‘We’re Drowning in Data’: How to Think for Yourself in the Age of Experts and A.I.
Harvard lecturer and ‘Think for Yourself’ author Vikram Mansharamani explains his strategies for strengthening common sense in a time ruled by big tech
Between 2011 and 2017, at least 259 people died while trying to frame the perfect selfie. They fell off cliffs or down waterfalls or out high-rise windows while trying to snap the ideal shot for social media. These tragic deaths come amid rising cases of “death by GPS” and the 1,600,000 accidents per year caused by texting while driving. So, on top of the toll that screens are taking on our attention spans and interpersonal relationships, it’s clear that they’re downright deadly, too.
These are extreme — and tragic — examples of the blind obedience to technology that Vikram Mansharamani laments in his new book, Think for Yourself: Restoring Common Sense in an Age of Experts and Artificial Intelligence. Mansharamani is a lecturer at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences on decision-making skills, and while he’s not against expertise or technology per se, Mansharamani argues that “today’s interconnected problems demand integrated thinking … what we need is contextualized expertise that complements depth with breadth.”
His book is an effort to explain how we ended up in a situation where most of us are dependent on technology and experts to navigate our daily lives. Mansharamani says his book can “empower readers with tools and strategies to escape from it.”
OneZero caught up with Mansharamani to discuss how and why we’ve given our minds over to algorithms, how we might reclaim them, and why we should be skeptical of even the most benign uses of A.I., like when it’s used to offer diagnoses in health care.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
OneZero: You argue that people should break away from blindly following technology. Given how addictive many platforms are — especially social media — how can we expect people to regain focus?
Mansharamani: We’re drowning in data. There’s so much information and choices — and the result is we need help to filter that…