Pessimists are perceived as more intelligent. So, time for five essential books from technology pessimists.
Five best books from tech pessimists
Perhaps the term technology pessimist was not carefully chosen. The authors of the books below strive for a better world with better technology. But whether this world ever comes, they have their reservations about that.
In 2014 Evgeny Morozov wrote To Save Everything Click Here. In this book he coins the term technosolutionism. The idea that anything can be solved with technology. This is a very dangerous idea, Morozov argues, and it has become more relevant and dangerous in the past 10 years. If we have technology, like autoGPT, that can help create technological fixes for problems really fast, it becomes more and more important to understand what our problems really are. After all, technology does not solve problems. People do.
More on technosolutionism in one of our crash courses.
The second book is Team Human by Douglas Rushkoff. Team Human is a manifesto—a fiery distillation of preeminent digital theorist Douglas Rushkoff’s most urgent thoughts on civilisation and human nature. Right! Douglas has always been a fierce critic of technology but he has radicalised in recent years. However in this book he is exactly in the right spot. Team Human is a well written, easy to read book with a lot of great one-liners and interesting ideas. It is also uplifting for a pessimists' book because Douglas paints a picture of better future.
He also has a podcast on https://www.teamhuman.fm/.
The third pessimist on our list is Nolen Gertz who wrote Nihilism and Technology. This book brings together the philosophies of technology and nihilism to investigate how we use technologies, from Netflix and Fitbit to Twitter and Google. It diagnoses how technologies are nihilistic and how our nihilism has become technological. There are great ideas on things like transhumanism, explainable AI and screentime. However it is not an easy read and mr. Gertz is no happy camper. Technology, in Gertz’s model, seeks to mediate the suffering of our existence yet traps us in a vicious feedback loop, which, in another Nietzschean phrase, serves only to make the sick sicker! Yummy.
Luckily, there is also a short TedxTalk.
Fourth on the list is Deepfakes and the Infocalypse. A book by Nina Chick. Everything you need to know about "deepfakes" and what could become the biggest information and communications meltdown in world history. It is a book full of fantastic ideas and examples related to fake media. It sketches a world in which we no longer have a shared truth and without a shared truth, no conversation (or democracy) is possible anymore. And, as befits a pessimistic book, solutions are offered, but they are vague and have little chance.
Here she is at Amsterdam Dance Event. Or not?
The final book is New Dark Age by James Bridle. They are an intriguing person. Sometimes they have a moustache, sometimes they have not. But their message his clear. Computation brings humanity more darkness than enlightenment: a goblin horde of digital superstitions, invented and unleashed in just half a century. Yet James Bridle is fearless in our gloomy post-truth predicament; they are a theorist, artist, technical visionary and even a moralist. Have they foreseen the worst? For James Bridle technology is not the answer. Nor is it a solution.
Also check their video on the YouTube Nightmare (on YouTube).
This list of books is the result of your suggestions. Do you have a suggestion for an even better book from a techno pessimist? Let us know with the contact form below and also let us know which book should be removed from the list.