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"The Glass Cage: Automation And Us" Author Nicholas Carr On Wednesday's Access Utah

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Technological advances seem to be accelerating. Every day we hear of something new: self-driving cars, wearable computers, factory robots, digitized medicine… Continuing advances in computers and automation can reduce workloads, increase productivity, and even imbue life with a sense of wonder. But Nicholas Carr, in his new book, “The Glass Cage: Automation and Us,” says there are hidden costs in granting software dominion over our work and leisure. Even as these programs bring ease to our lives, he says, they are stealing something essential from us.

Drawing on psychological and neurological studies that underscore how tightly people’s happiness and satisfaction are tied to performing hard work in the real world, Carr reveals something we already suspect: shifting our attention to computer screens can leave us disengaged and discontented. From nineteenth-century textile mills to the cockpits of modern jets, from the frozen hunting grounds of Inuit tribes to the sterile landscapes of GPS maps, “The Glass Cage” examines the personal as well as the economic consequences of our growing dependence on computers.

Carr argues that the advantages of modern automation often obscure the long history of our tension with, and ambivalence about, machines. He says that a critical examination of our over-reliance on technology is all the more necessary as our entanglement with computers deepens. And he argues that by critically reconsidering our relationship with technology and examining its consequences, we can rebalance the relationship and use these tools to our advantage. If approached with thought and care, automation can help us complete fulfilling work, understand our environment and our place within it, and broaden our perspectives.

Carr is the author of “The Shallows,” a Pulitzer Prize finalist, as well as “The Big Switch” and “Does IT Matter?” His articles and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wired, and the New Republic, and he writes the widely read blog Rough Type. He has been writer-in-residence at the University of California, Berkeley, and an executive editor of the Harvard Business Review.

Nicholas Carr is coming to Utah for an appearance as a part of the Utah Humanities Council Book Festival, October 17 at 6:00 p.m. in the Salt Lake Public Library.

Tom Williams worked as a part-time UPR announcer for a few years and joined Utah Public Radio full-time in 1996. He is a proud graduate of Uintah High School in Vernal and Utah State University (B. A. in Liberal Arts and Master of Business Administration.) He grew up in a family that regularly discussed everything from opera to religion to politics. He is interested in just about everything and loves to engage people in conversation, so you could say he has found the perfect job as host “Access Utah.” He and his wife Becky, live in Logan.