New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future
The most significant crises of our age – climate change, spiralling economic inequality, fundamentalist politics, and information overload – are, for James Bridle, chiefly crises of cognition above all else. While the internet has made the world feel more visible than ever before, our inadequate ability to think this new world has led us into a paradoxical age of darkness, a time in which the knowable becomes ever more distorted by the complex informational systems in which we are fully embedded.
The links Bridle explores between state surveillance, global financial systems, computational thinking, climate change, platform capitalism, and right-wing populism (not to mention the startling, nightmarish world of children’s YouTube) provide little salve next to the scale, complexity and urgency of these issues. However, what New Dark Age does offer is a crucial lens through which we might begin to think the systems we have built, a lens that recognises the legacies of colonial power which emerge through them, and understands that deleting your Facebook is not enough.
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“New Dark Age is among the most unsettling and illuminating books I’ve read about the Internet, which is to say that it is among the most unsettling and illuminating books I’ve read about contemporary life.” – New Yorker
As the world around us increases in technological complexity, our understanding of it diminishes. Underlying this trend is a single idea: the belief that our existence is understandable through computation, and more data is enough to help us build a better world.
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.
In his brilliant new work, leading artist and writer James Bridle surveys the history of art, technology, and information systems, and reveals the dark clouds that gather over our dreams of the digital sublime.
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