Where Automation is Taking Us
A panoramic exposé of the decision-making software running our lives – and how it is changing us all.
In The Glass Cage, Pulitzer Prize nominee and bestselling author Nicholas Carr shows how the most important decisions of our lives are now being made by machines and the radical effect this is having on our ability to learn and solve problems.
In May 2009 an Airbus A330 passenger jet equipped with the latest ‘glass cockpit’ controls plummeted 30,000 feet into the Atlantic. The reason for the crash: the autopilot had routinely switched itself off. In fact, automation is everywhere – from the thermostat in our homes and the GPS in our phones to the algorithms of High Frequency Trading and self-driving cars. We now use it to diagnose patients, educate children, evaluate criminal evidence and fight wars. But psychological studies show that we perform best when fully involved in a task, while the principle of automation – that humans are inefficient – is self-fulfilling. The glass cockpit is becoming a glass cage.
In this utterly engrossing exposé, bestselling writer Nicholas Carr reveals how automation is affecting our ability to solve problems, forge memories and acquire skills. Rather than rejecting technology, Carr argues that we must urgently rethink its role in our lives, using it to enhance rather than diminish the extraordinary abilities that make us human.
“Nicholas Carr is among the most lucid, thoughtful and necessary thinkers alive. The Glass Cage should be required reading for everyone with a phone”
Jonathan Safran Foer
“Written with restrained objectivity, The Glass Cage is nevertheless as scary as any sci-fi thriller could be”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
“Nicholas Carr is the rare thinker who understands that technological progress is both essential and worrying. The Glass Cage is a call for technology that complements our human capabilities, rather than replacing them”
Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody
“A very necessary book, that we ignore at our peril. I read it without putting it down”
Iain McGilchrist, author of The Master and His Emissary
“An important book ... deep and valuable”
“Brings a much-needed humanistic perspective to the wider issues of automation … a persuasive … wide-ranging book”
“Elegantly persuasive … In his thoughtful, non-strident way, he is simply pointing out that the cost of automation may be far higher than we have realised”
“Excellent … beautifully written … Put down your phone, take off your Google Glass and read this”
“A valuable corrective to the belief that technology will cure all ills, and a passionate plea to keep machines the servants of humans, not the other way round”
“Carr argues, very convincingly, that automation is eroding our memory while simultaneously creating a complacency within us that will diminish our ability to gain new skills … I had always wondered if it were possible Google Maps was ruining my sense of direction. Now I am certain of it”
“Fascinating … With digital technology today we are roughly at the stage we were with the car in the 1950s – dazzled by its possibilities and unwilling to think seriously about its costs … [this] nuanced account … is very good”
“Who is it serving, this technology, asks Carr. Us? Or the companies that make billions from it? Billions that have shown no evidence of trickling down … It’s hard not to read the chapter on lethal autonomous robots – technology that already exists – without thinking of the perpetual warfare of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four”
“An eye-opening exposé of how automation is altering our ability to solve problems, forge memories and acquire skills”
“A powerful and compelling book.”
Mail on Sunday