Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age

By Brad Smith and Carol Ann Browne Foreword by Bill Gates

A narrative told from the cockpit of one of the world’s largest tech companies as it finds itself in the middle of the thorniest issues of our time. Published in the U.S. and Canada by Penguin Press, and an instant New York Times Best Seller.


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About the book

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.

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 fast pace of innovation.

These are challenges that come with no pre-existing playbook, including privacy, cybercrime and cyberwar, social media, the moral conundrums of AI, big tech’s relationship to inequality and the challenges for democracy, far and near.

While in no way a self-glorifying “Microsoft memoir,” the book opens up 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 to communities and countries, and Brad Smith provides a thoughtful and urgent contribution to that effort.


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As Brad and Carol Ann explore the biggest issues of our time, hear from some of the people around the world who have helped inform their work.

Berlin, Germany

Lessons on Protecting Privacy

PRIVACY: A Fundamental Human Right
Hans-Jochen Schneidler went to the former East German prison where he was incarcerated in 1968 to showcase a powerful lesson in privacy

Coupvray, France

Louis Braille and Today’s AI Innovators

AI AND ETHICS: Don’t Ask What Computers Can Do, Ask what They Should Do
Technology must work for everyone. Louis Braille’s childhood home tells the story of how a code opened the world for millions of people with visual impairments.

London, UK

The Human Cost of Cyberattacks

CYBERSECURITY: The Wake-up Call for the World
In 2017, two large-scale cyberattacks, called WannaCry and NotPetya, disrupted the world. People like Patrick Ward tell the human costs of cyber warfare.

Bellevue, Washington State

The Voices Behind Microsoft’s Affordable Housing Initiative

THE TALENT GAP: The People Side of Technology
While the growing tech industry brings economic growth, it comes with a cost. First responders, teachers, and police in Washington state talk about how the lack of affordable housing impacts their daily lives.

What people are saying

Praise for Tools and Weapons

A clear, compelling guide to some of the most pressing debates in technology today.

— Bill Gates

Brad Smith has emerged as a vocal and principled thought leader addressing how technology can either help uphold or undermine human rights. As digital technology continues to proliferate, these issues will only grow in importance and command more of the world’s attention.

— Amal Clooney, international human rights lawyer and co-founder and president, Clooney Foundation for Justice

This is 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, bestselling author of The Innovators and Steve Jobs

About the authors

Brad Smith

As Microsoft’s president, Brad leads a team of more than 1,400 business, legal and corporate affairs professionals working in 56 countries. He plays a key role in spearheading the company’s work on critical issues involving the intersection of technology and society, including cybersecurity, privacy, artificial intelligence, human rights, immigration, philanthropy and environmental sustainability. The Australian Financial Review has described Smith as “one of the technology industry’s most respected figures,” and The New York Times has called him “a de facto ambassador for the technology industry at large.”

Carol Ann Browne
General Manager, Chief of Staff and Executive Communications

Carol Ann Browne is a General Manager, Chief of Staff and Executive Communications at Microsoft. She joined Microsoft in 2010 and is an experienced communicator with a broad background in writing, video, multimedia, and social media work. Browne and Smith have collaborated on a wide variety of content, including their Today in Technology blog series.