Future Histories

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

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How can we use digital technology for the common good?
Shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Literary Award, Australia

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.

Reviews

  • "There has never been a better time to pull the politics of platform capitalism into the foreground where it belongs. Lizzie O’Shea brings a hacker’s curiosity, a historian’s reach and a lawyer’s precision to bear on our digitally saturated present, emerging with a compelling argument that a better world is there for the taking. "

    Scott Ludlam
  • A potent, timely, and unrepentantly radical reminder of history’s creative potential. Lizzie O’Shea’s Future Histories should be required reading for anyone planning on surviving—and even repairing—our grim technological moment.

    Claire L. Evans
  • There has never been a better time to pull the politics of platform capitalism into the foreground where they belong. Lizzie O'Shea brings a hacker's curiosity, a historian's reach, and a lawyer's precision to bear on our digitally saturated present, emerging with a compelling argument that a better world is there for the taking.

    Scott Ludlam, Australian Greensendorsement