Freedom to Think: The Long Struggle to Liberate our Minds

A Financial Times and Daily Telegraph Book of the Year 2022, Shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Christopher Bland Prize 2023.

Without a moment’s pause, we share our most intimate thoughts with trillion-dollar tech companies. Their algorithms categorize us and jump to troubling conclusions about who we are. They also shape our everyday thoughts, choices and actions – from who we date to whether we vote. But this is just the latest front in an age-old struggle.

Part history and part manifesto, Freedom to Think explores how the powerful have always sought to influence how we think and what we buy. Connecting the dots from Galileo to Alexa, human rights lawyer Susie Alegre charts the history and fragility of our most important human right: freedom of thought.

Filled with shocking case-studies across politics, criminal justice, and everyday life, this ground-breaking book shows how our mental freedom is under threat like never before. Bold and radical, Alegre argues that only by recasting our human rights for the digital age can we safeguard our future.

Available to buy now: Freedom To Think(freedomtothinkbook) – Official – Linktree


Spanish Language Version: Libertad de pensamiento. La larga lucha por liberar nuestra mente – Akal

US and Canada Out 7 July 2022 – Available to Pre-order

Reviews of Freedom To Think:

Fascinating… We have all sleepwalked into this gloomy fairytale, and it’s time to wake up. ― Guardian (Book of the Day- read full review)

Freedom to Think could not be more timely… As the world experiences yet another brutal reminder of how far authoritarians will go to control and suppress their populations, [Alegre’s] recommendations feel freshly relevant. ― Financial Times (Read full review here)

Freedom to Think is an effective wake-up call for those unaware of the scale of efforts to restrict and control our thoughts. ― Engineering & Technology (Read full review here)

Profoundly essential and deeply engaging. If freedom of thought and the very possibility of a free society are to survive the digital century, then we urgently need the rights and laws that will make it so. Thankfully, Alegre stands with us to lead and light the way, beginning with her compelling, powerful, and necessary book. ― Shoshana Zuboff, author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

A brilliant, accessible book by a brilliant lawyer. Freedom of thought is a fundamental human right and Susie Alegre powerfully argues that it needs to be harnessed now. ― Helena Kennedy QC, author of Eve was Framed

Freedom to Think identifies and then fills a gaping hole in how we consider the world. It is a book that will shake and refresh, but ultimately leave you more hopeful about the future. ― Alison Goldsworthy, CEO of The Depolarization Project and author of Poles Apart

Engaging and entertaining. A call to action on one of the most pressing issues of our time. ― Jennifer Robinson, leading human rights lawyer

Alegre asks a provocative and original question as we struggle to understand and react to our increasingly technologized world: are we losing our freedom of thought? Her ideas are much needed. ― David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect

A thoughtful and engaging book: profound, moving, and even funny. ― Johnny Ryan, leading privacy campaigner

In the absence of adequate scrutiny or accountability, technology has developed to undermine the keystone for human dignity: the right to freedom of thought. In this timely and pioneering book Alegre contributes a sorely needed vision for how we may protect a “forgotten freedom” and collectively avert an Orwellian future. This book is an insightful and urgent wake-up call. ― Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

Powerful and persuasive. This important, finely written book explains why we must protect that most fundamental of our freedoms at a time when it is in danger of being overborne by profit-making propaganda, fake news and hate-fuelled social media. ― Geoffrey Robertson QC, founder of Doughty Street Chambers

Freedom of Thought

The right to freedom of thought is fundamental to our humanity. Without it, there can be no innovation in the arts or in science and there can be no democracy. Technology touches every aspect of our lives and societies, from politics to love and everything in between. Increasingly it seeks to get inside our minds, drawing inferences about how we think and feel and trying to influence our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. But we need to think carefully about what those developments might mean for our right to freedom of thought.

Freedom of thought is protected absolutely in international human rights law. This means that, if an activity interferes with our right to think for ourselves inside our heads (the so-called “forum internum”) it can never be justified for any reason. The right includes three elements:

  • the right to keep our thoughts private
  • the right to keep our thoughts free from manipulation, and
  • the right not to be penalised for our thoughts.

All three are affected by developments in science, technology and artificial intelligence. Freedom of thought is the key to what it means to be human. It needs to be at the heart of business strategy as well as governmental and international policy and regulation around technology.

My work in this field brings together my philosophical and legal knowledge to plot a pathway that allows the right to freedom of thought and the future of technological development to be mutually supportive.

I provide thought leadership, strategic advice and analysis about the right to freedom of thought and technology in a wide range of contexts including business, artificial intelligence, politics, children’s rights, education, public sector, culture, media and more.

Thanks to the Freedom App for giving me the space to think. Download to block time-wasting apps and websites on your devices here.

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