Tools and Weapons

The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age
Length: 11 hrs and 11 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (217 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The instant New York Times best seller

From Microsoft's president and one of the tech industry's broadest thinkers, a frank and thoughtful reckoning with how to balance enormous promise and existential risk as the digitization of everything accelerates.

"A colorful and insightful insiders’ view of how technology is both empowering us and threatening us. From privacy to cyberattacks, this timely book is a useful guide for how to navigate the digital future." (Walter Isaacson)

Microsoft President Brad Smith operates by a simple core belief: When your technology changes the world, you bear a responsibility to help address the world you have helped create. This might seem uncontroversial, but it flies in the face of a tech sector long obsessed with rapid growth and sometimes on disruption as an end in itself. While sweeping digital transformation holds great promise, we have reached an inflection point. The world has turned information technology into both a powerful tool and a formidable weapon, and new approaches are needed to manage an era defined by even more powerful inventions like artificial intelligence. Companies that create technology must accept greater responsibility for the future, and governments will need to regulate technology by moving faster and catching up with the pace of innovation.

In Tools and Weapons, Brad Smith and Carol Ann Browne bring us a captivating narrative from the cockpit of one of the world's largest and most powerful tech companies as it finds itself in the middle of some of the thorniest emerging issues of our time. These are challenges that come with no pre-existing playbook, including privacy, cybercrime and cyberwar, social media, the moral conundrums of artificial intelligence, big tech's relationship to inequality, and the challenges for democracy, far and near. While in no way a self-glorifying "Microsoft memoir", the audiobook pulls back the curtain remarkably wide onto some of the company's most crucial recent decision points as it strives to protect the hopes technology offers against the very real threats it also presents. There are huge ramifications for communities and countries, and Brad Smith provides a thoughtful and urgent contribution to that effort.

©2019 Brad Smith, Carol Ann Browne, Bill Gates (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"A clear, compelling guide to some of the most pressing debates in technology today." (Bill Gates, from the foreword)

"'When your technology changes the world,' writes Smith, 'you bear a responsibility to help address the world you have helped create.' In Tools and Weapons, Smith and co-author Carol Ann Browne make a persuasive, pragmatic case for owning that responsibility, in everything from digital privacy and surveillance to cybersecurity and social fragmentation to artificial intelligence and facial-recognition technology." (Seattle Times)

"Casual readers who know Microsoft primarily for Windows, Office and maybe Xbox will be surprised by the level of insight Smith brings to some of the biggest issues facing not just the industry but humanity. [Tools and Weapons] is written for a mass market, not just tech and policy wonks. It offers a framework for everyday readers to understand and think about the implications of powerful new forms of technology.... It’s full of behind-the-scenes anecdotes, from internal Microsoft meetings to high-level sessions at the Obama and Trump White Houses. It makes ample use of historical references to put modern trends and technologies in context." (GeekWire)

What listeners say about Tools and Weapons

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Informative and Relevant

For anyone that is in business, investment or technology, I recommend listening to this book. It is very informative and addresses current issues. Despite a small portion content that was based on opinion, I definitely gained some understanding by listening to this book.

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Informative, not captivating. Not about technology

Whether you know everything or nothing about the technologies this book speaks of, the book itself will teach you nothing on that.
The book is about technology's interactions with business, law and government. Which is what you can expect given its authors.
The storytelling isn't one bit captivating. This is more a long factual account of legal issues around technology, told from a very specific Microsoft executive perspective.
Having finished it with considerable effort, I'm not sure what my takeaway from it is, if there is one.
The facts are interesting to learn though, due to the unique insider perspective that's hard to find elsewhere.

1 person found this helpful

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Learn more

A good read to learn about the future. It is worth your time to the idea brought forward.

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Excellent Book On The Cutting Edge

This is an important book for technology leaders and world leaders alike. It is the “Inconvenient Truth” of the AI era, and a sobering call to action for all who care about the future of humanity.

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eye opening details about the tech world

this was a great behind the scenes view of the challenges within the digital age. I enjoyed reading about the ins and outside of washington and AI .

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Educational, though a MSFT puff piece

I respect the challenge in pulling something like this together given the thorny, politically charged topics that are raised. That said, references to Letters from a Birmingham Jail may be a step too far.

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A glimpse from where we come to where we go

Past and future perspectives from a former legal Microsoft employee, nice reading good executed book!

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Reseña de la historia reciente de la tecnología

Brad plasma los momentos más trascendentes de la historia reciente de las empresas del ramo tecnológico, hace enfasis en las discusiones más trascendentes y reflexiona constantemente entre la dualidad herramienta a favor del desarrollo o arma en contra de la humanidad.

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Too Much Microsoft

The first few chapters were very good concerning digital security and privacy, but then the book veered into what can best be described as the author's anecdotes about working at Microsoft and the challenges it faces regarding marketing in China and coexisting peacefully with the cities that hosts its offices and data centers. And hearing him refer to the Microsoft CEO by name dozens upon dozens of times became annoying in the extreme.

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Facts are good, writing... meh

A good history of MS challenges and information on the cyber policies. But the attempts of descriptive writing seemed sophomoric and left me wanting to stop reading. The facts kept me going.