Daniel Azuma

Talk notes

Humanity on Rails (RailsConf 2013)


On April 29, 2013, I gave a talk entitled "Humanity on Rails" at RailsConf in Portland, OR. The talk was a brief introduction to the philosophy of technology, targeted toward the Ruby and Rails developer community.

This is a quick bibliography and a set of useful links related to my talk. The philosophy of technology is already a fairly large topic; so this is not an exhaustive list, but more of a selection of resources that I myself happen to be familiar with. Feel free to leave any additions that you think are worthwhile in the comments!

Updated: The video is now available on Confreaks.

Resources related to the talk itself:

Here are a few fairly accessible books that are good for getting started:

  • Albert Borgmann, Holding On To Reality, 1999. This is Borgmann's take on the nature of information and the metaphysics of information technology. It's a relatively quick read for people such as software engineers who are already well-versed in manipulating information, and serves as a useful jumping-off point into more difficult topics.
  • Neil Postman, Technopoly, 1992. Postman is a popular writer who covers some of the same ideas pioneered by thinkers like Ellul.

A selection of the "classics" on philosophy of technology:

Some more recent work of interest.

Books related to engineering and open source:

Books related to faith/spirituality and technology:

A collection of other related work of interest:

  • Martin Buber, I and Thou, 1937. A classic work on the philosophy of relating, comparing relationships of ontological parity and ontological dominance. I've found this a useful foil against the unhealthy kinds of relating privileged by some modern technology, and even an interesting model for relating to technology itself.
  • Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, 1985. Postman discusses the implications of modern mass media, and television in particular, applying McLuhan's ideas to argue that entertainment culture has obliterated human communication.

Groups, lists, blogs, and other online resources:

  • Philosophy in a Time of Software: A mailing list comprising software engineers interested in philosophy. Some great discussion here.
  • Steve Klabnik's blog. Steve is one of a handful of Rubyists actively involved in studying and discussing philosophy and its relationship with engineering.
  • The Digital Society: A Facebook group related to technology and culture, with an additional emphasis on Christian theology. Good source of interesting links.
  • The Wikipedia entry on Philosophy of Technology has a bunch of links and a larger bibliography that may be of some interest.

Organizations, conferences, etc:

Dialogue & Discussion