Your Computer Is on Fire

Techno-utopianism is dead: Now is the time to pay attention to the inequality, marginalization, and biases woven into our technological systems.

This book sounds an alarm: after decades of being lulled into complacency by narratives of technological utopianism and neutrality, people are waking up to the large-scale consequences of Silicon Valley–led technophilia. This book trains a spotlight on the inequality, marginalization, and biases in our technological systems, showing how they are not just minor bugs to be patched, but part and parcel of ideas that assume technology can fix—and control—society.

The essays in Your Computer Is on Fire interrogate how our human and computational infrastructures overlap, showing why technologies that centralize power tend to weaken democracy. These practices are often kept out of sight until it is too late to question the costs of how they shape society. From energy-hungry server farms to racist and sexist algorithms, the digital is always IRL, with everything that happens algorithmically or online influencing our offline lives as well. Each essay proposes paths for action to understand and solve technological problems that are often ignored or misunderstood.

Praises for the book

“The collection of impactful tech issues interrogated over the span of decades in this book makes it recommended reading for anyone interested in the impact of tech policy in businesses and governments, as well as people deploying AI or interested in the way people shape technology.”

Khari Johnson VentureBeat

“Technology is so embedded in our lives that we can sometimes forget it is there at all. Your Computer is on Fire is a vital reminder not only of its presence, but that we urgently need to extinguish the problems associated with it.”

New Scientist

“The book tech critics and organizers have been waiting for.”

Los Angeles Review of Books

“An all-star collection of readable and complex stories, all aimed at ensuring the naive view of neutral technology gets buried and, please, left in the past.”

Public Books


Thomas S. Mullaney

Thomas S. Mullaney is a Professor of History at Stanford University and the author of Coming to Terms with the Nation: Ethnic Classification in Modern China and The Chinese Typewriter.

Benjamin Peters

Benjamin Peters is Hazel Rogers Associate Professor and Chair of Media Studies at the University of Tulsa and the author of How Not to Network a Nation (MIT Press).

Mar Hicks

Mar Hicks is an Associate Professor of History at Illinois Institute of Technology and the author of Programmed Inequality (MIT Press).

Kavita Philip

Kavita Philip is President’s Excellence Chair in Network Cultures at the University of British Columbia and the author of Civilizing Natures.



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