- August book: Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain
Hello Readers! I hope you've been having an excellent summer! Do you want to start again in August? We can also start again in September, if too many of you are out of town. This month, we read "Attack of the 50 foot blockchain." This is based on voting! Please vote by August 23 for september's book: https://www.meetup.com/Tech-Book-Club-Berlin/polls/1269274/ Looking forward to talking with you again, Best, Kit PS this is what I wrote before the vote, about another book, Heteromation, which is still in the poll for the future: Last time, we read "River of Shadows" by Rebecca Solnit, and all of us who came to the discussion pretty much just agreed it was good and interesting and we liked it. It was historical and although it was interesting to reflect on how relevant and applicable aspects of that history were. When it comes to tech, it always feels like we are just now on the brink of something wholly unique - but, often, there is precedent and historical parallels. So for this poll, I suspect all the options will support dissenting opinions and more direct debate on the present, and after a beer (or two), the future. Based on the discussions we'd had about capitalism (especially after "Four Futures" a year or two ago), I think "Heteromation" is both really informative* and can provide a very good basis for discussion. It is an economics book about crowd work ("gig economy", etc). *Possibly, it is just dense. I have only read the intro, and some reviews. If it's dense, and we select it, I will provide a brief overview when we meet, like I did with "Work's Intimacy" which was pretty dense, too.
- February Discussion - River of Shadows
Dear readers, We will meet on the last Thursday in February to discuss* River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West by Rebecca Solnit, a book on the annihilation of time and space and the industrialization of everyday life. In recent discussions, we've stuck mainly to critique of the current state of technology in society, at times talking about its future. This book is not a traditional biography in that connects a lot of philosophical and technical issues in the context of history (the railroad, industrialization) and geography (Hollywood and, later, Silicon Valley). Here's one review (http://www.saramwatson.com/blog/annihilating-time-and-space-reading-river-of-shadows) that writes: "Solnit’s book is about a man, an innovator, but it is also about a place in time. Solnit writes a lot about landscape, the west, San Francisco, etc. I’ve been thinking a lot about the impact that the ideology and the lifestyle of the makers of technology have on its design and adoption in broader contexts, especially now as it enters the intimate realm of our bodies and our minds. I loved the rich descriptions and sweeping connections Solnit makes from the early mining days of San Francisco directly to the emergence of Silicon industries, all happening on the same soil. It made more acute a hankering I’ve been having to spend more time in the Valley, if only to get something of an ethnographic understanding of the contexts and circumstances in which our technologies are built. She described that period in which Muybridge was working with such energy and drama; it made me want to be that much closer to the history that’s happening now." (The writer of this review has also written on constructive technical criticism, https://www.cjr.org/tow_center_reports/constructive_technology_criticism.php, which is a heady read but maybe we could discuss it another time.) Past books and discussion notes can be found here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1KatcC4onCoIZ6zrRwMSaMksgPEd8BimTM-qcAK0YuLo/edit# You can also add suggestions for future books to read in this document :) *This is based on voting, and it won by a narrow margin: https://www.meetup.com/Tech-Book-Club-Berlin/polls/1260949/ Looking forward to our next discussion, Kit
- January Discussion: Black Box Society
Dear readers, Let's kick off the 2018 year with a democratically-selected reading! For now, let's vote among the following 3 options that have been suggested since the previous meetup. You can suggest readings for next time in this document: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1KatcC4onCoIZ6zrRwMSaMksgPEd8BimTM-qcAK0YuLo/edit# This topic was selected by voting in the comments - please add your suggestions for future readings to the document above, and vote for next month's event. Topic: Machine bias (2 articles and an optional book) Book: The Black Box Society / Frank Pasquale “Dozens of Companies Are Using Facebook to Exclude Older Workers From Job Ads” https://www.propublica.org/article/facebook-ads-age-discrimination-targeting “Are Algorithms Building the New Infrastructure of Racism?” http://nautil.us/issue/55/trust/are-algorithms-building-the-new-infrastructure-of-racism Best, Kit
- "Build a Better Monster: Morality, Machine Learning, and Mass Surveillance"
Dear readers, For our December meetup, let's read the following article. It's actually the text of a talk, and if you prefer, you can watch that here (https://www.infoq.com/presentations/morality-ml-mass-surveillance). "Build a Better Monster: Morality, Machine Learning, and Mass Surveillance" (http://idlewords.com/talks/build_a_better_monster.htm) by Maciej Cegłowski Every time we went to the supermarket, my mom would give me a quarter to play Pac Man. As a good socialist kid, I thought the goal of the game was to help Pac Man, who was stranded in a maze and needed to find his friends, who were looking for him. My games didn't last very long. The correct way to play Pac Man, of course, is to consume as much as possible while running from the ghosts that relentlessly pursue you. This was a valuable early lesson in what it means to be an American. […] “The economic basis of the Internet is surveillance.” It's a good read on an interesting, difficult, aktuell subject - but a lot of it is about American politics. We in this group come from different backgrounds, and Germany has a very different cultural and policy stance re: surveillance... ...and yet, meanwhile, this summer in Berlin (https://www.thelocal.de/20170802/berlin-launches-controversial-test-of-facial-recognition-cameras-at-train-station): Berlin’s Südkreuz station ... started the pilot project on behalf of the federal government to use surveillance cameras to test the software’s ability to recognize the faces of passersby. Around 300 people voluntarily registered to be part of the test for six months. Their names and faces were saved into a database so that when they are picked up by the cameras, computers will compare them back to the database as they come and go through the station. ... The President of the German Bar Association, Ulrich Schellenberg, warned that the extensive use of facial recognition technology in public places would seriously encroach upon the fundamental rights of Germany’s citizens. “There is no constitutional basis for implementing these methods extensively.” The issues of surveillance have come up in many prior discussions. This time, let's reflect on it more directly from our multi-national perspective, using the "Build a Better Monster" article as a starting point. Last time, we decided to not commit to a whole book for December 2017, but to resume longer readings next year. Let's start to come up with a list of potential books - please write in the comments or message me and I will compile a list that we can vote on. Please suggest anything that seems like it would resonate with this eclectic group, but you can use this list of things we've already read (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1KatcC4onCoIZ6zrRwMSaMksgPEd8BimTM-qcAK0YuLo/edit?usp=sharing) to get some inspiration. I look forward to seeing you for a cozy winter break discussion! If you cannot make it, then I hope to see you again in the coming new year :) Best, Kit
- What do apps and gadgets do to our relationship to work and craft?
Dear all, The group is back in November! Let's read and discuss Melissa Gregg's "Work's Intimacy." Although there are some academic parts, because it's based on ethnographic research, this book has many interesting stories about individuals' complicated relationship to work through technology. The book was published in 2012, though. So, when we discuss, we can look at particular stories of technology in the book and ask: How does this relate to the way technology today influences work culture? What has changed in the past decade, and what could/should change in the next decade? If you don't have time to read the book, you can check out these short articles from this author: * on productivity (https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/11/be-more-productive/415821/): "Productivity apps facilitate the pleasure of time management, which is ultimately the pleasure of control." * on the constant push to do more even when it is personally destructive (https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/10/work-sleep/410581/): "The frantic pace of the under-resourced office perverts their sense of time. It demands they fixate only on the short-term. " As you might have heard, this group has a new organizer! My name is Katja, and I'm really excited to be continuing this book club now that Jessica and Julia have stepped down as organizers. This time, I've suggested a book, but in the future I hope that everyone can offer suggestions and have a voting process to select books. At the end of the discussion, you will have a chance to suggest a book for next time, so feel free to bring your "to-read" list! Looking forward to seeing you in November! Best, Katja
- Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate
Dear all, we hope you're enjoying the summer - wherever you are! In order to get back to reading about tech, society and politics we'd like to propose something quite unique: a book about how the Islamic State organizes their digital infrastructure. Here's a review and a few ratings: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25759368-islamic-state The book is available in both German and English, I am inserting the titles below. English: Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate by Abdel-Bari Atwan German: Das digitale Kalifat: Die geheime Macht des Islamischen Staates Looking forward to discuss with you! Best, Julia & Jessica
- Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women and What Can We Do About It
Tech companies are creating the products of tomorrow, and you'd think that having "the other half" of the population on board would be a cool thing. However, for all the money spent on "diversity", not much has changed: Many tech companies employ much fewer women, especially in technical roles, and many women who do enter tech fields experience roadblocks and sexist cultures. This month, we'll tackle the topic of women in tech with two great reads! The Atlantic asks why getting more women into tech - and keeping them there, and happy, and moving up - continues to be such a struggle. It also explains why "bias training" can backfire. Read the article here: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/04/why-is-silicon-valley-so-awful-to-women/517788/ For those done with the niceties, we introduce you to "Lean Out". This book collects experiences of women in tech, creating a manifesto for change. http://www.orbooks.com/catalog/lean-out/ The publisher OR Books has kindly offered Tech Book Club a discount on these books, so some of you already have their copies :) Everyone else go hit up your local book dealers! Or email us at [masked] for an electronic copy (for book club use only). We hope you bring lots of questions, ideas and input to the next meetup - and most importantly, we hope you'll come ready to listen to each other and allow others to share their experiences so we can all learn together. Looking forward to seeing you! Jessica and Julia
- Can Berlin become the German Silicon Valley?
Let's talk about what's happening in Berlin's tech scene! The buzz around startups in Berlin has definitely grown stronger. Software engineers, founders and marketing experts are moving here, lured by job opportunities, a creative vibe and cheap rents, to build companies and launch products. So is Berlin becoming the next Silicon Valley? For our May meetup, that's what we want to talk about! Bloomberg gives a good, quick overview of what's happening in Berlin, and what may still be missing from the tech economy here: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-07-28/berlin-s-startup-hub-wants-to-prove-it-s-more-than-just-a-scene For a great longread on how we got where we are today, check out this month's Business Punk cover story: "Wie ein paar schlaue Typen aus Berlin Europas wichtigste Startup- Metropole gemacht haben – und sich selbst eine ziemlich gute Zeit". (The Nineties! Café Oberholz! StudiVZ!) If you have an account at news curator site Blendle, you can read the story through this link: https://blendle.com/item/bnl-businesspunk-20170406-f6519ff8789 If you email us at [masked], we can also hook you up with a copy. Have you read something recently about Berlin's tech economy that stuck with you? Share it in the comments! Book shuffle for "Lean Out" If you've been following along with Tech Book Club, you may notice we originally had something else planned for May. We were going to read "Lean Out" about tech, gender and the persistent trouble with getting diversity out of glossy reports and into actual work environments. However, the books we ordered haven't arrived yet, so we decided to bump "Lean Out" to June. We may have been slightly optimistic in calculating how long a book order would take to make happen :) It's all an experiment for us, so thank you for sticking around! The good news is, if you ordered "Lean Out" we will have your copy ready to pick up at the May meetup. So, what do you think about Berlin's startup scene? Is it making an impact? Is it an overblown hype? Will all the negative effects we're seeing in California now wash over Berlin as well? We look forward to reading and chatting with you! Your Tech Book Club organizers, Julia and Jessica
- Our Robot Future
Hello tech readers, for our next meetup we will discuss what happens when the robots take over. It is likely that we will end up with a world where machines do almost all of the work. It is much less clear what that world will look like for us humans. And that’s what we want to talk about. Our future will depend on the choices we make now, argues Peter Frase in his book "Four Futures". Frase sketches out four different versions of the future. As one reviewer puts it: "He offers two heavens and two hells: two ways that automation might facilitate a flourishing of human life, and two ways that it might maximise human misery. ... what changes is the political and ecological context". We're excited to delve into "Four Futures: Life After Capitalism" by Peter Frase for our April meetup and hear your thoughts on it. We encourage you to support your local book dealer when you buy the book. Also check out this review in the Guardian, which is the one quoted above: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/24/four-futures-life-after-capitalism-peter-frase-review-robots One option for dealing with the rise of AI-powered machines is taxing robots that automate away human jobs. Bill Gates has ignited that debate again recently. You can read about that here: https://qz.com/911968/bill-gates-the-robot-that-takes-your-job-should-pay-taxes/ It’s one of the options we want to discuss. What other ideas have you heard of? Post the links in the comments, and see you April 13 for our meetup! Julia and Jessica PS: At the April meetup, we expect to have the copies of Lean Out ready to pick up for those who ordered (see here: https://www.meetup.com/Tech-Book-Club-Berlin/events/238406606/ ). There will also be an option to pick them up in Kreuzberg. We’re excited to read that book in May!