Books  |    |  June 2, 2015

A Dangerous Master: How to Keep Technology from Slipping Beyond Our Control

Book by Wendell Wallach. 
Published by Basic Books. 
336 pages. 

We live in an age of awesome technological potential. From nanotechnology to synthetic organisms, new technologies stand to revolutionize whole domains of human experience. But with awesome potential comes awesome risk: drones can deliver a bomb as readily as they can a new smartphone; makers and hackers can 3D-print guns as well as tools; and supercomputers can short-circuit Wall Street just as easily as they can manage your portfolio.

One thing these technologies can’t do is answer the profound moral issues they raise. Who should be held accountable when they go wrong? What responsibility do we, as creators and users, have for the technologies we build? In A Dangerous Master, ethicist Wendell Wallach tackles such difficult questions with hard-earned authority, imploring both producers and consumers to face the moral ambiguities arising from our rapid technological growth. There is no doubt that scientific research and innovation are a source of promise and productivity, but, as Wallach argues, technological development is at risk of becoming a juggernaut beyond human control. Examining the players, institutions, and values lobbying against meaningful regulation of everything from autonomous robots to designer drugs, A Dangerous Master proposes solutions for regaining control of our technological destiny.

Wallach’s nuanced study offers both stark warnings and hope, navigating both the fears and hype surrounding technological innovations. An engaging, masterful analysis of the elements we must manage in our quest to survive as a species, A Dangerous Master forces us to confront the practical—and moral—purposes of our creations.

Table of Contents

  1. Navigating the Future
  2. A Prediction
  3. The C Words
  4. The Pace of Change
  5. Trade-offs
  6. Engineering Organisms
  7. Mastery of the Human Genome
  8. Transcending Limits
  9. Cyborgs and Techno Sapiens
  10. Pathologizing Human Nature
  11. Drivers of the Storm
  12. Terminating the Terminator
  13. Engineering for Responsibility
  14. Tools for Governance
  15. Guild Navigators

About the Author
Wendell Wallach is a consultant, ethicist, and scholar at Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics. He is the co-author of Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong. He lives in Bloomfield, Connecticut.