New Dark Age Book Summary - New Dark Age Book explained in key points
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New Dark Age summary

James Bridle

Technology and the End of the Future

4 (92 ratings)
28 mins

Brief summary

New Dark Age by James Bridle warns of the consequences of tech obsession: misinformation, loss of privacy & humanity's detachment from physical reality.

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    New Dark Age
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    Modern computation originated in military attempts to control the weather.

    What do computers have to do with the weather, and what does the weather have to do with the military?

    Well, everything. For decades, devising methods to predict and control the weather was a chief concern for Western armies – and in that project lies the origin of modern computation.

    The first person to make calculations on atmospheric conditions in order to predict the weather was mathematician Lewis Fry Richardson. This was during World War I, when he was volunteering as a first responder on the Western Front.

    Richardson even came up with a thought experiment that could be conceived as the first description of a "computer": he envisioned a pantheon made up of thousands of human mathematicians, each calculating the weather conditions for a particular square of the world, and communicating the results between one another to make further calculations. Such a machine, Richardson dreamed, would be able to accurately predict the weather anywhere, at any moment in time.

    His futuristic idea didn’t come into view again until World War II, when big military research spending spurred the advent of machine computation. The Manhattan Project, a US military research project that led to the creation of the atomic bomb, is closely linked to the development of the first computers. Many of these first computers, such as the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) from 1946, were used to perform automated calculations to simulate the impact of different bombs and missiles under certain weather conditions.

    Often, however, the military origins and purposes of the computers were concealed.

    In 1948, for example, IBM installed its Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator (SSEC) in full view of the public in a shop window in New York. But while the public was told the computer was calculating astronomical positions, it was actually working on a secret program called Hippo – carrying out calculations to simulate hydrogen bomb explosions.

    From the beginning, the complex, hidden workings of computers provided a convenient cloak for obfuscating their actual functions.

    Most of the time, though, they didn’t even carry out their actual functions all that well. The history of computation is full of anecdotes that illustrate how computers’ oversimplified view of the world, their inability to distinguish between reality and simulation, and bad data can have serious consequences for their human users. For example, the US computer network SAGE, which was used to integrate atmospheric and military data during the Cold War, is infamous for its near-fatal bloopers, such as mistaking a flock of migrating birds for an incoming Soviet bomber fleet.

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    What is New Dark Age about?

    New Dark Age (2018) investigates the fundamental paradox of our digital age: as new technologies allow us to gather more and more data on our world, we understand less and less of it. Examining the history, politics and geography of the complex digital network we are enmeshed in, James Bridle sheds new light on the central issues of our time, from climate change to wealth inequality to post-factual politics, and explains how we can live with purpose in an era of uncertainty.

    New Dark Age Review

    New Dark Age (2018) by James Bridle is a thought-provoking exploration of the profound impact technology and the internet have on our society. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Offers a comprehensive analysis of how the interconnected world affects our understanding of knowledge, truth, and power, highlighting the significant issues we face.
    • Investigates the unseen consequences of our reliance on technology, exposing the vulnerabilities and risks that come with our digital infrastructure.
    • Presents a compelling argument for the need to question and actively shape our digital future, encouraging readers to engage with the complex challenges of our time.

    Best quote from New Dark Age

    Complexity is not a condition to be tamed, but a lesson to be learned.

    —James Bridle
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    Who should read New Dark Age?

    • Tech skeptics and tech enthusiasts
    • Critical thinkers fascinated by the geopolitics of our networked world
    • Anyone interested in the silly and profound ways technology shapes our lives

    About the Author

    James Bridle is an artist, publisher, and writer on technology whose work has appeared in the Guardian, Wired, Frieze, Observer, Atlantic and many other publications. New Dark Age is his second book.

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    New Dark Age FAQs 

    What is the main message of New Dark Age?

    New Dark Age explores how technology can both enable and obscure our understanding of the world.

    How long does it take to read New Dark Age?

    The reading time for New Dark Age varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is New Dark Age a good book? Is it worth reading?

    New Dark Age is a thought-provoking read that sheds light on the complexities of our digital age.

    Who is the author of New Dark Age?

    New Dark Age is written by James Bridle.

    What to read after New Dark Age?

    If you're wondering what to read next after New Dark Age, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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