This book is a history of the future. It shows how our contemporary understanding of the Internet is shaped by visions of the future that were put together in the 1950s and 1960s.
At the height of the Cold War, the Americans invented the only working model of communism in human history: the Internet. Yet, for all of its libertarian potential, the goal of this hi-tech project was geopolitical dominance: the ownership of time was control over the destiny of humanity. The potentially subversive theory of cybernetics was transformed into the military-friendly project of 'artificial intelligence'. Capitalist growth became the fastest route to the 'information society'. The rest of the world was expected to follow America's path into the networked future.
Today, we're still being told that the Internet is creating the information society - and that America today is everywhere else tomorrow. Thankfully, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the DIY ethic of the Internet shows that people can resist these authoritarian prophecies by shaping information technologies in their own interest. Ultimately, if we don't want the future to be what it used to be, we must invent our own, improved and truly revolutionary future.
Richard Barbrook is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Westminster. He is the author of Media Freedom (Pluto, 1995) and Imaginary Futures (Pluto, 2007).
1. The Future Is What It Used To Be 2. The American Century 3. Cold War Computing 4. The Human Machine 5. Cybernetic Supremacy 6. The Global Village 7. The Cold War Left 8. The Chosen Few 9. Free Workers In The Affluent Society 10. The Prophets Of Post-Industrialism 11. The American Road to Cybernetic Communism 12. The Leader Of The Free World 13. The Great Game 14. The American Invasion Of Vietnam 15. Those Who Forget The Future Are Condemned To Repeat It References Index