The human-computer connection
The Software Society, a new book by William Meisel
How software advances are changing our lives and our economy
Today, everything seems to be digital, driven by software. Advances in software are powering rapid changes in technology, impacting us as individuals and through our economy. On the positive side, we have increasing access to computer intelligence and all it can do for us (our fondness for Web services being one obvious example). The Software Society expands on current trends to show how our connection with computers will increase and benefit us daily, with interaction through language and other means, and particularly through mobile devices. This increasingly tighter connection is an important part of human society today. The trend creates an opportunity for innovation that can be the next big driver of economic growth.
But The Software Society also warns we must address the potential downsides of the rapid advances in software and institutional dependence on software. One example is our vulnerability to cyberwarfare. Less obvious is the danger of over-automation, replacing people in the workplace with increasingly intelligent software rather than enhancing productivity by giving people better software-based tools. Meisel argues that we are seeing this effect now, with a preference for full automation in the current recovery rather than re-hiring workers. Even with slow job growth, median incomes are falling as many middle-class jobs are being taken over by software. The author suggests a controversial solution, an “automation tax” that encourages productivity enhancements through better jobs rather than eliminating them. More–>
The Author: Dr. William Meisel is a technology analyst focusing on mobile developments and applications of speech and language technology, with a newsletter, a blog, and an annual conference. His background is both academic (a former professor of EE and Computer Science) and business (including founding and running a technology business for ten years). More –>
Selections from reviews:
An entrepreneur and voice-technology expert reflects on growing human-computer connections and the implications for cultural evolution, the economy and what it means to be human. Using the first person and addressing a general audience, Meisel (Speech in the User Interface: Lessons From Experience, 2010, etc.)—a former University of Southern California professor and technology industry analyst—lays out the current state of software development, the trends and his analysis of how these changes affect society. The book begins with a definition of software and a review of its trends and follows with an analysis of the interactions and relationships between people and computers. Meisel outlines these relationships in the realm of culture, discussing
privacy and security, education, software patents and war. Turning to economics, the work explores the relationships between software and hardware, software and jobs, computers and the workplace, technology and a fragmented society, technological advances and job loss, and further technological innovation and job creation. The author proposes that the combination of software and mobile devices has led to an ongoing “always-there” presence of technology that can form the basis for further development in the following areas: supplementing human capabilities, bolstering access to education, assisting workers with disabilities and creating new types of human-computer automation. Fittingly, software advances have made it possible for this book to acquire its own “always-there” presence and become a “living” document through the creation of a website (www.TheSoftwareSociety.com), which includes a blog that will carry on the work of the book and provide both a section for comments on trends and issues and an interface for author and reader interactions.
A useful analysis of developments in human-technology relationships, combining research and personal reflections.
- Kirkus Reviews
“The Software Society by William Meisel is a unique look at how computer programs have changed life in ways that are both technological and sociological…Meisel ponders questions most people wouldn’t think to ask, like “What do trends in software imply about what it means to be human?” But his careful, clear history and explanation of software and its implications will slowly pull readers into his method of questioning…readers won’t find the information Meisel presents or his approach to it anywhere else.”
- Forward Clarion Reviews, May 2013
“…holds a hopeful view of the future, even in a shrinking job market, if humans can leverage the power of automation to help them become more efficient, grow businesses in smaller markets, empower disabled workers and find new ways of making computers a partner, rather than a threat, in their growth… readers will find his message a welcome alternative to those books full of harpies warnings about a future where humans play second fiddle to their software progeny.”
- BlueInk Review, April 2013
This web site Copyright William Meisel 2013.