How can we use digital technology for the common good?
The key to understanding technology lies not in the future–but in the past. That’s the contention of Lizzie O’Shea’s Future Histories, a grand tour through past and present to explore the practical–and sometimes revolutionary–possibilities of our digital age. Searching for new ways to think about our networked world, O’Shea asks what the Paris Commune can tell us about the ethics of the Internet and finds inspiration in the revolutionary works of Thomas Paine and Frantz Fanon. She examines Elon Musk’s futuristic visions only to find them mired in a musty Victorian-era utopianism. Instead of current-day capitalist visionaries, O’Shea returns us to the Romantic age of wonder, when art and science were as yet undivided, narrating the collaboration between Ada Lovelace–the brilliant daughter of Lord and Lady Byron–and polymath Charles Babbage, who together designed the world’s first computer. In our brave new world of increased surveillance, biased algorithms, and fears of job automation, O’Shea weaves a usable past we can employ in the service of emancipating our digital tomorrows.