Automate This by Christopher Steiner
How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World

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A rapid and breezy tour of the field, "Automate This" will leave even non-expert readers wanting more detail.
-LA Times

Synopsis

The rousing story of the last gasp of human agency and how today’s best and brightest minds are endeavoring to put an end to it.


It used to be that to diagnose an illness, interpret legal documents, analyze foreign policy, or write a newspaper article you needed a human being with specific skills—and maybe an advanced degree or two. These days, high-level tasks are increasingly being handled by algorithms that can do precise work not only with speed but also with nuance. These “bots” started with human programming and logic, but now their reach extends beyond what their creators ever expected.

In this fascinating, frightening book, Christopher Steiner tells the story of how algorithms took over—and shows why the “bot revolution” is about to spill into every aspect of our lives, often silently, without our knowledge.

The May 2010 “Flash Crash” exposed Wall Street’s reliance on trading bots to the tune of a 998-point market drop and $1 trillion in vanished market value. But that was just the beginning. In Automate This, we meet bots that are driving cars, penning haiku, and writing music mistaken for Bach’s. They listen in on our customer service calls and figure out what Iran would do in the event of a nuclear standoff. There are algorithms that can pick out the most cohesive crew of astronauts for a space mission or identify the next Jeremy Lin. Some can even ingest statistics from baseball games and spit out pitch-perfect sports journalism indistinguishable from that produced by humans.

The interaction of man and machine can make our lives easier. But what will the world look like when algorithms control our hospitals, our roads, our culture, and our national security? What hap­pens to businesses when we automate judgment and eliminate human instinct? And what role will be left for doctors, lawyers, writers, truck drivers, and many others?

Who knows—maybe there’s a bot learning to do your job this minute.
 

About Christopher Steiner

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CHRISTOPHER STEINER is the cofounder and co-CEO of Aisle50, a Y Combinator start-up offering online grocery deals. An engineer, Steiner was previously a technology journalist at Forbes magazine and the Chicago Tribune. His first book, $20 per Gallon, was a national bestseller.
 
Published August 30, 2012 by Portfolio. 268 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Computers & Technology, Science & Math, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Automate This
All: 2 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 1

WSJ online

Below average
Reviewed by Evgeny Morozov on Sep 20 2012

While "Automate This" hints at some of these thorny issues, it says very little about the ways to resolve them.

Read Full Review of Automate This: How Algorithms... | See more reviews from WSJ online

LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by Richard Waters on Sep 09 2012

A rapid and breezy tour of the field, "Automate This" will leave even non-expert readers wanting more detail.

Read Full Review of Automate This: How Algorithms... | See more reviews from LA Times

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