Geek Heresy

Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology

Popular wisdom holds that technology can help the developing world make great strides, whether it’s by facilitating education, helping with access to water, or delivering much-needed medication. But Kentaro Toyama, W. K. Kellogg Associate Professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information and co-founder of Microsoft Research India, argues in a new book that believing technology is the key to fixing these problems is wrong-headed, and can have damaging results.

GEEK HERESY: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology is about "how a misunderstanding about technology's role in society has infected us and how it confuses our attempts to address the world's persistent social problems," Toyama writes. He asks why we keep hoping that technology will solve our greatest social challenges; four decades of incredible innovation have done nothing to turn the tide of increasing poverty and inequality. There is another, more important element present in cultures that use technology successfully to enact social change, he argues: there is no substitute for the heart, mind, and will of dedicated and caring human beings.

Drawing on his own experiences, those of others in the developing world, and the latest research, Toyama argues that technology’s great effect is to amplify human intention. If someone wants to learn or change, tech will help them. If not, tech will fall flat. Using dozens of case studies, Toyama shows again and again that the success of tech in the developing world rests on having a passionate, knowledgeable, and determined partner to bring the tech to life for others. Join New America and Kentaro Toyama for a critical reflection on the role of technology in social change.

Copies of the book will be available for sale at the event.

Follow the discussion online using #GeekHeresy and follow us @NewAmerica.


Kentaro Toyama
Author, GEEK HERESY: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology
W.K. Kellogg Associate Professor of Community Information,
School of Information, University of Michigan
Fellow, Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT


Ryan Gerety
Senior Field Analyst, Open Technology Institute, New America