Richard Waters at the Financial Times:
What is to stop automation from ultimately assuming all of mankind’s mental and physical efforts? And when the machines do all the heavy lifting — whether in the form of robots commanding the physical world or artificial intelligence systems that relieve us of the need to think — who is the master and who the slave?
Despite the antagonism he sometimes stirs in the tech world (an influential article of his published by the Harvard Business Review in 2003 was called, provocatively, “IT Doesn’t Matter”) author Nicholas Carr is not a technophobe. But in The Glass Cage he brings a much-needed humanistic perspective to the wider issues of automation. In an age of technological marvels, it is easy to forget the human.
Carr’s argument here is that, by automating tasks to save effort, we are making life easier for ourselves at the cost of replacing our experience of the world with something inferior. “Frictionless” is the new mantra of tech companies out to simplify life as much as possible. But the way Carr sees it, much of what makes us most fulfilled comes from taking on the friction of the world through focused concentration and effort. What would happen, in short, if we were “defined by what we want”?