Technological advances seem to be accelerating. Every day we hear of something new: self-driving cars, wearable computers, factory robots, digitized medicine… Continuing advances in computers and automation can reduce workloads, increase productivity, and even imbue life with a sense of wonder. But Nicholas Carr, in his new book, “The Glass Cage: Automation and Us,” says there are hidden costs in granting software dominion over our work and leisure. Even as these programs bring ease to our lives, he says, they are stealing something essential from us.
Drawing on psychological and neurological studies that underscore how tightly people’s happiness and satisfaction are tied to performing hard work in the real world, Carr reveals something we already suspect: shifting our attention to computer screens can leave us disengaged and discontented. From nineteenth-century textile mills to the cockpits of modern jets, from the frozen hunting grounds of Inuit tribes to the sterile landscapes of GPS maps, “The Glass Cage” examines the personal as well as the economic consequences of our growing dependence on computers.