my life and career. Through Global Voices, he brought me into the Berkman world, mentored me, shared speaking opportunities, and friendship. Many years later, we collaborated on a book chapter of our own. Ethan has always been an inspiration, and I’ve been waiting with bated breath for him to put out this book! I’ll never forget, just as we were both finishing our final edits, being on a call with Ethan while I walked along the East Side Gallery, discussing our conclusions which, unsurprisingly, weren’t all that different. Get yourself a copy of Mistrust. Cheers!

Kate Crawford is the Inaugural Chair of AI and Justice at the École Normale Supérieure

A look inside Facebook

Kate Crawford is another friend with a book coming out this year. A leader in the space of ethical AI thinking, Kate’s book, Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence, promises to raise new questions and provide answers to those already being asked. Kate has long been critical of corporate business models and practices, which is essential to any critique today of artificial intelligence.

And last but absolutely not least is An Ugly Truth, a book that I am so excited to read! Written by journalists Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang, I view this book as very ecomplementary to my own. It takes a look inside Facebook’s battle for dominaton: over the tech scene, but perhaps over even more. Can’t wait to read it!