Hello World

How to be Human in the Age of the Machine

By: Hannah Fry

Published: 2018

From chess to medicine and criminal law to self-driving cars, many of us continue to believe that an algorithm-driven world remains a futuristic utopia. As a leading academic in mathematics at UCL, Fry offers an opposing cautious approach to the question of whether machines can outperform humans across contrasting fields of our society, offering a simplified, but insightful perspective the exponential rise in technology-driven decision making may impact the role how young professionals and government systems at the expense of those whom are most vulnerable in our society.

Published by Black Swan, 2019 (Penguin)

As a medical scientist working in the field of oncology, or cancer, I have been introduced to the advantages of artificial intelligence, or AI, for improving the diagnosis of disease however have rarely considered the impact of technology on creativity and pop culture, for example. Amongst friends, I’ve often caught myself revisiting the debate surrounding the moral nature of driverless cars, however it was interesting to read the rationale behind the ongoing technological revolution from the mind of its principle designers, an Associate Professor in mathematical modelling. 

This title addresses how technology has influenced our 21st century approach to crime, medicine, art and travel in turn, whilst always considering the advantages – and limitations – that a human subject has in each given scenario. Fry writes in such a manner that does not offer only her own view, but rather constructs a balanced discussion asking readers to consider the limits of technology meanwhile debunking the myths surrounding the future of humans in society, as conveyed science fiction.

As a scientist myself, it was enlightening to become, even a little more informed about the boundaries of algorithms and that there are “limits to what can be quantified”. Additionally, from within the realm of the law, it’s comforting to know that one London-based lawyer believes that “the more predictable the decisions get, the less room there is for the art of advocacy”- an important aspect to our justice system that can be overlooked by a machines inability to evaluate contextual detail and circumstance.

Evaluating the benefits of technological advances whilst maintaining the connection between the individuals within our species, certainly appears to be a challenge requiring a delicate balance of both perspectives. There is no doubt that I would like to see cancer diagnosed earlier, but equally, I wouldn’t like to think that there’s a chance I could be forced to trust only a machine, over my own doctor’s wealth of human experience.

Would you?

Rating 9/10

Feature Image by Hugo Hercer from Pixabay


Published by Holly Leslie

Full-time Cancer Researcher + Freelance Science Writer | MRes, BSc | Since discovering my passion for science writing during my final year of undergraduate study, I've written articles for University newspapers, The Gaudie and Redbrick and two Science magazines, Wonk! and the Glasgow Insight to Science and Technology (GIST)

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