Humane Technology reading lists

Alexander Steinhardt posted a delightful reading list on humane technology. If you’ve seen or written others, please share them.

I’ve invited Case to share her own list; she has quite the collection.


Highly recommended is Move Fast and Break Things by Jonathan Taplin.

While the focus is starting on the dopamine slot machine smartphone addiction, spare a thought for the creators of culture and entertainment, their content has become the new internet Oil/commodity and they aren’t being paid. If David Bowie or Bob Dylan started out today they wouldn’t stand a chance. Mainstream ‘original’ content is also being monopolized by the megacorps, think of fashion, music and culture in history the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s 60’s 70’s 80’s 90’s and it starts to get fuzzy after that… because it’s being driven top-down not by the edges of the bell curve.

‘Taplin is reduced to hoping that the dominant players of the digital world will come to their senses and realise the damage they are doing. Of Zuckerberg, he writes: “I hope that the young CEO of Facebook will be willing to pause and think about where his company is taking the media business.” So that’s what we’ve been reduced to: wishing for a “good emperor” to hear his people’s distress. It’s a sign of how slavish the world built by Silicon Valley has become.’ The UK Guardian Newspaper




I really like Rob Levin’s Free Ride:How the Internet is Destroying The Culture Business.

I’ve interviewed him a few times. Smart guy.

Wajcman, Judy. 2016. Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism. University of Chicago Press.

(Pronounced “WISE-mun”)


Levy, David. 2017. Mindful Tech: How to Bring Balance to Our Digital Lives. Yale University Press.

Vallor, Shannon. 2016. Technology and the Virtues: A Philosophical Guide to a Future Worth Wanting. Oxford University Press.

Wajcman, Judy. 2016. Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism. University of Chicago Press. (Pronounced “WISE-mun”)


“The Semplica-Girl Diaries” by George Saunders (fiction, short story but powerful and relevant metaphors!)


This is video is my goto video for the cognitive science that informs my work as a user experience designer into how and why some things are habit forming while others are not. Making a product habit forming isn’t necessarily bad, but it can be if you’re using the strategies to encourage bad habits. Please use the strategies and information in this video carefully in user experience design work and only use them in the service of encouraging good habits.

Good idea to add fiction as well. Momo is a wonderful parable about capitalism and “time banking/investing.”

Ende, Michael. 1973. Momo. Thienemann Verlag (German), Puffin Books (English).


Offered with no comment, and merely for the sake of completion. I’ve included some econ and poli-sci texts that help me frame the same problem that Jonathan Taplin identifies in the introduction to Move Fast and Break Things: “What I mistook as only a culture war is an economic war. It is likely only a preview of American capitalism in the digital age.”

Eric Beinhocker, The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity and the Radical Remaking of Economics

Nicholas Carr, The Glass Cage: Automation and Us

Michael Fertik, The Reputation Economy

Francis Fukuyama, Political Order and Political Decay

Marc Goodman, Future Crimes

Nick Harkaway, The Blind Giant: Being Human in a Digital World

Parag Khanna, Connectography

Jaron Lanier, Who Owns the Future?

Michael Lewis, Flashboys: A Wall Street Revolt

Brink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles, The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth and Increase Inequality

Martin Lindstrom, Brandwashed

Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the Rise of the Radical Right

Jane McGonigal, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How they can Change the World

William Mellor and Dick Carpenter, Bottleneckers: Gaming the Government for Power and Private Profit

China Miéville, Between Equal Rights

Matt Ridley, The Rational Optimist

Paul Roberts, The Impulse Society

Douglas Rushkoff, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now

Bryant Simon, Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks

Jacob Silverman, Terms of Service: Social Media and the Price of Constant Connection

Christopher Steiner, Automate This: How Algorithms came to Rule the World

Jacob Vigna and Michael J. Casey, The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money are Challenging the Global Economic Order

Luigi Zingales, A Capitalism for the People: How to Recapture the Lost Genius of American Prosperity

Jonathan L. Zittrain, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it


Are there any books about the topic how google, Facebook and co. do rise the attention to be addicted?
I would be interested sth like a combination about psychology and digital-environment.

These examples on this pages are like - “just don’t tell enough because my early employer will sue me!” (no offense btw.)

If you know how you are persuaded then you can hopefully control your attention/addiction.

Happy to have found this site! :slight_smile:

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Might not quite be what you’re looking for, but something along these lines?

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As I published in my introduction a few minutes ago,
here’s the link again to the precious book about “Distraction through smartphhone” by Toni Reinke:
12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You

God bless you!

Thank you both!
I’m searching sth like the video of stevesanfranisco where a behavioral engineer is telling you about ways how companies use human psychology to enhance the usage of their products.

As a former biz journalist, I want to say, I have never seen a ranking stockholder say anything like this about their company, in any industry I can recall. And I am supeeeer. Old.

Imagine Rex Tillerson admitting the fossil fuels had emission problems.

I am a biiiig Parker fan now.


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waitaminnit… fossil fuels have emissions problems? :wink:


I would recommend Homo Deus: A brief History of Tomorrow.
To understand today’s world, I believe we need to dive deep into the types of values and foundations we have built our society on. The book is pretty good in covering a lot of fields and give a good insight on the challenges (mostly technological) we will face in the future.
A must.



All excuse me donning my OBWG (old bald white guy) hat here. We engineered dumb old TV to optimize for Nielsen ratings back in the 90’s, when I worked at the ABC TV network. We weren’t as accurate. But we certainly made choices for ratings.

But for some reason it wasn’t as horrific, as it is now. Maybe the data was better. Maybe more people understood the metrics and could review them. We knew it was panel survey data. Etc,

Maybe we were just not as good at it. And the downside wasn’t as clear.

To me the lack of transparency is how these engineering choices are made might be a way to improve things. But I am not sure.


Two interesting links:


And a book (in french sry) by Tristan Nitot (Founder & Former President of Mozilla Europe)
Surveillance:// : Les libertés au défi du numériques : comprendre et agir


@valere, these sites are amazing, everyone should read these.

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Not directly reading material… but a list worth reading :slight_smile:

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