Virtual Event: Rob Reich, Mehran Sahami, and Jeremy M. Weinstein

presenting

System Error:
Where Big Tech Went Wrong
and How to Reboot It

Date

Dec
2
Thursday
December 2, 2021
12:00 PM ET

Location

Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.

Tickets

Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series and the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics welcome Stanford University professors ROB REICH, MEHRAN SAHAMI, and JEREMY M. WEINSTEIN for a discussion of their co-authored book, System Error: Where Big Tech Went Wrong and How to Reboot It.

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About System Error

In no more than the blink of an eye, a naïve optimism about technology’s liberating potential has given way to a dystopian obsession with biased algorithms, surveillance capitalism, and job-displacing robots. Yet too few of us see any alternative to accepting the onward march of technology. We have simply accepted a technological future designed for us by technologists, the venture capitalists who fund them, and the politicians who give them free rein.

It doesn’t need to be this way.

System Error exposes the root of our current predicament: how big tech’s relentless focus on optimization is driving a future that reinforces discrimination, erodes privacy, displaces workers, and pollutes the information we get. This optimization mindset substitutes what companies care about for the values that we as a democratic society might choose to prioritize. Well-intentioned optimizers fail to measure all that is meaningful and, when their creative disruptions achieve great scale, they impose their values upon the rest of us.

Armed with an understanding of how technologists think and exercise their power, three Stanford professors—a philosopher working at the intersection of tech and ethics, a political scientist who served under Obama, and the director of the undergraduate Computer Science program at Stanford (also an early Google engineer)—reveal how we can hold that power to account.

Troubled by the values that permeate the university’s student body and its culture, they worked together to chart a new path forward, creating a popular course to transform how tomorrow’s technologists approach their profession. Now, as the dominance of big tech becomes an explosive societal conundrum, they share their provocative insights and concrete solutions to help everyone understand what is happening, what is at stake, and what we can do to control technology instead of letting it control us.

Praise for System Error

"Enough with the breathless dreams of digital utopias and poisonous polemics about technological dystopias! In System Error, we finally have a book about the digital revolution that is serious rather than sensationalistic. Read this if you want to understand how to shape our technological future and reinvigorate democracy along the way." —Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix

System Error offers a powerful account of how our lives, our politics, and our values have been reshaped by technology in ways that we are just starting to comprehend. Full of stories and insights, this remarkable book charts a path forward for creating a healthy digital future.” —Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation

"Albert Einstein once lamented that 'our technology has exceeded our humanity.' That danger is ever more pressing as powerful artificial intelligence technologies are transforming society at a pace never seen before. From the heart of Silicon Valley comes a profoundly important book that examines the ethical and social impact of the digital technologies and offers a more human-centered framework. This is a must-read for every student, engineer, businessperson, policymaker, or anyone who cares about our society’s collective future." —Dr. Fei-Fei Li, Professor Computer Science, Co-Director of Stanford's Institute for Human-Centered AI, and member of the National Academies of Engineering and Medicine

Jeremy M. Weinstein
Jeremy M. Weinstein

Jeremy M. Weinstein

Jeremy M. Weinstein, a political scientist, went to Washington with President Obama in 2009. A key staffer in the White House, he foresaw how new technologies might remake the relationship between governments and citizens and launched Obama’s Open Government Partnership. When Samantha Power was appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations, she brought Jeremy to New York, first as her chief of staff and then as her deputy. He returned to Stanford in 2015 as a professor of political science, where he now leads Stanford Impact Labs, a major university initiative that partners research teams with leaders in the public, private, and social sectors to tackle important social problems.

Photo Credit: Christine Baker

Mehran Sahami
Mehran Sahami

Mehran Sahami

Mehran Sahami was recruited to Google in its start-up days by Sergey Brin and is one of the inventors of email spam-filtering technology. With a background in machine learning and artificial intelligence, he returned to Stanford as a computer science professor in 2007 and now holds the James and Ellenor Chesebrough Professorship in Engineering. As the Associate Chair for Education in the computer science department, he helped redesign the program’s undergraduate curriculum. He is one of the instructors of Stanford’s massive introductory computer programming course taken by nearly 1,500 students per year. Mehran is also a limited partner in several VC funds and serves as an adviser to high-tech start-ups.

Photo Credit: Amanda Law

Rob Reich
Rob Reich

Rob Reich

Rob Reich is a philosopher, the director of Stanford University’s Center for Ethics in Society, co-director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, and associate director of its new Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. He is the author of Just Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better. A former sixth grade teacher, he has won multiple teaching awards at Stanford. He helped to create the global movement #GivingTuesday and serves as chair of its board.

Photo Credit: Christine Baker

 

Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Event Series: Ethics in Your World

The “Ethics in Your World” series, presented with Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, features leading thinkers taking on tough problems that matter to us all. Learn more about the Safra Center at ethics.harvard.edu.

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