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The Glass Cage: Automation and Us

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  1,751 ratings  ·  272 reviews
From the best-selling author of The Shallows, an urgent examination of the human consequences of automation.

What kind of world are we building for ourselves? That’s the question Nicholas Carr tackles in this important, absorbing book. Digging behind the headlines about factory robots and self-driving cars, personalized apps and computerized medicine, Carr explores the hidd
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 29th 2014 by W. W. Norton Company (first published September 8th 2014)
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3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,751 ratings  ·  272 reviews

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Kunal Sen
Nov 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
I loved his earlier book, “The Shallows”, which dealt with the issue of how the Web could be altering our ability to think deep. The book was well researched and well argued. In this book he is raising similar concerns about automation. He uses various examples of how increasing automation is making us loose certain essentially human qualities. Automation is no longer just limited to replacing human perceptive and motor skills, but it is now entering into purely intellectual activities. He argue ...more
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
The best non-fiction books, in my opinion, shouldn't just entertain you, they should change you. Carr, like in "The Shallows," expertly takes an ubiquitous convenience of modern life -- previously, the internet, and now, automation -- and dismantles everyday idealistic assumption about the benefits of their increasing dominance of our lives. Using a mix of anecdotes, statistics, history, and even the theories of the Luddites and Marxists, Carr provides many convincing reasons why we should think ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
Who knew such a short book could be packed with so many disturbing ideas about our relation to computers, robotics and media. With so many tasked offloaded to computing machines and increasingly robots we gain convenience and powers at the same time we lose old skills that helped us autonomously navigate the world. We are offloading memory and calculation, and skills at mundane tasks that our parents and grandparents would have to grind through. We are living more convenient lives increasingly o ...more
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Even though I am not a technophobe I find it very difficult to argue intelligently against Carr's outlooks. He is able to put into words what that pestering voice in my head is always hinting at...that automation (especially in internet-based technologies) takes away from us as much as it provides.

Automation is undeniably efficient and cost-effective. It makes so much of our lives easier and safer. But there is a price to pay for these treats. As a school librarian I see evidence of how automati
Julie Ehlers
As I previously expressed in my review of The Circle (109 likes and counting!), I am suspicious of, even alarmed by, people who try to persuade the rest of us to unthinkingly embrace new technologies in the name of progress, regardless of how we may actually feel about those technologies. My vague objections have found eloquent and comprehensive voice in The Glass Cage. Technology works best, Carr argues, when it enables us to live more fully in the world. Much of today's computer automation doe ...more
Jim Nielsen
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved absolutely every page of this book. It's not just a book about technology and automation, it's a book about learning what it means to be human.
Xavier Shay
Oct 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What if the cost of machines that think is people who don’t?

Nicholas Carr's The Glass Cage is an important counterpoint to the dominant automation-at-all-costs mindset of Silicon Valley. That more automation is better is not as obvious a conclusion as many of us would like to believe. Carr is definitely not anti-technology though. This book is level-headed in discussing the positive and negative trends in automation, backed by a large amount of research. From pilots to doctors to inuit hunters,
Feb 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
I read this at a friend's suggestion, and I was interested in the material , for the most part. I found myself skimming quickly through some sections when his premise was clear but examples were lengthy. I think my favorite chapter was the last, which is the summation of his thesis. Using a Robert Frost poem about mowing, he meditates on the fact that humans actually need work and that letting machines take over more and more of both physical and mental work is damaging to the human psyche. Carr ...more
Chris Ziesler
Oct 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, science
The Road Less Traveled

My first question on seeing this book was, is it going to be as successful and thought-provoking as Carr's previous book The Shallows? The answer is an unequivocal, "yes!"

If you've not read The Shallows I recommend that you consider reading it first because many of the thoughts and ideas from it are continued, developed and extended in The Glass Cage. It's not a necessary prerequisite but it would enhance your appreciation of Carr's arguments.

Carr's central thesis can be su
Barb Middleton
My husband's brain is better than a GPS. Usually, we scrap using the GPS machine because his navigating skills are better and more accurate. Basically, that's this book's message in a nutshell. The increased automation in society and the downsides of not honing skills that take time and experience (such as navigation) are leading to the loss of human-centered automation and over-reliance on technology. While Nicholas Carr acknowledges the wonder of increased speed and efficiency in technology-ce ...more
Bob Schnell
Advanced Reading Copy review Publication date September 2014

Are smart phones making us less intelligent? Is technology a tool or a temptation? Who or what is the slave or master in our relationships with our automation? These and other questions are explored in "The Glass Cage" By Nicholas Carr.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is written for both technophiles and technophobes to take a step back and examine where modern technology has taken us and where it might lead us if we don't lead it. Fr
Aug 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have a different edition of the book.

Very interesting and a fair warning to the potential dangers of automation. I do not always agree with his conclusions but that's not important. It is a book well worth your time.
Victor Gabi
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Started strong and interesting but finished discussion kind of weak.
Doc Opp
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't agree with everything in this book. But it was 1) very well written and 2) made me think. And that's what I'm generally looking for in non-fiction.

The author's points are fairly nuanced, although he often focuses too much on failures (e.g. if introducing technology will cause 20 car crashes that wouldn't have otherwise happened, while preventing 200 car crashes that otherwise would have, he focuses on the former and brushes over the latter)... while he correctly identifies flaws in tech
Jun 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
The Glass Cage Automation and Us
By: Nicholas Carr Philosophy/Society
Norton & Company, Inc. 2014. Pages. 232
Copy Courtesy of Goodreads First Reads
Reviewed by: tk

Eye opening, thought provoking, superbly written from beginning to end.

Nicholas Carr introduces the ideals of automation in a extraordinary collection of detail, explanation, and examples of how our daily lives are being manipulated by machines.
I am not saying that is his intent. I am saying is that his compiled information in simple
Carol Bakker
"This is a book about automation, about the use of computers and software to do things we used to do ourselves. It's about automation's human consequences."

Scene one: I raised my eyebrows when my GPS directed me onto a dirt road. My car climbed up the side of a mountain, no guardrails between me and the canyon below, the road the width of one car while I white-knuckled the wheel. I had exhibited automation bias, slavishly following a faulty model even when my instincts warned me.

Scene two: I v
Sara Watson
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
I got an advance copy of Nicholas Carr's The Glass Cage for a book review, but I backed down from writing it. Carr continues to be a contrarian voice to counter the main trends in technology, yet critiques without offering up alternatives to the dominant trajectory he is reacts to, in this case, automation. He equates automation in consumer tools like Siri to the automation of piloting commercial airplanes, altogether unhelpfully broad definition. The book is too wideranging to be helpful, and e ...more
D.C. Lozar
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a physician deeply concerned about the interposition of technology between my profession and the patients we care for, I found Nicholas Carr's books - The Shallows and The Glass Cage - as part of my research for a non-fiction book I'm writing for McFarland Publishing. Nicholas's writing has validated my fears, provided well-researched and annotated support for his arguments, and led me down several new paths of thought I had not considered. This book is superbly written, informatively, engagi ...more
Michelle Keill
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
This book made me feel a bit better about some of my 'old school' tendencies. For example, if I'm going somewhere and need a map, it has to be on paper. I've tried using the GPS on my phone, but I end up getting even more lost. I was trying to find the British Library the other day and Google Maps sent me off in the direction of Pluto, and in the end I tried something radical... I asked someone! He looked very surprised, but gave me easy directions and I found it in minutes. I'm not leaving home ...more
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Honestly, this book's implications frightened me a lot about the future. However, I am ready to meet the challenges it presents!

What Nicholas Carr presents is how automated cars drive themselves into accidents, automated medicine is not really safe, and much more. To a definite extent, automatic is indeed better; for example, clutch cars have a huge learning curve. (My mother is the only one in this household who can drive clutch. She explained to me how, but I probably wouldn't be able to go up
Kate Lawrence
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very well done look at how computers have changed the workplace, this gives only a brief mention of the resultant unemployment, a feature that is central in similar considerations of this topic in the works of Yuval Harari. Pilots who never fly manually lose the ability to do so when computerized systems malfunction. Driverless cars will have to make moral decisions in emergency situations; who will decide how they are programmed for those situations? Fascinating, and I especially liked the fi ...more
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good reminder in this day and age of automation that we MUST not take things for granted.

This widened my perspective on how automation may not always be good. We need to be critical to what we accept as normal in our lives, and what role technology plays. Technology should be tools to advance the human experience. It is not always about the end, sometimes it is about the labor. Without challenge, life loses its meaning. Sometimes it is about experiencing the world, as it is, unadulterated by t
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It describes in detail how machines, robots, automation, and software have changed how humans work. While automation offers many benefits (such as allowing humans to forego monotonous, routine tasks so we can focus on tasks requiring higher cognition or judgement), it can also be debilitating (such as the case of pilots losing certain skills).

Given the increasing prevalence of software automation and talk of super A.I., this book encourages us to think critically about how we
Pedro L. Fragoso
Jul 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is easily one of the most important books I have ever read, should be compelling reading to any aspiring science-fiction writer. Extremely intelligent and brilliantly reasoned through, a marvel.

The foremost theme of the book is the current trend towards human stupidification given the widely chosen automation paradigm in play, and its chilling consequences. Gourmet good for thought.

"Like meddlesome parents who never let their kids do anything on their own, Google, Facebook, and other makers
Daniel Cornwall
Convincing, with a tedious closing chapter. I recommend this book to anyone concerned about the effects of technology in our lives and especially in technological unemployment, deskilling or lethal autonomous robots (LARs).

Mr. Carr does a good job of documenting problems that come from an unquestioning attitude towards a technocentric view of progress. Unlike The Shallows this book appears to be less reliant on what Mr. Carr's friends experienced and is more research based. Anecdotes do exist,
Dec 25, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: technology
Carr sometimes presents specialized information from technical or scientific fields with insufficient clarifying detail for the lay reader. For example, drawing on the work of certain neuroscientists, he discusses how GPS systems may erode memory in general and may be contributing to dementia. He then goes on to provide a rather opaque summary of some fairly complex research (by said neuroscientists) which is too brief to be intelligible. Likewise, in discussing medical professionals' deference ...more
Nelson Zagalo
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
I’ve really enjoyed previous book from Carr, “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains“, however I can’t say the same of this one. The principal idea behind the book is much less convincing, not as well researched, neither argued. Carr fails in pursuing an impartial perspective, biasing interpretations, weakening conclusions.

The central argument follows the same idea of his previous book, synthesised in this phrase by George Dyson, “What if the cost of machines that think is people
Barbara McVeigh
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tech, non-fiction
Nicholas Carr has created a niche examining the effects of new technologies on human nature and culture. Students and teachers who have seen me reading The Glass Cage have initiated quite a few discussions about the content of the book. Today we talked about studying "old school" with books, specifically how to use print dictionaries and their advantages and benefits. I don't expect students to stop using Google, but I appreciate that Carr has provided ideas and examples of why we sometimes shou ...more
Apr 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Glass Cage describes the current and potential impacts of automation, particularly computerized automation, on individuals and society. It is an important book to read. It is doubtful many of us not involved with the philosophy of automation understand its implications,

Despite its importance, The Glass Cage was in many ways a frustrating book for me to read. The thesis felt like it could be handled in a lengthy but interesting magazine article. Rather like many formulaic self-help books, it
Fred Rose
Mar 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-tech
As a former automation engineer, most of this material was not new to me but the author covered the key points in an accessible form for the general reader. Some of the anecdotes are just spin. For example, if a driver follows their GPS off the road, that's just stupid and these same drivers would do something stupid if they were following a map. But others, like issues with autopilot, are real. In the end, I rated the book a little higher than I might because I thought he gave some good thoroug ...more
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Nicholas Carr is the author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Shallows, the best-selling The Big Switch, and Does IT Matter? His acclaimed new book, The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, examines the personal and social consequences of our ever growing dependence on computers and software. Former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, he has written for The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall S ...more
“There is no economic law that says that everyone, or even most people, automatically benefit from technological progress.” 5 likes
“the mind is not sealed in the skull but extends throughout the body. We think not only with our brain but also with our eyes and ears, nose and mouth, limbs and torso. And when we use tools to extend our grasp, we think with them as well. “Thinking, or knowledge-getting, is far from being the armchair thing it is often supposed to be,” wrote the American philosopher and social reformer John Dewey in 1916. “Hands and feet, apparatus and appliances of all kinds are as much a part of it as changes in the brain.”51 To act is to think, and to think is to act.” 4 likes
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