To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism by Evgeny Morozov.
The first half of the book covers three points:
Not all problems are simply issues of efficiency. Some “problems” are in fact necessary tensions between contrasting philosophies and are not something technologists should try to erase.
There’s nothing about the structure of “the Internet” or “Technology” that’s prescriptive for how we should set up our societies.
Technologies should be evaluated individually, not lumped together as “the Internet” and declared inevitable and therefore good.
Toward the second half of the book, he drills in on a more specific and interesting proposal. Morosov implores technologists to build technologies that make us think more about the complex structures of the world around us, not less. Most design strives to hide complexity and make the mechanics invisible to the user; Morosov proposes the opposite. We could design lamps and toasters that behave erratically when we are using too much power and parking meters that make us choose what to do with the leftover time. Instead, nudges and gamifications guide us into pre-determined paths and rob us of daily opportunities to consider the collective consequences of our actions.
He gives two examples of that last point:
- An in-home water system that awards points for water-saving behaviors might succeed in reducing individuals’ water usage while also ensuring that those individuals never think about whether changes are needed in how the water got to their house in the first place, or if whether all those points add up to any meaningful difference.
- A bus system in the 60s that perfectly predicted and adjusted to the number of Black and white riders might have eased tensions at bus stops while also erasing the opportunity for someone to protest the whole idea of segregation on busses.