Synopses & Reviews
In 2004, Kentaro Toyama, an award-winning computer scientist, moved to India to start a new research group for Microsoft. Its mission: to explore novel technological solutions to the worldand#8217;s persistent social problems. Together with his team, he invented electronic devices for under-resourced urban schools and developed digital platforms for remote agrarian communities. But after a decade of designing technologies for humanitarian causes, Toyama concluded that no technology, however dazzling, could cause social change on its own.
Technologists and policy-makers love to boast about modern innovation, and in their excitement, they exuberantly tout technologyand#8217;s boon to society. But what have our gadgets actually accomplished? Over the last four decades, America saw an explosion of new technologies and#150; from the Internet to the iPhone, from Google to Facebook and#150; but in that same period, the rate of poverty stagnated at a stubborn 13%, only to rise in the recent recession. So, a golden age of innovation in the worldand#8217;s most advanced country did nothing for our most prominent social ill.
Toyamaand#8217;s warning resounds: Donand#8217;t believe the hype! Technology is never the main driver of social progress. Geek Heresy inoculates us against the glib rhetoric of tech utopians by revealing that technology is only an amplifier of human conditions. By telling the moving stories of extraordinary people like Patrick Awuah, a Microsoft millionaire who left his lucrative engineering job to open Ghanaand#8217;s first liberal arts university, and Tara Sreenivasa, a graduate of a remarkable South Indian school that takes children from dollar-a-day families into the high-tech offices of Goldman Sachs and Mercedes-Benz, Toyama shows that even in a world steeped in technology, social challenges are best met with deeply social solutions.
and#147;Read this book! With engaging stories and penetrating insight, Toyama reveals that even the most powerful technologies canand#8217;t cure our social ills, and he inspires us toward a more deeply human kind of progress.and#8221;andmdash;Ben Mezrich, author of Accidental Billionaires
and#147;It is notableand#133;when a techie insider steps outside the tent to chastise his tribe at book length and#151; and has the gall to both criticize and dedicate the book to his former boss, Bill Gates. Kentaro Toyama, a computer scientist who once ran a lab for Microsoft Research, seems determined to burn his bridge to the technology world with Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology
... The book takes a spike-studded tire iron to the efforts by technology entrepreneurs and their enablers to reimagine how we eat, learn, heal, govern and battle poverty.and#8221;and#151;Anand Giridharadas, New York Times
and#147;In this incisive book, Toyama cures us of the manic rhetoric of digital utopians and reinvigorates us with a deeply people-centric view of social change. and#133;Geek Heresy is a heartwarming reminder that itand#8217;s human wisdom, not machines, that move our world forward.and#8221; and#151;National Geographic Online
and#147;Toyamaand#8217;s research reminds us that there are very few one-size-fits-all solutions. If technology is going to improve the lives of the worldand#8217;s poorest, it must be grounded in a deep understanding of human behavior and an appreciation for cultural differences.and#8221; and#151;Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and co-chair of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
and#147;Read this book! With engaging stories and penetrating insight, Toyama reveals that even the most powerful technologies canand#8217;t cure our social ills, and he inspires us toward a more deeply human kind of progress.and#8221;and#151;Ben Mezrich, author of Accidental Billionaires
and#147;Controversial yet inspiringand#133;Geek Heresy is a must read for anyone who is passionate about social changeand#133;Everyone from field staff and managers to researchers and funders will benefit from his unique perspective; geeks and non-geeks, alike. Finally, we have a book that can help temper our technology addiction with an approach guided by critical thought and practical application.and#8221;and#151;Global South Development Magazine
"Provocative and essential reading for anyone interested in the possibilities and pitfalls of our technological age...Toyama is a man of wisdom, ideals and far reaching hopes. His book is not simply a polemic; it is a call for action and a plea for cultural change and maturation."and#151;Psychology Today
After a decade designing technologies meant to address education, health, and global poverty, award-winning computer scientist Kentaro Toyama came to a difficult conclusion: Even in an age of amazing technology, social progress depends on human changes that gadgets canand#8217;t deliver.
Computers in Bangalore are locked away in dusty cabinets because teachers donand#8217;t know what to do with them. Mobile phone apps meant to spread hygiene practices in Africa fail to improve health. Executives in Silicon Valley evangelize novel technologies at work even as they send their children to Waldorf schools that ban electronics. And four decades of incredible innovation in America have done nothing to turn the tide of rising poverty and inequality. Why then do we keep hoping that technology will solve our greatest social ills?
In this incisive book, Toyama cures us of the manic rhetoric of digital utopians and reinvigorates us with a deeply people-centric view of social change. Contrasting the outlandish claims of tech zealots with stories of people like Patrick Awuah, a Microsoft millionaire who left his engineering job to open Ghanaand#8217;s first liberal arts university, and Tara Sreenivasa, a graduate of a remarkable South Indian school that takes impoverished children into the high-tech offices of Goldman Sachs and Mercedes-Benz, Geek Heresy is a heartwarming reminder that itand#8217;s human wisdom, not machines, that move our world forward.
About the Author
is W. K. Kellogg Associate Professor at University of Michigan's School of Information and a fellow of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT. Until 2009, he was assistant managing director of Microsoft Research India, which he co-founded in 2005. At MSR India, he started the Technology for Emerging Markets research group, which conducts interdisciplinary research to understand how the world's poorer communities interact with electronic technology and to invent new ways for technology to support their socio-economic development. The award-winning group is known for projects such as MultiPoint, Text-Free User Interfaces, and Digital Green.
Toyama co-founded the IEEE/ACM International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD) to provide a global platform for rigorous academic research in this field. He is also co-editor-in-chief of the journal Information Technologies and International Development. Prior to his time in India, Toyama researched computer vision and multimedia at Microsoft Research in Redmond, WA, USA and Cambridge, UK, and taught mathematics at Ashesi University in Accra, Ghana. Toyama graduated from Yale with a PhD in Computer Science and from Harvard with a BS in Physics. He was born in Tokyo and raised in both Japan and the United States. He lives in Ann Arbor.