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

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  128 ratings  ·  23 reviews
A highly engaging tour through progressive history in the service of emancipating our digital tomorrow.

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 lo
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Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 14th 2019 by Verso Books (first published 2019)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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Wendy Liu
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thoughtful, accessible, and well-researched, bringing together a wide variety of ideas for how digital technology could be managed to serve people, not profit. Recommended for anyone who is sick of Silicon Valley's propaganda.

(This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.)
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Libertie
May 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book grabbed me with it's subtitular promise to connect digital technology and radical histories including the Paris Commune, a short lived but influential experiment with anarchism in 1871. The author skillfully critiques the enclosure of the digital commons by corporations and billionaire "thought leaders," whose vision for technological utopia is found to be equal parts naive and disingenuous.

"Some of the people lauded as being the most visionary in our society end up having some of the
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Siobhan
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't tend to review the tech/politics/philosophy books I read, but Future Histories is an interesting look at how a collective digital future could be possible by looking at past and present thought, commons, and communes. ...more
Jessica Dai
Apr 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A really refreshing approach; each chapter is an application of a historical event or critical/cultural theory to a current issue regarding technology and justice. Some of the tech examples were familiar to me (as in every tech x society work tends to cite the same case studies), but I'm sure a theory person reading this would feel the same about Freud and Fanon.

It's hard to pick a favorite chapter, but I especially liked the chapters on:
- Fanon, privacy, and digital self-determination
- Indigen
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Kevin Doyle
"We are facing a future in which some of the best technological developments are made in relation to warfare or commerce rather than freedom and empowerment. Digital technology has become a machinery for producing billionaires rather than lives of dignity for the billions."

The above quote from near the end of Future Histories, in a sense, captures the ambitions of this book which is both a refreshing and hugely illuminating read. Given how central new social media led technologies are becoming i
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Kimee
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Patio Shipping
Jan 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant, far reaching book about our history, our present and our future. Its kind of historical-soft-si-(non-)fi, if you get me.
Viola
Those we once called ‘unskilled’ are key workers

The labour we really need

Suddenly what used to be classed as unskilled labour has proved in our global emergency to be crucial to modern life; truck drivers, shelf stackers, Amazon warehouse workers are now respected as key workers.
by Lizzie O’Shea

https://mondediplo.com/2020/05/12usa

Working life for a lot of Americans starts at McDonald’s. Former Republican House speaker Paul Ryan claimed flipping burgers was central to his understanding of the Am
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Tristan Kennedy
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There exists a persistent assumption that the Internet, social media platforms, and our various daily engagements with digital technology are virtual and therefore disparate from real life. O’Shea challenges this assumption by pointing out the many explicit connections between turning points in (mostly) Western history and draws stark parallels with the daily incorporation of digital technology and associated legislation, terms and conditions into our lives. The technology is evolving rapidly, b ...more
Deane Barker
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have no idea why I bought this book. Honestly, I don't even remember buying it.

The book is a ... call (?) to a new future. I think the title refers to events in the past that resemble current events, or how our future should turn out. I know that sounds confusing.

However, I can't categorize the book other than a manifesto for how the world SHOULD be, according to the author. It's very much a call to socialism, or at least a more socialistic society than the one we have now. The author is very
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Steph
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Holy moly the ambition of this book is staggering and Lizzie O’Shea is possibly a genius. There’s no tweaking around the edges here, this is full-blown revolution. It’s digital Marxism for a 21st century audience, but better in that Marx tended to make unsubstantiated claims willy-nilly whereas O’Shea’s arguments are structured and well-researched, but still very novel (at least for me).

Is it impolite to ask why all these revolutionary ideas are coming from someone who seemingly has no backgroun
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Gabe
Jul 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
required reading for anyone interested in current debates of technocracy, mass surveillance, algorithmic control, and its impacts on our identity, health, and democracy. a beautiful and accessible companion to Zuboff's The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, Benjamin's Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, and many others broaching the topic of our current surveillance state. (oh, the irony of posting this review on ...more
Jack Whiteroad
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Future Histories is a thought provoking and well researched book about history and technology. It provides a highly original introduction to the key issues in digital technology such as privacy, automation and social media. It does so by drawing heavily on the past, weaving together fascinating histories of computing, social movements (such as the eight-hour-work day), biographies of pioneers like Ada Lovelace and more. The book throws down the gauntlet, challenging us to draw on the lessons of ...more
Clare S-B
I listened to this as an Audiobook and the style of writing plus narration made it very boring to listen to but despite that I am still glad I read it. I certainly didn't agree with the basis of some thoughts, especially when they were following from something like that humans are basically good. But otherwise they were very interesting and sometimes quite eye opening about where technology has come from and been and where it could be going.

It is a thought provoking and seemingly well researche
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Halvor Harnæs
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Et fascinerende prosjekt der forfatteren viser hvordan vi kan bruke historien til å forstå viktige aspekter ved dagens digitale hverdag. Hvordan kan vi lære av tidligere hendelser for å gjøre gode valg i dag. Hun argumenterer for hvorfor internett må være tilgjengelig for alle og at informasjon også stort sett må være åpen for alle for vårt felles beste.
Patrick
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great book that goes into the failure of technology capitalism and suggests concrete steps to take to use taxpayer funded and developed technology for the benefit of humanity as a whole instead of lining the pockets of corporations who profit off our personal data. Very timely read that I would recommend to anyone who is looking for fresh opinions on political philosophy.
Dan
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unwieldy subtitle aside, this is an absolutely marvelous work of radical theory applied to some of the most urgent questions related to power and transformative movements in the digital age. O’Shea is a gifted writer whose lively and accessible prose is fun to read, only rarely belaboring a theoretical point or extending a descriptive case study or historical analogy beyond its welcome.
Emily
May 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book tied current tech trends with historical precedents so well! especially appreciated the connections + explicit mentions to the labor movement. feel like this (or similar scholarship) should be required for all compsci majors but unfortunately we are very far from that reality :(
Katy
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recommended
Underlined and dog-eared so many pages! Really cool and persuasive stories and arguments for a digital commons and the future of technology. At first I thought "meh I'm not tech-oriented I don't know if I'll get into this" and then it hooked me! Accessible and thought-provoking. ...more
guille
Oct 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
"it will be a future of [...] robots that eat the rich and socialized cows– wandering freely in our imaginations and our cyberspace" ...more
Taodhg Burns
Of course the real question is what is our purpose for the technology
Sølvi Goard
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ada Lovelace - creativity and diversity of experience are essential for developing meaningful technology.
Self determination of online doppelganger.
Shell
Oct 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was good! A spooky shakedown of the ways in which technology capitalism is hurting the world & relations to past revolutions that could point the way towards a collectivized digital future.
Natalia
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