Future Histories: What Ada Lovelace, Tom Paine, and the Paris Commune Can Teach Us About Digital Technology

  • 11h 48m 40s
  • Lizzie O'Shea
  • Recorded Books, Inc.
  • 2019

When we talk about technology we always talk about tomorrow and the future - which makes it hard to figure out how to even get there. In Future Histories, public interest lawyer and digital specialist Lizzie O'Shea argues that we need to stop looking forward and start looking backwards. Weaving together histories of computing and progressive social movements with modern theories of the mind, society, and self, O'Shea constructs a "usable past" that can help us determine our digital future.

What, she asks, can the Paris Commune tell us about earlier experiments in sharing resources - like the internet - in common? How can Frantz Fanon's theories of anti-colonial self-determination help us build a digital world in which everyone can participate equally? Can debates over equal digital access be helped by American revolutionary Tom Paine's theories of democratic, economic redistribution? What can indigenous land struggles teach us about stewarding our digital climate? And, how is Elon Musk not a future visionary but a steampunk throwback to Victorian-era technological utopians?

In engaging, sparkling prose, O'Shea shows us how very human our understanding of technology is, and how when we draw on the resources of the past, we can see the potential for struggle, for liberation, for art, and poetry in our technological present.

In this Audiobook

  • 1. We Need a Usable Past for a Democratic Future: A Spanish Prince's Automaton and an American Novelist's Living History
  • 2. An Internet Built Around Consumption is a Bad Place to Live: Cityscapes, as Imagined by Sigmund Freud and Jane Jacobs
  • 3. Digital Surveillance Cannot Make Us Safe: Policing Bodies and Time on London's Docks
  • 4. Technology is as Biased as its Makers: Exploding Cars, Racist Algorithms, and Design Beholden to the Bottom Line
  • 5. Technological Utopianism is Dangerous: The Tech Billionaires Have Nothing on the Paris Commune
  • 6. Collaborative Work is Liberating and Effective: Poetical Philosophy, from Lovelace to Linux
  • 7. Digital Citizenship is a Collective Endeavor: Tom Paine's Revolutionary Idea of Public Participation
  • 8. Automation Can Mean Less Work and More Living: Downing Tools So We Can Build Robots to Eat the Rich
  • 9. We Need Digital Self-Determination, Not Just Privacy: Frantz Fanon Theorizes Freedom
  • 10. The Digital World is an Environment That Needs to Be Cared for: Ancient Forms of Governance Hold Relevance for Modern Infrastructure
  • 11. Protect the Digital Commons! Socialize the Cows