The pathbreaking MIT professor on her new memoir, and the past, present, and future of our efforts to make technology feel human

Sherry Turkle, founder of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. Photo: Boston Globe/Getty Images

In the fall of 1976, Sherry Turkle was recruited to the faculty of MIT to join what would soon become the program on Science, Technology, and Society — one of the nation’s first. After having written a book on French psychoanalysis — a “sociology of the sciences of the mind,” as she describes it — Turkle was fascinated with the cultural forces that shift our thought.

So when she encountered computers for the first time, she had one pressing question on her mind: How would these new machines change us?

Turkle has spent the last four decades investigating that question…

Law professor Rosa Brooks on what she learned from five years with the Metropolitan Police

Photo: Jody McKitrick

Rosa Brooks was a fortysomething Georgetown Law School professor in 2015 when she applied to join the reserves of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department. Being “white, female, over-educated, brought up on the political left,” as she puts it, she did not fit the stereotype of a cop (even a part-time volunteer one). But her new book Tangled Up in Blue: Policing the American City sets out to bust exactly that stereotype.

Documenting the five years she spent with the MPD — one of the law enforcement branches deployed at the Capitol on January 6 — the book challenges the…

In his new book, Robert Putnam offers lessons from the Progressive Era

Photo illustration; source: CORBIS/Getty Images

It might seem that America today has reached all-time peaks in income inequality, racial strife, and political partisanship. But 100 years ago the state of affairs was strikingly similar, according to Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam — so similar, in fact, that many are calling our current situation the “new Gilded Age.”

In the century since the robber barons reigned, Putnam says there’s been an upside-down U-shaped curve, from an “I” to “we” to “I” society. The trick now is to arc back toward the “we.” Putnam previously explored the causes and consequences of our “I” society in his 2000…

A Q&A with Harvard professor Debora Spar, author of ‘Work Mate Marry Love: How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny’

Photo: John Lamb/Getty Images

What happens when the machines we create begin to change us? This question lies at the heart of Debora Spar’s new book Work Mate Marry Love: How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny, an examination of the way technology is upending our intimate and emotional lives.

In Work Mate Marry Love, the Harvard Business School professor looks at how our social structures and intimate relationships are fundamentally altered by the rise of new technology. …

In the non-linear trajectory of life, change is vital

Colorful spring is all tangled up against a bright red background.
Colorful spring is all tangled up against a bright red background.
Photo: Sven Krobot/EyeEm/Getty Images

In recent years, resilience — or “grit” — has emerged as the ultimate self-help virtue. As John Patrick Leary recently wrote in Teen Vogue, the “resilience industry acknowledges that we all go through rough patches, but it insists that our setbacks will only make us stronger,” which clearly appeals in these unpredictable (and deeply unequal) times. But in reality, how we respond to big changes—rough patches and achieving dreams, alike—does not follow a straight path or timeline. …

Harvard lecturer and ‘Think for Yourself’ author Vikram Mansharamani explains his strategies for strengthening common sense in a time ruled by big tech

Photo by Tayler Smith. Prop Styling by Caroline Dorn

Between 2011 and 2017, at least 259 people died while trying to frame the perfect selfie. They fell off cliffs or down waterfalls or out high-rise windows while trying to snap the ideal shot for social media. These tragic deaths come amid rising cases of “death by GPS” and the 1,600,000 accidents per year caused by texting while driving. So, on top of the toll that screens are taking on our attention spans and interpersonal relationships, it’s clear that they’re downright deadly, too.

These are extreme — and tragic — examples of the blind obedience to technology that Vikram Mansharamani…

Philip N. Howard, director of the Oxford Internet Institute, explains how bots, trolls, and junk news are harnessed by political actors to sow deception

Double exposure portrait of a young man wearing a face mask and the New York City skyline.
Double exposure portrait of a young man wearing a face mask and the New York City skyline.
Photo: Busà Photography/Moment/Getty Images

Lie machines are on the rise — they’ve been built to undermine our faith in society’s key institutions and to encourage citizens to question authority. Lie machines have helped swing elections and sow discontent. And now they’ve been tuned to abet authoritarianism during the coronavirus crisis.

“It’s about doubting institutions that have performed pretty well for a long time, like national health care systems and professional news outlets,” says Philip N. Howard, the director of the Oxford Internet Institute. …

A Q&A with Christiana Figueres, climate champion and architect of the Paris accord

Christiana Figueres. Photo: Thomas Samson/Getty Images

Christiana Figueres became perhaps the world’s most influential shaper of global climate policy when she was appointed executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change in 2010. The timing couldn’t have been worse — that was just six months after the colossal failure of the world’s governments to reach an agreement on a treaty in Copenhagen. “The global mood on climate was really in the trash can,” she told OneZero.

Not long after, when Figueres was asked if it would ever be possible to reach a global agreement, she retorted, “Not in my lifetime.” But as the words…

The author of ‘The Stars in Our Pockets’ on eschewing the internet, getting lost, and ‘climate change of the mind’

Photo: Milan Jovic/Getty Images

When Howard Axelrod was a junior at Harvard, a horrific accident during a game of pickup basketball left him blind in one eye. Five years later, in the fall of 1999, still struggling to navigate the landscape around him, he retreated to the woods of northeast Vermont. His plan was to live off the grid, reorienting himself with the natural environment. “I needed to live without the need of putting on a face for anyone, including myself,” he wrote in his first book, The Point of Vanishing: A Memoir of Two Years in Solitude.

When Axelrod reentered society two years…

The engineers behind OLPC ignored the concerns of the very people it was meant to benefit

Photo by Tayler Smith. Prop Styling by Caroline Dorn

In 2005, MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte introduced a program he believed would change the world. Called One Laptop per Child (OLPC), the initiative would deliver $100 XO laptops — small, boxy machines, constructed to be virtually indestructible — to children in the global south. Governments would buy and distribute the laptops to children between ages six and 12. These children would then use these computers as tools, teaching themselves — and, later, their parents — new languages, mathematics, and coding.

The vision was enthusiastically received by media and tech companies, who poured millions of dollars, software, advertising, and…

Hope Reese

Writer (currently) in Budapest, bylines @TheAtlantic, @Undarkmag, @VICE, @voxdotcom & more; follow on Twitter @hope_reese;

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