Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Automation and Utopia is Now Available!

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"Armed with an astonishing breadth of knowledge, John Danaher engages with pressing public policy issues in order to lay out a fearless exposition of the radical opportunities that technology will soon enable. With the precision of analytical philosophy and accessible, confident prose, Automation and Utopia demonstrates yet again why Danaher is one of our most important pathfinders to a flourishing future.”  
James Hughes, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

After 10 years, over 1000 blog posts, 50+ academic papers, and 60+ podcasts, I have finally published my first solo-authored book Automation and Utopia: Human Flourishing in a World Without Work (Harvard University Press 2019). I'm excited to finally share it with you all.

The book tries to present a rigorous case for techno-utopianism and a post-work future. I wrote it partly as a result of my own frustration with techno-futurist non-fiction. I like books that present provocative ideas about the future, but I often feel underwhelmed by the strength of the arguments they use to support these ideas. I don't know if you are like me, but if you are then you don't just want to be told what someone thinks about the future; you want to be shown why (and how) they think about the future and be able to critically assess their reasoning. If I got it right, then Automation and Utopia will allow you to do this. You may not agree with what I have to say in the end, but you should at least be able to figure out where I have gone wrong.

The book defends four propositions:

  • Proposition 1 - The automation of work is both possible and desirable: work is bad for most people most of the time, in ways that they don’t always appreciate. We should do what we can to hasten the obsolescence of humans in the arena of work.

  • Proposition 2 - The automation of life more generally poses a threat to human well-being, meaning, and flourishing: automating technologies undermine human achievement, distract us, manipulate us and make the world more opaque. We need to carefully manage our relationship with technology to limit those threats.

  • Proposition 3 - One way to mitigate this threat would be to build a Cyborg Utopia, but it’s not clear how practical or utopian this would really be: integrating ourselves with technology, so that we become cyborgs, might regress the march toward human obsolescence outside of work but will also carry practical and ethical risks that make it less desirable than it first appears.

  • Proposition 4 - Another way to mitigate this threat would be to build a Virtual Utopia: instead of integrating ourselves with machines in an effort to maintain our relevance in the “real” world, we could retreat to “virtual” worlds that are created and sustained by the technological infrastructure that we have built. At first glance, this seems tantamount to giving up, but there are compelling philosophical and practical reasons for favouring this approach.

If you have ever enjoyed anything I've written, and if you have any interest in technology, the future of work, human flourishing, utopianism, virtual reality, cyborgs, transhumanism, autonomy, anti-work philosophy, economics, philosophy, techno-optimism and, indeed, techno-pessimism, please consider getting a copy.

If you want to whet your appetite for the contents of the book, please check out my earlier blog series on technological unemployment and the value of work. Below is a short trailer with additional context and information.

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