Everywhere we turn, a startling new device promises to transfigure our lives. But at what cost? In this urgent and revelatory excavation of our Information Age, leading technology thinker Adam Greenfield forces us to reconsider our relationship with the networked objects, services and spaces that define us. It is time to re-evaluate the Silicon Valley consensus determining the future.
In reality, we are lost in a sea of information, increasingly divided by fundamentalism, simplistic narratives, conspiracy theories, and post-factual politics. Meanwhile, those in power use our lack of understanding to further their own interests. Despite the apparent accessibility of information, we’re living in a new Dark Age. From rogue financial systems to shopping algorithms, from artificial intelligence to state secrecy, we no longer understand how our world is governed or presented to us. The media is filled with unverifiable speculation, much of it generated by anonymous software, while companies dominate their employees through surveillance and the threat of automation.
Radical advances in automation, robotics, and computer technology have thrown millions out of work and will only continue to do so in the years to come. At the same time, cheap, individually-accessible machines will wrestle for primacy with both gleaming highly-automated factories and sweatshops alike, ultimately eroding the dominance of industrial production. Economic growth is slowing down, and it is not going to speed up again. The pressures fueling today’s global unrest will not go away and are only going to get worse as wages stagnate in many countries, solid employment becomes harder to find, and cuts to social benefits continue.