The Silicon Standard | Technology in Focus

Further readings on current and coming tech and how it impacts the human experience.

Further readings on current and coming tech
and how it impacts the human experience

Keeping abreast of how to use today’s trending technologies can be a matter of watching the headlines—or the webinars. But to stay informed about portents of possible further futures and their larger social implications, long-form reads can add deeper dimension. To help librarians take the big picture into account in their long-term planning—and keep tech-minded patrons informed and entertained—LJ has gathered this list of recommended titles on various issues related to technology, from artificial intelligence to virtual reality and topics in between.


Husain, Amir. The Sentient Machine: The Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence. Scribner. 2017. ISBN 9781501144677. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781501144691.

The author maintains that AI is our best hope for solving looming problems in health care, energy production, financial systems, and security. Husain describes how narrow AI (also known as weak AI) is revolutionizing the aforementioned areas by being able to “think” more quickly to analyze possibilities. (LJ 12/17)

Tegmark, Max. Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. Knopf. 2017. ISBN 9781101946596. $28;
ebk. ISBN 9781101946602.

AI has real-world applications that are already being implemented such as self-driving cars, computer viruses, manufacturing robots, and even weaponry. The technical and scientific reading material is divided by illustrations and graphs. (LJ 9/15/17)

Walsh, Toby. Machines That Think: The Future of Artificial Intelligence. Prometheus. Feb. 2018. ISBN 9781633883758. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781633883765.

Walsh describes where AI is today and where it could take us. The author concludes that AI could be our greatest legacy, the last invention human beings will ever need to make.


Doudna, Jennifer A. & Samuel H. Sternberg. A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power To Control Evolution. Houghton Harcourt. 2017. ISBN 9780544716940. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780544716964.

In the spring of 2015, biologist Doudna called for a worldwide moratorium on the use of the new gene-editing tool CRISPR to make heritable changes in human embryos, arguing that the tiniest changes to DNA could have myriad, unforeseeable consequences.


Casey, Michael J. & Paul Vigna. The Truth Machine:
The Blockchain and the Future of Everything.

St. Martin’s. Mar. 2018. ISBN 9781250114570. $26.99;
ebk. ISBN 9781250114600

The authors expose the challenge of replacing institutions with a radical model that bypasses them. Casey and Vigna show why we all must care about the path that blockchain technology takes—moving humanity forward, not backward.

Data, Big and Small

Frischmann, Brett & Evan Selinger. Re-Engineering Humanity. Cambridge Univ. May 2018. ISBN 9781107147096. $29.95;
ebk. ISBN 9781108562256.

The authors examine what’s happening to our lives as society embraces big data, predictive analytics, and smart environments. They explain how the goal of designing programmable worlds goes hand in hand with engineering predictable and programmable people.

Tenner, Edward. The Efficiency Paradox: What Big Data
Can’t Do.
Knopf. Apr. 2018. ISBN 9781400041398. $27.95;
ebk. ISBN 9780525520306.

Tenner writes about the paradox of efficiency. He cites studies indicating that note taking with a pen and paper is more beneficial than on a mobile device and that GPS applications take away important navigational skills for hikers and climbers. (LJ 3/15/18)

Discrimination in Tech

Eubanks, Virginia. Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor. St. Martin’s. Jan. 2018. ISBN 9781250074317. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466885967.

Eubanks provides a tour of the algorithms, data mining practices, and predictive risk models that target poor and working-class Americans for scrutiny and punishment. Eubanks’s advocacy for the Americans impacted by this trend is passionate and matched by incisive analysis and bolstered by impressive research.
(LJ 2/1/18)

Noble, Safiya Umoja. Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. New York Univ. Feb. 2018. ISBN 9781479849949. $89; pap. ISBN 9781479837243. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781479866762.

Noble presents convincing evidence of the need for closer regulation of search engine algorithms and challenges the premise that Google results can be trusted as credible. She argues that Google will never reach its potential without a commitment to social justice. (LJ 2/15/18)

Wachter-Boettcher, Sara. Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms,
and Other Threats of Toxic Tech.
Norton. 2017. ISBN 9780393634631. $24.95;
ebk. ISBN 9780393634648.

From enabling fake news to causing corporate scandal, the companies that control online environments are awash in biased and unjust practices. Wachter-Boettcher ascribes these attributes to the industry’s near-complete dominance by white men of relatively similar circumstance, perspective, and prejudices. (LJ 10/15/17)

Materials Science

Active Matter. MIT. 2017. ed. by Skylar Tibbits.
ISBN 9780262036801. $39.95.

The first book on active matter, an emerging field focused on programming physical materials to assemble themselves, transform autonomously, and react to information. Active matter and programmable materials are at the intersection of science, art, design, and engineering.

Johnson, Les & Joseph E. Meany. Graphene: The Superstrong, Superthin, and Superversatile Material That Will Revolutionize the World. Prometheus. Feb. 2018. ISBN 9781633883253. pap. $19;
ebk. ISBN 9781633883260.

Johnson and Meany review the history and chemistry of graphene and survey potentially transformative uses in all areas of engineering. Graphene is a form of pure carbon that is a sheet of atoms arranged in hexagons, giving it distinctive mechanical, chemical, and electrical properties. (LJ 2/15/18)

Social impact

Allocca, Kevin. Videocracy: How YouTube Is Changing the World… with Double Rainbows, Singing Foxes, and Other Trends We Can’t Stop Watching. Bloomsbury USA. Jan. 2018. ISBN 9781632866745. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781632866769.

Allocca examines the behaviors of uploading content, liking, commenting, and sharing as the biggest contributors to what is popular and what goes viral. Beyond simple metrics of likes and shares, Allocca also delves into how we form and reinforce community identities around the content. (LJ 2/1/18)

Botsman. Rachel. Who Can You Trust? How
Technology Brought Us Together and Why It Might Drive Us Apart.
2017. ISBN 9781541773677. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781541773684.

Botsman examines technology’s influence on trust. Included are several research studies and firsthand accounts that help illustrate how technology has evolved and whether it is considered trustworthy. (LJ 11/1/17)

Keen, Andrew. How To Fix the Future. Grove/Atlantic. Feb. 2018. ISBN 9780802126641. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780802189127.

Keen looks to the past to address the role of humans in a technology-dominated present and future. He asserts that today’s challenges can be met through a combination of regulation, innovation, and education. (LJ 2/1/18)

Weinersmith, Zach & Kelly Weinersmith. Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies
That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything.
Penguin. 2017. ISBN 9780525557845. $30;
ebk. ISBN 9780399563836.

The authors give us a snapshot of what’s coming next—from robot swarms to nuclear fusion–powered toasters. The Weinersmiths investigate why these technologies are needed, how they would work, and what is standing in their way.

Space exploration

Kaku, Michio. The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth. Doubleday. Feb. 2018. ISBN 9780385542760. $29.95;
ebk. ISBN 9780385542777.

Celebrated CUNY physicist Kaku discusses how humans might eventually move away from Earth and build a sustainable civilization out there somewhere. Kaku’s three million Facebook fans and 600,000 Twitter followers will be thrilled. (LJ Xpress Reviews 2/9/18)

Sustainability and Technology

Schelly, Chelsea. Dwelling in Resistance: Living with Alternative Technologies in America. Rutgers Univ. (Nature, Society, & Culture). 2017. ISBN 9780813586502. $28.95;
ebk. ISBN 9780813586526.

Schelly portrays a wide range of residential living alternatives using renewable, small-scale, decentralized technologies. These technologies change how individuals and communities interact with the material world, their natural environment, and one another.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Bailenson, Jeremy, Experience on Demand: What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do. Norton. Feb. 2018. ISBN 9780393253696. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393253702.

Virtual reality is a psychologically powerful medium that allows people to have any experience at the push of a button. Bailenson discusses the purposes, uses, and wonders of VR through a first-person perspective citing decades of research. (LJ 10/1/17)

Lanier, Jaron. Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality. Holt. 2017. ISBN 9781627794091. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781627794107.

Lanier tells about his years creating this emerging discipline in Silicon Valley. Much of the book recounts his experience at VPL Research. VPL and the author parted ways in 1992 when this self-acknowledged “laid back country hippie morphed into a high-stress CEO.” (LJ 10/15/17)

Jason L. Steagall is Library Instruction & Reference Specialist, Gateway Technical College, Elkhorn, WI

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Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

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