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Brett Frischmann: Re-Engineering Humanity 

When Apr 24, 2019
from 05:00 PM to 07:30 PM
Where Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge
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When and how do humans become programmable? Can we detect when this happens? How will we evaluate it? What makes us human? What about being human matters?

Humans have been shaped by technology since the dawn of time. Yet techno-social engineering of humans exists on an unprecedented scale and scope, and it is only growing more pervasive as we embed networked sensors in our public and private spaces, our devices, our clothing, and ourselves.

Brett Frischmann will examine how digital networked technologies affect our humanity. Instead of focusing on the doomsday scenario of super-intelligent, sentient AI enslaving humans, Frischmann will focus on how we engineer ourselves, how we outsource critical thinking to supposedly smart tech, and in doing so, risk deskilling ourselves. In short, Frischmann is less concerned with the engineering of intelligent machines than the engineering of unintelligent humans.

The discussion will be followed by a drinks reception. Registration is essential.


Brett Frischmann is the Charles Widger Endowed University Professor in Law, Business and Economics, Villanova University, an affiliated scholar of the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, and a trustee for the Nexa Center for Internet & Society, Politecnico di Torino. He teaches courses in intellectual property, Internet law, and technology policy. Frischmann is a prolific author, whose articles have appeared in numerous leading academic journals. He also has published important books on the relationships between infrastructural resources, governance, commons, and spillovers, including Infrastructure: The Social Value of Shared Resources (Oxford University Press, 2012), Governing Knowledge Commons (Oxford University Press, 2014, with Michael Madison and Katherine Strandburg), and Governing Medical Knowledge Commons (Cambridge University Press, Winter 2017, with Michael Madison and Katherine Strandburg). 


Reviews for 'Re-Engineering Humanity'

"Re-Engineering Humanity brings a pragmatic if somewhat dystopic perspective to the technological phenomena of our age. Humans are learning machines and we learn from our experiences. This book made me ask myself whether the experiences we are providing to our societies are in fact beneficial in the long run." Vint Cerf, Co-Inventor of the Internet

"Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger cogently argue that our Fitbit, Echo, Android, and game console, our Facebook pages, Google searches, Amazon and Netflix profiles give far less than they take. With tiny, almost imperceptible steps, we have entered into a bargain with socio-technical engineers of the digital age that literally drains our humanity and is imperiling freedom, autonomy, and other precious values fundamental to meaningful human existence. ... this disquieting book is about the big picture. All of us should read it and decide, deliberately, if this is a future we want for ourselves and our children." - Helen Nissenbaum, Professor of Information Science, Cornell Tech, and author of Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life

"A magnificent achievement. Writing in the tradition of Neil Postman, Jacque Ellul and Marshall McLuhan, this book is the decade's deepest and most powerful portrayal of the challenges to freedom created by our full embrace of comprehensive techno-social engineering. A rewarding and stimulating book that merits repeated readings and may also cause you to reconsider how you live life." -Tim Wu, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Columbia Law School and author of The Attention Merchants

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The Trust & Technology Initiative brings together and drives forward interdisciplinary research from Cambridge and beyond to explore the dynamics of trust and distrust in relation to internet technologies, society and power; to better inform trustworthy design and governance of next generation tech at the research and development stage; and to promote informed, critical, and engaging voices supporting individuals, communities and institutions in light of technology’s increasing pervasiveness in societies.

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