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CODE DEPENDENT

LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF AI

A fascinating, sobering, wide-ranging examination.

A study of how artificial intelligence “is altering the very experience of being human.”

Murgia, a British Indian tech journalist with the Financial Times, has been investigating AI for a decade (previously for Wired magazine), and her exploration takes readers to Nairobi, Amsterdam, the rural Indian village of Chinchpada, and the city of Salta, in Argentina, among other destinations. Defining AI as “a complex statistical software applied to finding patterns in large sets of real-world data,” of which generative AI tools such as ChatGPT are a “subset,” the author looks at how it affects the people who train it, use it, and are victimized by it. Among the first category are low-wage workers who label and describe images that may train, for instance, self-driving cars; among the second are health care providers in underserved areas who use AI-powered apps to assist with diagnoses. AI’s victims are many: women whose deepfaked images proliferate on pornographic websites; Uber Eats drivers whose pay is shorted by the algorithm; young people stigmatized by statistical software as likely to commit crime or to become pregnant; Uyghurs who live in China’s surveillance state; and content moderators forced to engage with hateful, violent material for hours on end. With chapter titles that illuminate AI’s effects on the self—e.g., Your Livelihood, Your Body, Your Freedom, Your Safety Net—the survey is peopled with vividly drawn subjects who help readers understand AI and its impact on a deeply personal level. Murgia has consciously reached beyond Silicon Valley to focus on the “global precariat,” a strategy that is valuable in its own humanizing right and also drives home how thoroughly implicated the developed world is in the continuing harms endured by the developing one. Throughout, the author writes with clarity and compassion in equal measure.

A fascinating, sobering, wide-ranging examination.

Pub Date: June 18, 2024

ISBN: 9781250867391

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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