It’s Not Just Robots We Have to Worry About; in New Book, “Not So Fast: Thinking Twice About Technology,” Author Shows How a World of Machines Has Gone Out of Control

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Best-selling journalist Doug Hill explains 4 reasons technology runs humans, and not the other way around. (NOTE: Author available for media interviews; review copies of his book available on request.)

Moviegoers have seen plenty of films that depict renegade robots raging out of control, but that’s just science fiction, right?

In his new book “Not So Fast: Thinking Twice About Technology,” investigative journalist Doug Hill says robots are far from the only technology taking charge of consumers' lives.

“There’s more to turning off machines than hitting a switch,” Hill says. “We are deeply, intimately tied to our technologies, in all sorts of practical and emotional ways. To give them up would be literally life-threatening. That’s why many experts believe our technologies have become ‘autonomous.’”

Here are four key reasons Hill believes citizens don’t have as much control over the technologies in their lives as they think:

1. The technological imperative. "Our entire way of life—the social fabric in which we live—is utterly, completely dependent on technology," says Hill. "To free ourselves of that dependence would be so disruptive that economic and social chaos would result."

2. Technological momentum. "There’s a simpler reason technologies become intractable: it's too hard to change them. We’re stuck with the infrastructure we have," Hill says. "For example, it’s not easy to replace a city’s sewer system from scratch."

3. Convergence and diffusion. "Technologies are communicable; they spread like viruses. They converge with other technologies and diffuse into unexpected areas," says Hill. "Bronze casting methods first used to make church bells were soon used to make canons, for example. Today automation techniques—robots—are diffusing daily into ever-more industries and applications, from assembly of everything from cars and smartphones to the handling of banking transactions."

4. Speed. "Regulation is slow; technologies are fast," says Hill. "So it is that governments are frequently unable to effectively control technological development. Hundreds of companies today are feverishly working to exploit the commercial potential of nano technology and synthetic biology, for example, despite the fact that no one is certain either technology is safe."

Technological autonomy is not as radical an idea as it might sound, notes Hill. “Plenty of quite respectable people have endorsed it, including the late historian and head of the Library of Congress, Daniel J. Boorstin. In 1977 Boorstin wrote that technology had become the dominant force in our culture and its proliferation was beyond our control. "We live, and will live, in a world of increasingly involuntary commitments," he said.

“Not So Fast” is unusual among books on technology in the broadness of its approach to the subject. According to Hill, "When we talk about technology today we’re usually thinking only of digital technologies, while we take the other massive technological systems that surround us for granted. We’re so immersed in technology we don’t really think about what it is."

Individual technologies change constantly, Hill adds, "but our commitment to the technological life in general is almost certainly irreversible. That’s why some scientists are beginning to believe that the only way to save the planet from massive disruptions of global warming may be geo-engineering — that is, using technological methods to manipulate the environment back to health."

In his research for “Not So Fast,” Hill incorporated the work of hundreds of scholars who have spent their careers studying the dynamics of technology and its impact on consumers' lives.

Doug Hill is a best-selling journalist whose work has appeared in publications ranging from the New York Times and Esquire to TV Guide and Cosmopolitan. He is the co-author of "Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live," which the Associated Press called "the best book ever written about television." His essays on technology have appeared in the Boston Globe, Forbes.com, The Atlantic.com, O'Reilly Radar, and Cyborgology.

Early readers of Hill’s book have raved about its insights into the technological phenomenon:

+ Carl Mitcham, professor at the Colorado School of Mines; author, co-author, or editor of "Thinking through Technology: The Path Between Engineering and Philosophy," "Bibliography of the Philosophy of Technology," "The Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics," and "Research in Philosophy and Technology":

“'Not So Fast' is a really fine piece of work. Wish I’d written it. Anyone who might want to reflect on the implications of more than three generations of scholarly criticism of technology should read the book. The same goes for any scholars who have been thinking about technology and who desire to see how their work may have been more publicly appropriated – or , indeed, who may wish to deepen their own understanding of what they have been doing. Doug Hill is a solid independent scholar in the best sense: A Lewis Mumford for our time.”

+ Albert Borgmann, Regents Professor of Philosophy at the University of Montana; author of "Crossing the Postmodern Divide," "Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life," and "Holding on to Reality":

“Technology is a troubling and confusing force in contemporary culture, and it’s good to see Doug Hill discuss it so calmly and clearly. His book is special in avoiding the rigorous and severe arguments of philosophers and other academics and in being both firm in its views but relaxed in its attitude. The reader hears the voice of a very well-informed writer without being bullied with all that knowledge. There's good reason to believe the book will reach an audience that has been neglected and that it will help to advance the public conversation on technology that is so necessary and so lacking.”

+ Langdon Winner, author of 'Autonomous Technology: Technics-out-of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought' and 'The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology'; professor, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute:

“Lively, fast moving, always entertaining, 'Not So Fast' offers a grand overview of the extravagant hopes and dire warnings that accompany the arrival of powerful new technologies. Blending the key ideas of classic and contemporary thinkers, Doug Hill explores the aspirations of those who strive for the heavens of artifice and those who find the whole enterprise a fool’s errand. This is the most engaging, readable work on the great debates in technology criticism now available and a solid contribution to that crucial yet unsettling tradition.”

+ Howard Rheingold, Internet pioneer and author of "Tools for Thought," "The Virtual Community," "Smart Mobs" and "Net Smart":

"This is the technology criticism I've been waiting for -- aware of the history of technology criticism and the history of changing attitudes toward technology, and at the same time attuned to contemporary developments. 'Not So Fast' is readable, meticulously sourced, and, above all -- nuanced. I recommend it for technology critics and enthusiasts alike."

+ Allen Noren, vice president of online, O’Reilly Media:

“Doug Hill's insights into technology are both original and profound. I've traveled in the highest reaches of the tech world for more than twenty years, and I still learned much from this book. He will be recognized as a leading thinker on technology and its impact on our world. In an industry that too seldom stops to think through the implications of the products we produce, his is a voice we need to hear.”

+ James Howard Kunstler, author, “Too Much Magic,” “The Long Emergency,”  “World Made By Hand” :

“Anyone interested in the future of the human project will benefit hugely from Doug Hill’s lucid performance.”

+ Roger Cubicciotti, Ph.D., former chair, Center of Innovation for Nanobiotechnology, North Carolina Biotechnology Center; Visiting Scholar, Department of Physics, Wake Forest University:

"Never have I experienced such a probing, in-depth analysis of the push-and-pull of technology as a driver, determining force, savior or disease of our species. I was captivated by Doug Hill's thesis, inquiry, insights and intellectual/spiritual perspective in bringing the benefits and risks of technology evolution into clear focus. I was transformed by the premises and counter-premises provocatively addressed in this book.”

+ David W. Gill, professor of Workplace Theology & Business Ethics at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Boston, and President, International Jacques Ellul Society

"Doug Hill’s 'Not So Fast' has to be one of the five best books on technology I’ve read over the past decade. Hill has a remarkable command of the technology creators, analysts, and critics, such as Ellul, Heidegger, Kurzweil, Gates, Jobs, Mumford, Borgmann, and McLuhan. He approaches technology from several helpful angles. His prose is clear, convincing, and often droll! 'Not So Fast' must be part of any reflection on our culture and future."

“Not So Fast: Thinking Twice About Technology” by Doug Hill is published by Cellarius Press/BookBaby and is available as an ebook on Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Nobel Nook, iBookstore, Sony E-reader, Kobo, PagePusher and other ebook distributors.

Amazon: http://amzn.com/B00G003SH6
Blog: http://TheQuestionConcerningTechnology.blogspot.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DougHill25
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NotSoFastBook

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