Let Them Eat Data
How Computers Affect Education, Cultural Diversity, and the Prospects of Ecological Sustainability

C. A. Bowers

What business, the media, and even our teachers are not telling us about global computing


"Bowers provides us with a lucid analysis of how computer-enforced cultural patterns contribute to the global ecological crisis and suggests alternative ways of integrating computers into education. I highly recommend this book to all who are concerned about creating sustainable futures."
—Fritjof Capra, author of The Web of Life

"Let Them Eat Data is one of the most substantial and compelling works of technology criticism yet. This book might just rescue education from the moral sterility and ecological illiteracy of cyber-mindedness. A vital read. Pass it on."
—Stephanie Mills, author of In Service of the Wild

"Once again, C. A. Bowers has provided an important, profound, and disturbing critique, this time of computer technology. We cannot afford the luxury of ducking the questions and implications he raises because they go to the heart of the cyberworld, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence that are pressing into our lives. Bowers made me ponder what life is all about and why the inevitability and unalloyed benefits of the technology are so uncritically adopted. This book is certain to make tangible the discomfort many feel with new and rapidly changing technology and to infuriate the believers and profitmakers from the same technology."
—David Suzuki

"Bowers's original and highly insightful discussion of the forms of knowledge, relationships, and skills that cannot be communicated through computers alerts us to the dangers of letting technologists determine the future direction of education, communities, and our cultural identities. Parents, citizens, activists, and academics will find Let Them Eat Data a vital antidote to the techno-optimism that now dominates the media and public decision making."
—Richard E. Sclove, author of Democracy and Technology

"Bowers' probing and nuanced critique provides a much-needed catalyst for serious debate about the state of the planet now and in the near future."

"Essential reading if we are to begin democratizing technological decisions, conserving true cultural diversity and intergenerational forms of knowledge, and living within the limits and possibilities of the Earth's natural systems."
International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

"Bowers makes his ideas concrete though a critical analysis of three popular computer programs commonly used in public schools nationwide. . . . In a field where the prevailing attitude toward students is 'let them eat data,' Bowers gives teachers food for thought."
Radical Teacher

"Bowers forcefully dismisses the views of those who claim that talk of an ecological crisis is but a liberal ruse used to control the lives of others. . . . Let Them Eat Data is a welcome relief from the hubris exhibited by such digital devotees as Bill Gates, who unabashedly proclaim computers to be an Open Sesame to a brighter future for all mankind."
—Gard Binney, The Ecologist

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Do computers foster cultural diversity? Ecological sustainability? In our age of high-tech euphoria we seem content to leave tough questions like these to the experts. That dangerous inclination is at the heart of this important examination of the commercial and educational trends that have left us so uncritically optimistic about global computing.

Contrary to the attitudes that have been marketed and taught to us, says C. A. Bowers, the fact is that computers operate on a set of Western cultural assumptions and a market economy that drives consumption. Our indoctrination includes the view of global computing innovations as inevitable and on a par with social progress—a perspective dismayingly suggestive of the mindset that engendered the vast cultural and ecological disruptions of the industrial revolution and world colonialism.

In Let Them Eat Data Bowers discusses important issues that have fallen into the gap between our perceptions and the realities of global computing, including the misuse of the theory of evolution to justify and legitimate the global spread of computers, and the ecological and cultural implications of unmooring knowledge from its local contexts as it is digitized, commodified, and packaged for global consumption. He also suggests ways that educators can help us think more critically about technology.

Let Them Eat Data is essential reading if we are to begin democratizing technological decisions, conserving true cultural diversity and intergenerational forms of knowledge, and living within the limits and possibilities of the earth’s natural systems.

Page count: 224 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


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C. A. Bowers has served on the faculty of the University of Oregon and Portland State University. He is the author of several books that examine the connections between education, culture, and the environmental crisis, including Let Them Eat Data, Educating for Eco-Jutice and Community, (both Georgia), Educating for an Ecologically Sustainable Culture, and The Culture of Denial.