We are at the dawn of the Autonomous Revolution, a turning point in human history as decisive as the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. More and more, AI-based machines are replacing human beings, and online environments are gathering our data and using it to manipulate us. This loss of human autonomy amounts to nothing less than a societal phase change, a fundamental paradigm shift. The same institutions will remain–schools, banks, churches, and corporations–but they will radically change form, obey new rules, and use new tools.
William H. Davidow and Michael S. Malone go deeply into the enormous implications of these developments. They show why increases in productivity no longer translate into increases in the GDP and how zero cost, one-to-many communications have been turned into tools for cybercrime and propaganda. Many of the book’s recommendations–such as using taxes to control irresponsible internet behavior and enabling people to put their data into what are essentially virtual personal information “safety deposit boxes”–are bold and visionary, but we must figure out how we will deal with these emerging challenges now, before the Autonomous Revolution overcomes us.