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A Dangerous Master: How to Keep Technology from Slipping Beyond Our Control

4.2 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0465058624
ISBN-10: 0465058620
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Editorial Reviews


“A Dangerous Master is reminiscent of—and sometimes even references—about a million popular books and movies: Robert Heinlein’s I Will Fear No Evil; Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot; David Mitchell’s The Bone Doctors; Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go; Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age; GATTACCA; The Matrix; The X Men; The Phantom Menace. But while these works and the various dystopias they depict are characterized as speculative fiction, Wendell Wallach’s book and the various dystopias it depicts warrant neither qualifier. They reside firmly in the real world—or could imminently, if we do not heed his warning to vigilantly track technological developments and constantly assess if the benefits they provide are worth the risks they inevitably engender.”
Ars Technica

“Wallach...deliver[s] sobering assessments of today’s engineering culture.... Neither alarmist nor affirmative, [A Dangerous Master] contain[s] urgent, compelling and relevant calls to consciously embed our values in the systems we design, and to critically engage with our choices.”
New Scientist

“Hordes of technologies emerge in lockstep with warnings of their risks. Ethicist Wendell Wallach sorts the hysteria from the hazards in this magisterial study.”

“This book is a must-read for venture capitalists, investors, asset managers, HFT firms and day traders – as well as concerned civic leaders and politicians.”
—Hazel Henderson, Seeking Alpha

“This appeal for deliberate and thoughtful approaches to humankind’s future will find its audience among those interested in ethics, public policy, and the future of health care.”
Library Journal

“[T]his thoughtful polemic convincingly argues that ‘In striving to answer the question “can we do this?” too few ask “should we do this?”’.... Readers will admire this astute analysis while harboring the uneasy feeling that the barn door seems stuck open.”
Publishers Weekly

“A well-mounted argument that deserves wide consideration.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Wendell Wallach, it seems, is always a few years ahead of the rest of us. In this marvelous book, he takes us to the technological frontier and shows us where, why, and how our most promising technologies could turn on us. Wallach is levelheaded and thoughtful, combining his encyclopedic knowledge of emerging technology with a sense of history and an abiding respect for humanity. A Dangerous Master is fascinating, important, and—in defiance of its own gravity—a joy to read.”
—Joshua Greene, Director, Harvard Moral Cognition Lab and author of Moral Tribes

"This timely book offers a balanced assessment of the upsides and risks of a wide range of fast-developing technologies. It helps us to think more clearly about what the world will be like in 2050, and deserves a wide readership."
—Martin Rees, Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, University of Cambridge, and author of Universe and Just Six Numbers

"When it comes to technology, humanity is playing for supremely high stakes—and it's a game we can't walk away from. In his new book A Dangerous Master, Wendell Wallach surveys a wide range of technological risks, and proposes how we humans may evade disaster, leaving the possibility of wondrously good outcomes."
—Vernor Vinge, author of A Fire Upon the Deep and Rainbows End

"It is increasingly difficult to weigh the risks associated with new technologies against the benefits they may bring. Experts often disagree, the public is not certain whose views to trust, and politicians and the market take short-term perspectives that may not be best in deciding whether or not to plunge ahead in the face of uncertainty. A Dangerous Master gives us a balanced and timely guide to navigating the troubled waters of decision-making when new technologies appear. Read it—your uncertainty may not diminish but your ability to cope with it will increase."
—Arthur Caplan, Drs. William F. and Virginia Connolly Mitty Professor of Bioethics, New York University Langone Medical Center

“Wendell Wallach has done all of us a service. He has alerted us in detail, and provocatively, that there are dangers as well as gains in our national romance with innovative technologies. Like all heated romances, they can be full of drama and distress, but hard to ignore. His account of the troubled technology romance is well told, and it is one we need to hear.”
—Daniel Callahan, President Emeritus, The Hastings Center

“It would be hard to find a more thoughtful, better prepared guide through the difficult terrain of emerging technologies than Wendell Wallach, as he demonstrates yet again in this comprehensive, erudite, and highly readable book. This is a must read volume for anyone who wants to understand the world we have already created, not to mention the one that is rapidly coming into being as technological evolution, already fast, continues to accelerate.”
—Braden Allenby, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Arizona State University

“Wendell Wallach’s A Dangerous Master does a masterful job of describing in an accessible but precise manner the emerging technologies that will transform our lives and society while also delving into the profound and fascinating ethical and social implications of these technologies.”
—Gary Marchant, Regents’ Professor of Law, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University

About the Author

Wendell Wallach is a consultant, ethicist, and scholar at Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics. He is the co-author of Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong. He lives in Bloomfield, Connecticut.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (June 2, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465058620
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465058624
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #362,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joel Marks on June 27, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wendell Wallach is the go-to person for informed and level-headed insights and ideas about the contemporary technological condition of humanity. For the last decade I have had the privilege of sitting in on his working group at Yale’s Interdisciplinary Bioethics Center and observing his tireless efforts to address every facet of our sociotechnical situation. Scores of experts, recruited by Wallach on his continual travels to conferences in the U.S. and abroad, have introduced us to the marvels and dangers, the dreams and realities, the problems and possible solutions engendered by the ever more rapidly proliferating products of science and engineering. This book represents the full flowering of Wallach’s project.

What is distinctive about “A Dangerous Master” is not only its comprehensive survey of such a vast terrain, but also its critical take on the risks and speculations that surround this topic. On the one hand Wallach does surely want to stress the omnipresent hazards that lurk in every corner of this brave new world. On the other hand he wants to bring our thinking about them down to earth by separating science-fiction-and-film-fueled myth from laboratory fact.

By this means Wallach wants to impress upon us that we humans still can be, and should be, in control. We need not, and should not, surrender to a supposed inevitability of machine dominance, not to mention, transformation of our very nature into something machine-like.
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Format: Hardcover
Despite the many benefits realized from emerging technologies, one becomes increasingly fearful of its more sinister aspects. From the media's relentless (complicit?) coverage of ISIS - a movement that essentially owes its global awareness ascension to social media - to the international race to see who can best whom in the world of hacking one another's most private information, it is easy for those of us less technology-inclined to feel pawns in an increasingly dangerous technology-driven world. In his most recent book, A Dangerous Master, author and ethicist Wendell Wallach educates readers on the accelerating momentum of technology accompanied in far too many cases by the disturbing lack of discourse beforehand concerning possible negative repercussions associated with its adaptation. Modern society, it seems, places a higher value on the continuous and rapid introduction of new technologies at the expense of having to deal after the fact with any negative consequences. According to Wallach; "Unfortunately, being seen as active during an actual crisis carries more weight with the chattering classes than having staved off a crisis that never develops." Wallach discusses a broad range of leading-edge technologies and their inevitable impact on all of us with sensitivity and clarity. This techno-neophyte found A Dangerous Master illuminating, if not comforting.
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Format: Hardcover
Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Baidu, among others, are hiring artificial intelligence researchers at an unprecedented rate - putting hundreds of millions into a race for better algorithms and smarter computers. Some scientific and technology luminaries (eg. Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, have expressed considerable concern over where rapid advances in AI will take us. Fear of mass-produced Terminators, genetically-modified human embryos, self-driving cars, killer robots, uncontrollable emerging viruses, allowing humans to live to 150, etc. are becoming public more frequently.

Author Wallach's first example is that of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Prior to its startup, several knowledgeable scientists warned of the possibility it would create a tiny black hole into which Earth would disappear. Previously physicists working on the Manhattan Project worried that atomic bombs could set off a chain reaction in the earth's atmosphere - ending human life. Wallach's point is not that these predictions did not occur (actually, some scientists warn the LHC disaster may yet occur, but that these risks are appearing in more and more areas of endeavor and that it is also becoming increasingly difficult to objectively evaluate them because of their often probabilistic nature, occurring on the frontiers of science where clear answers are not available, and the invariable self-interests of involved individuals and entities. Potential economic and social order disasters may await in a world in which robots do almost all the work. Recent natural disasters (the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 and, a new strain of swine flu in 2009, along with man-made disasters (eg.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you care about your personal future, your family's future, your nations future, the future of the human race, the future of the entire body of living things, and the future of the planet Earth itself, you must read this book.
Wendell Wallach has done a most admirable job of mapping the "Here be Dragons" of our future, in this sensitive, scholarly, and most clearly written work of personal commitment, A DANGEROUS MASTER.
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