A Critical Reading list on Tech && (Politics × Society × Ethics)
An opinionated reading list for the critical programmer. Books and articles about the intersection of Technology with politics, society and ethics. A list curated by programmers for programmers.
This repository collects interesting books and articles useful to understand political, social and ethical discourses about new technological developments. Understanding this connection is necessary to create a fair and sustainable future. The discourse affects programmers and tech people that become passive actors. This is due to their general lack of interest in these topics, scarcity of time to dedicate to non-technical readings and the existence of barriers preventing inter-disciplinary communication with philosophers, journalists and artists.
The goal of this list is to give a track to follow to get up to speed, understand the implications of tech in modern society and be able to participate in the debate, so that engineers can inform themselves in order to develop their own discourse. This is step necessary to go beyond the reductionist, simplified views that in the past years prevented us to take a relevant role in shaping our present. The list is kept short by design, with just a few articles on each subject. We don't want it to be overwhelming. If an article made the cut, it means we deem it a necessary reading.
The List is a continous work in progress. It will be updated with new and better material. Feel free to contribute by opening a issue here on GitHub
AI is probably the most contested field in the last few years, where many actors are trying to dictate the narrative, either for ideological reasons, economical interests or both. The Academia and the Engineers are lagging behind but recently more and more content is being produced to counter the established narrative.
AI, in this context, means a fuzzily-defined set of technologies that include machine-learning, at-scale data gathering and analytics, modern industrial automation, chatbots, autonomous vehicles, drones control systems and other technologies.
- Algorithmic Accountability: On the Investigation of Black Boxes : general, high-level overview how algorithms influence our lives and how to investigate them
- The Seven Deadly Sins of Predicting the Future of AI : illustrating the most common fallacies in predicting the future of tech.
- Weapons of Math Destruction: a practical critique of how algorithmic transparency is dealt with in our society. It explains how blind faith in data analysis is dangerous and how unfairness is reproduced through algorithms, that without transparency become a tool to reinforce the status quo.
- The Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet: a purely technical critique of the existing AI narrative and how it's detached from the existing technology.
- Notes on AI Bias A, rather technical, explanation of where the bias in machine learning systems come from and how to deal with it.
- Technology Can't Fix Algorithmic Injustice
AI and Ethics
- The ethics of algorithms: Mapping the debate 
- The Mythos of model interpretability 
- Counting the countless A short article illustrating the fundamental incompatibility between data science and Queerness
- Algorithmic Realism This paper's thesis is that the gap between intents of algorithimic solutions for social goods and its impacts is due to a fundamental methodological limitation. The paper proposes a path forward to be able to better adapt algorithms to the complex reality they act upon.
AI and Politics
- Manufacturing an Artificial Intelligence Revolution : great analysis of the existing narrative about the "AI Revolution", how it came to be, who profits from it and what's hidden underneath
- Why AI is still waiting for its ethics transplant 
- Coding is not ‘fun’, it’s technically and ethically complex : why the "coding is fun" narrative is dangerous and insulting to students and engineers.
- The Agile Labor Union : The Agile movement had ambitions to protect the interests of software engineers at work similiar to a craft union, however its fatal flaw was framing the purpose of the movement as wholly in service of business goals, which left it open to internal takeover by Lean methodologies, and to external challenges from specialized User-Centered Design that better understood software design as a socio-technical process (while also undermining user autonomy).
- Freedom isn't free: why the open source movement should be considered a failure and how to turn it in a bolder plan to rethink how we produce information
- Understanding Fair Labor Practices in a Networked Age 
- Programmers: Stop Calling Yourselves Engineers: this article explores the reasons why Programmers are rarely engineers and why they should be
- Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?: short article describing the rise of the hustle culture and how it's spearheaded by the IT industry, summarizing and pointing to other material about resistance to toxic working culture.
- Loomio Cooperative Handbook: extensive guide on how to create your democratic worker-owned cooperative to develop a software product
- Agile Methods: Collaborative work culture or digital Taylorism?: Timo Daum summarizes the history of Agile and the role it played in the IT sector, tracing also its expansion to other industries, asking questions about the power structures it created.
- The Making of the Tech Worker Movement: Ben Tarnoff looks back at the last few years of tech work organizing and protests, trying to track the roots and the spirit behind tech workers coming together.
- Agile Methods: Timo Daum recaps and illustrates the broad changes brought to IT and the world by Agile Methods from a critical perspective.
- Agile and the Long Crisis of Software: Miriam Posner retells the history of Agile and the conflict between managers and workers in the software development industry pointing at the impending crisis of the Agile mindset.
- Resisting reduction : using the religion around Singularity, the author presents in a concise way what does it mean to deal with complex systems and why naive, reductionists views should be rejected when presented as solutions to social problems.
- Do Artifacts Have Politics?: in a single paper, the author highlights how both engineers and social scientists misinterpret the relationship between technology and society. In particular he attacks the narrative, widespread among engineers, that artifacts have no political properties in themselves and that function or efficiency are the only drivers of technological design and implementation.
- The Californian Ideology: a foundational paper that decades after its publication is still extremely actual. The paper covers the birth of the ideology that dominates the Silicon Valley, mixing hippie culture, right-wing libertarian values and unbounded techno-optimism. Extremely useful to frame the thinking of today's californian oligarchs.
- Psychometric Profiling: Persuasion by Personality in Elections: this article presents the current methodologies used to extract psychological information about citizens and how they are used for political campaigns.
The original sin of Free Software: highlights the issues with the original conceptualization of Free Software and how they relate to the current issues related to software ownership, to the colonization of Open Source by corporations and in general to the liberation of Software.
CoopyLeft: A license that reservers commercial usage only to cooperatives.
Unplanned Obsolescence: Hardware and Software After Collapse : an analysis of the problems computing will face once the internet and the hardware supply chain will collapse.
What is going on around you and what role do you play in it?
Post-capitalism: A Guide to our future : a short reflection on how the information economy has changed the rules of labor and market, how Tech might shape them in the future and how new technologies and how changing how programmers work will help us achieve critical medium/long term goals.
Notes from Below: Technology and the Worker : this journal details different aspects of being a worker in Tech nowadays, reporting real life examples on what is going on politically and socially in American big tech companies, and how Tech workers are beginning to organize themselves.
On Design Thinking : What happened when one of the poorest cities in Florida turned to IDEO to "Reinvent Itself With UX Design". Highlighting Horst Rittel's concept of "wicked problems", against rationalist design, outlined in Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning .
Other Reading Lists
- Awful AI: a list of unethical usages of AI
- Toward ethical, transparent and fair AI/ML: a critical reading list: a 360° reading list on AI and its impact on modern society. Great inspiration and source of content for the list you're reading.
- Labor & Tech Reading List This reading list serves as an introductory roadmap for exploring some of the emergent and pressing issues at the intersection of labor, technologies, and worker rights.
- Radical AI: There are many kinds of radical AI work. Here, they collect 11 radical AI tactics and present works that develop or exemplify the tactics.
Newsletters, magazines and periodical publications
- Tech Worker Coalition Newsletter: newsletter of the Tech Worker Coalition, a modern labor union for American Tech Workers. Covers news on Technology, strikes in the IT sector and new high-quality content in the discourse.
- Logicmac: The Magazine about technological critique. Released in seasonal issues with a central topic and contributions from different authors and specialists.
- The Register: A news website reporting on tech news from a critical perspective.
- The Syllabus / The Machinist: A subsection of The Syllabus dedicated to technology: weekly curated digest of high quality contents.
- Skynet Today: critical perspectives about "AI", in the form of news digests, editorials and theory
Feel free to add your contributions through issues and pull requests. We invite diverse and conflicting voices to participate in the discussion as long as they respect the premises of this list and the content proposed is solid, sound and well-founded.