CS Reading Club: “Your Computer Is on Fire” Season 2

Jan 22, 2024 • Ted K

Dear Yale Computing Majors,

We would like to invite you to join a monthly reading club for the book Your Computer Is On Fire (MIT Press, 2021), season 2. The book’s tagline is: “Techno-utopianism is dead: Now is the time to pay attention to the inequality, marginalization, and biases woven into our technological systems.” A longer book description is below.

Since the reading group kicked off last September, each meeting has been a thoughtful discussion among interested CS grad students. To examine the remaining seven chapters of the book, we want to continue the reading club over this new semester, and expand it to interested undergrads so that Yale College students can also benefit from these readings.

Each chapter is written by a different contributor from the humanities, social sciences, and history. We will cover one chapter per session, and you can read the book for free via Yale Library. We can also provide a physical copy upon request.

Each reading will be accompanied by an hour-long discussion where we talk about computing, people, society, culture, history, both in the U.S. and worldwide. It is intended as a low-commitment, low-barrier, inclusive, and friendly setting. Postdoctoral Associate and Lecturer Dr. Yoehan Oh will continue to lead the discussion, with Associate Professor Theodore (Ted) Kim joining in.

We’ll kick off our first meeting on Friday, January 26th at 3 PM in AKW 307, and will meet in person on last Fridays from January to April: 1/26, 2/23, 3/29, and 4/26. If you are interested in joining the group, please feel free to just show up!

Looking forward to seeing you at our first meeting,

Yoehan and Ted


Book description:

This book sounds an alarm: after decades of being lulled into complacency by narratives of technological utopianism and neutrality, people are waking up to the large-scale consequences of Silicon Valley–led technophilia. This book trains a spotlight on the inequality, marginalization, and biases in our technological systems, showing how they are not just minor bugs to be patched, but part and parcel of ideas that assume technology can fix—and control—society.

The essays in Your Computer Is on Fire interrogate how our human and computational infrastructures overlap, showing why technologies that centralize power tend to weaken democracy. These practices are often kept out of sight until it is too late to question the costs of how they shape society. From energy-hungry server farms to racist and sexist algorithms, the digital is always IRL, with everything that happens algorithmically or online influencing our offline lives as well. Each essay proposes paths for action to understand and solve technological problems that are often ignored or misunderstood. ___________________