Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology


  • Kentaro Toyama University of Michigan; School of Information



well-being, mindfulness, digital tools


Kentaro Toyama was a self-described ââ¬Åtechnoholicââ¬Â and award-winning computer scientist whose research paved the way for cutting-edge products like Microsoftââ¬â¢s Kinect. In 2004, he co-founded Microsoft Research India, and he set his mind to design electronic inventions to improve education, agriculture, health care, and governance in the developing worldââ¬â¢s poorest communities. What Toyama experienced in India, though, shook his faith in technology.à

At a school outside Bangalore, Toyama saw computers locked away in a dusty cabinet because teachers didnââ¬â¢t know what to do with them. Mobile-phone projects to disseminate health information routinely failed. ââ¬ÅTelecentersââ¬Â intended to teach rural farmers better agriculture devolved into places for sleazy web surfing. Meanwhile back in the United States, Silicon Valley executives who evangelize novel technologies at work sent their children to Waldorf schools that ban electronics. And, four decades of incredible innovation have done nothing to turn the tide of increasing poverty and inequality. Why then, do we keep hoping that technology will solve our greatest social challenges? In this talk, Toyama inoculates us against the rhetoric of digital utopians and reinvigorates us with a genuinely human paradigm for social change. A heretic among technologists, Toyama is uniquely able to reveal why social progress depends on human changes that gadgets just canââ¬â¢t deliver. He provides a fierce critique and a heartwarming reminder that itââ¬â¢s human wisdom, not machines, that move our world forward.à

Author Biography

Kentaro Toyama, University of Michigan; School of Information

Kentaro Toyama is W.K. Kellogg Associate Professor of Community Information at the University of Michigan, a fellow of the Dalai Lama CEnter for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT, and author of the Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology.






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