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PRESS RELEASE: 7-1-15 A Dangerous Master: How to Keep Technology from Slipping Beyond Our Control

New book by Hastings Center senior advisor Wendell Wallach makes sense of the opportunities and catastrophic hazards of artificial intelligence, radical life extension, and other technologies.

Scientific research and emerging technologies have long held the promise of innovation, improved productivity, and cures for deadly diseases. But there is growing concern that technological development has become a juggernaut beyond human control, says Wendell Wallach, a Hastings Center senior advisor.

In his new book, A Dangerous Master: How to Keep Technology from Slipping Beyond Our Control (Basic Books), Wallach examines the science underneath the advances that are shaping our future. Making sense of both the opportunities and the catastrophic hazards in the proliferating fields of artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and radical life extension, he explains what can go wrong, and what we can and should do about it.

Wallach argues that new tools such as 3-D printing, autonomous robots, synthetic organisms, nanomaterials, big data and surveillance, and prenatal genetic diagnosis threaten not only to outpace our understanding but also to disrupt the structure of society – and even threaten humanity.

A Dangerous Masteroffers a nuanced consideration of these fears and answers the question: What responsibility do we have for the technologies we build?  It asks what these technologies are for, what they can do that they are not meant to do, and what it will take not just to control them, but to even begin asking the right questions so that we might be able to control them.

Technology should be about what’s possible and what’s moral, says Wallach, who is a scholar at Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics. He advocates for a deliberative, responsible, and careful process in the development and deployment of innovative technologies.

“Wendell Wallach has done all of us a service,” writes Daniel Callahan, co-founder of The Hastings Center about the book. “He has alerted us in detail, and provocatively, that there are dangers as well as gains in our national romance with innovative technologies. His account of the troubled technology romance is well told, and it is one we need to hear.”