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"Are digital technologies making politics impossible?" by James Williams

Updated: Feb 4, 2020

Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Persuasion in the Attention Economy is the ‘landmark book’ (Observer) by James Williams was the inaugural entry for the 2017 Nine Dots Prize, answering the question ‘Are digital technologies making politics impossible?’

The book argues that digital technologies are making all forms of politics worth having impossible as they privilege our impulses over our intentions and are ‘designed to exploit our psychological vulnerabilities in order to direct us toward goals that may or may not align with our own’.

As a former Google strategist, where he received the Founders’ Award - the company’s highest honour - for his work on advertising products and tools, James is well placed to raise concerns about how the rapid developments in technology are outpacing policies designed to protect users’ wellbeing. Stand Out of Our Light does not call for the halting of technological advancement or use but for a type of Hippocratic Oath geared towards technology design having greater respect for users’ attention, goals and values.

Stand Out of Our Light has made waves, worldwide, in bringing attention economy to the forefront of people’s minds in relation to the use of technology in our everyday lives. Earlier this year, James spoke about the themes of his book at the World Education Forum to education ministers and policy makers from around the globe, with the goal of helping attendees develop education policy for implementation, impact and exponential success.

Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber recently selected Stand Out of Our Light for the 2019 pre-read to introduce the incoming freshmen to intellectual life. The title was selected to inspire students, faculty, and staff to discuss and debate the ways in which this digital landscape is affecting our ability to shape our identities, lives, and societies. The Nine Dots Prize is a biennial competition seeking to reward original thinking in response to contemporary societal issues.


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