Last week’s Boston Book Festival brought 150 notable authors to Copley Square to share their stories, research, and reflections on the future of publishing. Eight of the authors were from MIT. A few highlights:
- David Rose, a visiting scientist at the Media Lab, spoke about his new book, Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things. “There’s a huge opportunity now to have devices…that can simplify our relationship to technology,” said Rose, a self-described optimist on the future of smart devices in homes. “This will impact our health in a positive way, and our transportation, and housing, giving us a digital self-portrait of what we’re doing that hopefully nudges us towards being more healthy versions of ourselves. And once the other desires are being satisfied by robots, we can spend more time with personal expression.”
- Andrew McAfee ’88, SM ’90 spoke alongside Rose and author Nicholas Carr. McAfee, co-director of Sloan’s Initiative on the Digital Economy, co-wrote The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies with Erik Brynjolfsson. McAfeee sparred with Carr about machines replacing humans in technical fields: “In the example of commercial air-flight, what is our goal? To make commercial air flight as safe and cheap and efficient as possible for as many people as possible, or to keep pilots engaged? At some level those are two incompatible goals. I have a really clear preference for the first. The way to make [air travel] safe is to get the pilot out of the cockpit. We can preserve the status quo in the interest of people currently holding today’s jobs and most of the benefits workers are earning, or we can change the status quo and think about all the benefits that will come to everybody else. I find it an extraordinarily easy tradeoff to make. I actually find it immoral to preserve the status quo.”
- DUSP MLK Visiting Professor Calestous Juma moderated a panel called Africa: Looking on the Bright Side, which included David Sengeh SM ’12. Sengeh, whose doctoral work on prosthetics is helping citizens in his native Sierra Leone, addressed the current culture of aid-dependency in Africa today: “Growth [there] does not come from youth or rely on a message of creative freedom today. When we don’t celebrate the local innovation that should be led by young people, when a stress to the system comes along, it breaks. Yes, it’s a global village but to blame another person for whatever error happens here? Innovate Challenges in Sierra Leone asks young people to sit down and figure out what challenges face their country.”
Also speaking: Judith Donath SM ’86, PhD ’97, on the Digital by Design panel, spoke about the state of social media today. Donath is most recently the author of The Social Machine: Designs for Living Online. MIT Technology Review editor Jason Pontin moderated the panel. Listen to Donath’s interview on the MIT Alumni Books Podcast. Michael Hawley PhD ’93 moderated the Creativity: Agony and Ecstasy panel. Formerly of the Media Lab, Hawley is the founder or co-founder of numerous major research projects, including MIT’s GO Expeditions program; Things That Think, a program that explores how digital media infuses quotidian objects; Toys of Tomorrow, which innovates toy design and production; Counter Intelligence, a culinary research effort; and Friendly Planet, a nonprofit children’s education initiative. Associate Professor of Physics Max Tegmark joined a panel entitled My Memoir, My Quest. Tegmark wrote the 2014 book Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality.