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Your Computer Is on Fire

Cover of your computer is on fire
Thomas Mullaney
MIT Press
2021

Techno-utopianism is dead: Now is the time to pay attention to the inequality, marginalization, and biases woven into our technological systems.

Editors include Stanford Professor Tom Mullaney, Department of History and STS and  contributors include STS Director, Professor Paul Edwards, along with Janet Abbate, Ben Allen, Nathan Ensmenger, Mar Hicks, Halcyon M. Lawrence, Thomas S. Mullaney, Safiya Umoja Noble, Benjamin Peters, Kavita Philip, Sarah T. Roberts, Sreela Sarkar, Corinna Schlombs, Andrea Stanton, Mitali Thakor, Noah Wardrip-Fruin

This book sounds an alarm: after decades of being lulled into complacency by narratives of technological utopianism and neutrality, people are waking up to the large-scale consequences of Silicon Valley–led technophilia. This book trains a spotlight on the inequality, marginalization, and biases in our technological systems, showing how they are not just minor bugs to be patched, but part and parcel of ideas that assume technology can fix—and control—society.

The essays in Your Computer Is on Fire interrogate how our human and computational infrastructures overlap, showing why technologies that centralize power tend to weaken democracy. These practices are often kept out of sight until it is too late to question the costs of how they shape society. From energy-hungry server farms to racist and sexist algorithms, the digital is always IRL, with everything that happens algorithmically or online influencing our offline lives as well. Each essay proposes paths for action to understand and solve technological problems that are often ignored or misunderstood.