Mary L. Gray
How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass
in conversation with GIDEON LICHFIELD
This event includes a book signing
May 21, 2019
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes anthropologist and Microsoft Senior Researcher MARY L. GRAY for a discussion of her latest book, Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass, co-authored by Siddharth Suri. She will be joined in conversation by GIDEON LICHFIELD, editor-in-chief of MIT Technology Review.
About Ghost Work
Hidden beneath the surface of the web, lost in our wrong-headed debates about AI, a new menace is looming. Anthropologist Mary L. Gray and computer scientist Siddharth Suri team up to unveil how services delivered by companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Uber can only function smoothly thanks to the judgment and experience of a vast, invisible human labor force. These people doing "ghost work" make the internet seem smart. They perform high-tech piecework: flagging X-rated content, proofreading, designing engine parts, and much more. An estimated 8 percent of Americans have worked at least once in this “ghost economy,” and that number is growing. They usually earn less than legal minimums for traditional work, they have no health benefits, and they can be fired at any time for any reason, or none.
There are no labor laws to govern this kind of work, and these latter-day assembly lines draw in—and all too often overwork and underpay—a surprisingly diverse range of workers: harried young mothers, professionals forced into early retirement, recent grads who can’t get a toehold on the traditional employment ladder, and minorities shut out of the jobs they want. Gray and Suri also show how ghost workers, employers, and society at large can ensure that this new kind of work creates opportunity—rather than misery—for those who do it.
"Revealing . . . sympathetically tells the stories of “ghost workers” who assist computers in replicating human cognition . . . this compassionate and informative study is a must-read for anyone interested in the future of work." —Publishers Weekly
“An uncompromising, data-based, yet heartfelt exploration of how digital technologies have allowed corporations to write human beings even further out of the value equation, as well as how we can restore dignity and prosperity to the lives of the invisible workforce. The first step in building solidarity is simply knowing there are people out there.” —Douglas Rushkoff, author of Team Human
"Ghost Work is a stunning book, just the wake-up call we need to shatter the credulous belief that artificial intelligence is ‘replacing' workers. . . . Scrupulously researched and deeply humane, Ghost Work is at once a sobering reminder of what could happen if we allow algorithmic cruelty and exploitative labor practices to flourish and an inspiring call to defend the dignity and value of human labor." —Virginia Eubanks, author of Automating Inequality
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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