Technology and Inequality

The new book arriving July 2017 from Palgrave Macmillan

Why did I write this book?

As a college professor, I work with a lot of young adults. I worry about their future. Will they have the same opportunities that I had? When I graduated from college, I had plenty of job options. I graduated with a PhD in computer science completely debt free. Now I sit in my modest little San Francisco home that only a millionaire could afford, while the middle class and working poor are forced out of the city.

I’ve been quite surprised by the growth of severe economic inequality, here in the USA and around the world. I fell in love with computers early, and my personal experience has always been one of empowerment and opportunity. And yet, in our ever more digital world, severe economic inequality has in many places increased. I needed to understand what was happening and, if possible, start to reverse these trends.

I do believe that technology can be part of the answer, but that it won’t happen by itself. In the book, I mention some of the assumptions made about how technology affects the world. The more simplified models assume that technology is a ‘force’ outside of human control, or is a ‘tool’ that can be used to do anything equally well. I prefer models that see technology as ‘history’, ‘values’, and ‘practice’. These models assume that technologies are a complex set of choices and investments made over time, some arbitrary, some deliberate, and many without any solid idea of what the effects will be. Change is possible at key moments, but you have to be ready for them.