I know, I know, it’s ironic. But to get the message of Rage out, feeding the number one book recommendation algorithm in the world is a necessary evil. So if you have read the book, can I please ask that you give it a review at Amazon (or Amazon.co.uk)? It’d be good to do it ASAP, so it gets a good few weeks of algorithm boost before the Christmas book-buying season! Thank you. Yes, I mean you.
Byte the Book has put out a rather excellent writeup of a panel they put together that I was lucky enough to be on, along with Candice F., Taylan Kamis, and Alex Hardy, chaired by Mark Piesing. They even captured a good spontaneous quote from me that I’ll now have to remember to repeat:
“When the industrial revolution replaced handicrafts with mass-production, crafted products became the domain of the rich, and this may happen again. When the story you read to your child, or the care you receive when you’re old, becomes two-tiered — human-made for the wealthy; crappy and synthetic for the poor — that’s a world you’ve got to worry about.”
Thanks so much to the sponsors and organisers of this great event, I really enjoyed it
I’m really excited to be talking about Rage at the Adelaide Writer’s Week in March, 2020. The program is very exciting, including 2019 Man Booker International Prize-winner Jokha Alharthi, George Pell trial reporter Louise Milligan, Greek economist and activist Yanis Varoufakis, and many more! You can find a complete list of the authors appearing here (and there’s a nice writeup at the Adelaide Review as well). My appearance is a part of a multi-city Australian book tour, further details of you which you can find on the events page.
Given that most book recommendations people see these days are those of algorithms, I thought I’d do something more human, and add a list of books people who like Rage might find of interest on the website. You’ll find that page here.
Many of you will find a recent Jolly Swagman Podcast interesting. It features my long-time collaborator psychoanalyst, economist, and founder of the UCL Centre for the Study of Decision-Making Uncertainty, David Tuckett, in conversation. He discusses his theory of conviction narratives, and along the way, recommends some interesting books, including Rage! You can find links to listen to the podcast and the complete book list here.
“I think this is one of the best interviews Focus has ever done - really insightful and topical.” So says the MD of the production company.
I also think it is a good one, and I’ll give due credit to the producer and interviewer Alexander McNamara
The piece is called Are algorithms inherently biased? and you can click through to listen.
“The medium is the message” has never been truer than it is for social media. The natural dynamics of that media, plus the algorithms that are essential to it, encourage social division, what I call digital segregation. And that leads to digital gerrymandering, and the manipulation of us all, of the sort revealed in the must-see documentary, Netflix’ The Great Hack.
It’s also what the analytical results from colleagues of mine (and I) at UCL indicate. But in this new piece on The Startup (a Medium publication), I try to suggest (based on those results) how we might be able to change all that, hopefully in time for 2020 (and maybe even an upcoming UK general election).
The FT has just published a new article (paywalled) entitled Workplace automation: how AI is coming for your job, which draws its analysis from a PWC report on the future of work, which in turn bases its methodology on the famous Frey and Osbourne paper that I describe in detail in Rage. And coincidentally, I’ve just this morning published a new article on that subject, entitled Robots Can Do Our Jobs? No: That’s Algorithmic Pseudoscience at Work, in The Startup (a Medium publication).
I believe this new variety of infographic rich, methodologically obscure, algorithmic pseudoscience is a rising problem. And, ironically, the more algorithms do our job of reasoning (as is the case in most studies and articles on the “future of work”), the worse this problem will get.
Exciting and gratifying: my friend Steve sent me this picture of Rage proudly displayed as a “feature book” at Waterstones Westfields in London. It’s with some good company, including Paul Mason’s Clear Bright Future (which I’m ordering right away, as I admire Mr Mason’s work, and his book seems to have a message quite resonant with things in Rage).
The writeup card below Rage reads “Is technology really apolitical and morally neutral? A timely warning for our AI age.”
Last night I was glad to participate in the local author’s event of the Chiswick Book Festival, and I’m excited to have been included on their prestigious list of local authors from the place I call home. The list reaches back to Alexander Pope in 1688, and includes authors like WB Yeats, EM Forster, Anthony Burgess, Iris Murdoch, Eric Morecambe, JG Ballard, Harold Pinter, Lynne Redgrave, and Roger Daltry (yes, of The Who, and he did write a book, too). And now I am some tiny part of perhaps the most literary neighbourhood in London. Who’d a thunkit?
There are still tickets available for the talk I’m giving at 12 Hay Hill on Sept. 11th. I previously listed this event as closed to the public, but I was wrong! Hope to see some of you there?
Tickets (with a glass of wine when you walk in) are 15 pounds, but for 30, you also get a copy of the book, which I’ll glad sign!
Very pleased at these comments from a writer I very much admire, Angela Saini. If you’ve yet to read her fantastic work, check out Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong-and the New Research That's Rewriting the Story, which I feel is now a classic, and her latest, work Superior: The Return of Race Science, which covers some ground in common with Rage, in a different and important manner.
Over the moon that my old boss from UCL Computer Science, Anthony Finkelstein CBE FREng, who is now UK Chief Science Advisor on National Security finished Rage, and said “Rob Smith has written an important book that looks at AI in a careful and balanced way, combining wit and scholarship…I learnt a lot.” Full quote here.
“This is a vital addition to the debate on algorithmic decision-making, machine learning, and late-stage platform capitalism, and it's got important things to say about what makes us human, what our computers can do to enhance our lives, and how to to have a critical discourse about algorithms that does not subordinate human ethics to statistical convenience.”
Thanks so much Cory!
Publication Day (2): Rage Inside the Machine: The Prejudice of Algorithms, and How to Stop the Internet Making Bigots of Us All /
Excited to say that the book is how shipping in the USA and Australia. It’s been out for a couple of months in the UK, and the reviews and feedback at promotional events has been great. I know quite a few people have pre-ordered in the USA and Oz, so I really look forwarding to hearing people’s feedback from those countries soon. I really hope you all enjoy it, and that it sparks new, much-needed conversations about technology, and how it fits into our lives.