There's not much that compares to the feeling of emerging from a book that changes the way you see the world.
What follows is an inexhaustive, no-particular-order list of what I've been reading. I hope you discover something new. I'd love to hear your recommendations, too! Send me a message.
"As you read a book word by word and page by page, you participate in its creation, just as a cellist playing a Bach suite participates, note by note, in the creation, the coming-to-be, the existence, of the music. And, as you read and re-read, the book of course participates in the creation of you, your thoughts and feelings, the size and temper of your soul." — Ursula K. Le Guin
"The Simulmatics Corporation, founded in 1959, mined data, targeted voters, accelerated news, manipulated consumers, destabilized politics, and disordered knowledge--decades before Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Cambridge Analytica. Silicon Valley likes to imagine it has no past but the scientists of Simulmatics are the long-dead grandfathers of Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Borrowing from psychological warfare, they used computers to predict and direct human behavior, deploying their “People Machine” from New York, Cambridge, and Saigon for clients that included John Kennedy’s presidential campaign, the New York Times, Young & Rubicam, and, during the Vietnam War, the Department of Defense. Jill Lepore, distinguished Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer, unearthed from the archives the almost unbelievable story of this long-vanished corporation, and of the women hidden behind it. In the 1950s and 1960s, Lepore argues, Simulmatics invented the future by building the machine in which the world now finds itself trapped and tormented, algorithm by algorithm."
Power On! (MIT Press, April 2022) is an original graphic novel inspired by young people whose views deserve to be heard – yet who too often find that the technology they use each and every day promotes practices that keep them marginalized without a seat at the table.
This book follows the lives and experiences of four high school students from diverse backgrounds as they confront the harm technology has done in their own community. We follow them as they awaken to how technology can perpetuate racism and inequality and gradually understand that those who run the Big Tech companies of Silicon Valley create technologies that do not reflect the voices and perspectives of themselves: women, people of color, LGBTQ+, and immigrant communities. In response, the four friends seek out computing experiences that are both personally and politically empowering, and decide to use what they’ve learned to take a stand for all students to learn computer science.
Informed by decades of educational research and young reader feedback about learning computing, Power On! brings to life the ethical complexities of technology and why young readers need the knowledge to be critical creators of technology, not merely users who are shaped and controlled by it.
A Facilitator's Guide is available to help with discussion.
How AI Will Change the Way We Live and Love
"From the New York Times-bestselling author of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Jeanette Winterson, comes an original and entertaining new collection drawing on her years of thinking and reading about artificial intelligence in its bewildering manifestations. She looks to history, religion, myth, literature, the politics of race and gender, and computer science to help us understand the radical changes to the way we live and love that are happening now.
When we create non-biological life forms, will we do so in our own image? Or will we accept the once-in-a-species opportunity to remake ourselves in their image? What do love, caring, sex, and attachment look like when humans form connections with non-human helpers, teachers, sex workers, and companions? And what will happen to our deep-rooted assumptions about gender? Will the physical body that is our home soon be enhanced by biological and neural implants, keeping us fitter, younger, and connected? Is it time to join Elon Musk and leave Planet Earth?
With wit, compassion, and curiosity, Winterson tackles AI’s most interesting talking points, from the algorithms that data-dossier your whole life, to the weirdness of backing up your brain."
"Trick Mirror is an enlightening, unforgettable trip through the river of self-delusion that surges just beneath the surface of our lives. This is a book about the incentives that shape us, and about how hard it is to see ourselves clearly through a culture that revolves around the self. In each essay, Tolentino writes about a cultural prism: the rise of the nightmare social internet; the advent of scamming as the definitive millennial ethos; the literary heroine’s journey from brave to blank to bitter; the punitive dream of optimization, which insists that everything, including our bodies, should become more efficient and beautiful until we die. Gleaming with Tolentino’s sense of humor and capacity to elucidate the impossibly complex in an instant, and marked by her desire to treat the reader with profound honesty, Trick Mirror is an instant classic of the worst decade yet."
Widespread reporting on aspects of white supremacy — from police brutality to the mass incarceration of Black Americans — has put a media spotlight on racism in our society. Still, it is a difficult subject to talk about. How do you tell your roommate her jokes are racist? Why did your sister-in-law take umbrage when you asked to touch her hair — and how do you make it right? How do you explain white privilege to your white,privileged friend?
"You have to get over the fear of facing the worst in yourself. You should instead fear unexamined racism. Fear the thought that right now, you could be contributing to the oppression of others and you don't know it. But do not fear those who bring that oppression to light. Do not fear the opportunity to do better."
In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to “model minorities” in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.