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Automate This: How Algorithms Took Over Our Markets, Our Jobs, and the Worldby Christopher Steiner
Synopses & Reviews
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?
How the rise of computerized decision-making affects every aspect of business and daily life
The bot takeover began with high frequency trading on Wall Street, and from there it spread to all manners of high-level tasks—such as diagnosing illnesses or interpreting legal documents. There is no realm of human endeavor safe from algorithms that employ speed, precision and nuance.
In this fascinating book, 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. We meet bots that are driving cars, penning haikus, and writing music mistaken for Bachs. They listen in on customer service calls and figure out what Iran would do in the event of a nuclear standoff. On Wall Street, pre-programmed algorithmic deals are executed by machines faster than any human could—leaving human investors at a severe disadvantage.
But what will the world look like when algorithms control our hospitals, our roads, and our national security? Is a stock market controlled by high-speed trading bots worth investing in? And what role will be left for doctors, lawyers, writers, truck drivers, and many others?
About the Author
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 staff writer at Forbes and the Chicago Tribune. He is also the author of $20 per Gallon, a national bestseller. He lives in Evanston, Illinois, with his wife, Sarah, and their children.
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