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Machinations and Manipulations: Bots, Big Data, and the Internet of Things

  • When
  • April 20, 2015
    8:30 a.m.–2:00 p.m. (EDT)
  • Where
  • Open Society Foundations–New York
    224 West 57th Street
    New York, NY 10019
    United States of America

Please join Philip Howard, professor of technology and international affairs at Central European University and the University of Washington, for a discussion of his latest book, Pax Technica: How the Internet of Things May Set Us Free or Lock Us Up.

Should we fear or welcome the internet’s evolution? The latest smart televisions now watch us, and report on our behavior to their manufacturers. If you don’t pay the bills on your car loan, the bank may shut down your car while you are hiking in a park. The latest pacemaker may save your life, but the data on your heartbeats doesn’t belong to you or your doctor. Recently, a refrigerator was caught sending spam. The “internet of things” is made up of device networks–connected objects—eyeglasses, cows, thermostats—with sensors and internet addresses.

Soon we will be fully immersed in a pervasive yet invisible network of everyday objects that communicate with one another. There is lots of evidence that the internet of things will be used to repress and control people. The privacy threats are enormous, as is the potential for social control and political manipulation. Yet we should also imagine a future of global stability built upon device networks with immense potential for empowering citizens, making government transparent, and broadening information access. If we can actively engage with the governments and businesses building the internet of things, we have a chance to build a new kind of internet—and a more open society.


  • Philip N. Howard is a professor of technology and international affairs at Central European University and the University of Washington. He is the author of eight books, including The Managed Citizen and the Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. Howard is a frequent commentator on technology and politics for the national and international media. He blogs at and tweets from @pnhoward.
  • Elizabeth Eagen (moderator) is a program manager with Open Society Information Program.

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