Category Archives: Book Reviews

Rise of the Robots: Review and Reflection

I recently read Martin Ford’s Rise of the Robots with the UMD CS faculty book club. The book considers the impact of the growth of information technology (IT) on the human labor market, and how the trend towards greater automation could eventually eliminate a substantial number of jobs. The result could be a radical, and disruptive, reshaping of the global economy.81fncUPB6cL

I would recommend the book. I found it well-written and thought provoking. Ford capably argues from past economic and technology trends and also digs into particular problems, products, and research in order to extrapolate future impact. Of the ten faculty who discussed the book, nine of us (including me) were convinced that future automation will be increasingly disruptive to human labor markets.

While reading the book, I found myself wondering about my own role, and that of my field, in addressing this situation we’ve contributed to. Many computer scientists have high-minded ideals and wish to help society through IT innovation. What can we do to ensure that those ideals are realized, rather than perverted into the dystopian future that Ford is warning us about? Continue reading


Filed under Algorithms, Book Reviews, Policy, Software engineering

Alan Turing: Pioneer of the Information Age

The Imitation Game, the biopic about the life of Alan Turing, just won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay. While I enjoyed the film, and I’d recommend it, I agree with NPR’s Linda Holmes’ wry assessment that The Imitation Game was ‘a film that was “adapted” from a book about Alan Turing, and quite liberally adapted from reality.’

While the story of the film is a moving one (you could not help but be moved by screenwriter Graham Moore’s acceptance speech), I am saddened that so much good material was left on the table. If this was our big chance to share Turing’s amazing accomplishments with the world, a lot more could have been said, and some things could have been said better. Christian Caryl, writes that the film was A Poor Imitation of Alan Turing, while Alex von Tunzelmann goes so far as to suggest slander. A visually presented fact-checking by the Washington Post’s Stephanie Merry similarly finds as much fiction as fact.

To remedy these problems, I recommend you not stop with the film, but use it as a springboard to Prof. Jack Copeland‘s book, Turing: Pioneer of the Information Age.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Scientists