Before reading this book, I thought I had a decent idea of how the world works. Shortly into the first chapter, I realized how little I understood. From networks to blockchains, Greenfield masterfully critiques nine foundational technologies that often invisibly shape our lives. An important book for anyone wanting a thoughtful relationship with the world around them.
A field manual to the technologies that are transforming our lives
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.
We already depend on the smartphone to navigate every aspect of our existence. We’re told that innovations—from augmented-reality interfaces and virtual assistants to autonomous delivery drones and self-driving cars—will make life easier, more convenient and more productive. 3D printing promises unprecedented control over the form and distribution of matter, while the blockchain stands to revolutionize everything from the recording and exchange of value to the way we organize the mundane realities of the day to day. And, all the while, fiendishly complex algorithms are operating quietly in the background, reshaping the economy, transforming the fundamental terms of our politics and even redefining what it means to be human.
Having successfully colonized everyday life, these radical technologies are now conditioning the choices available to us in the years to come. How do they work? What challenges do they present to us, as individuals and societies? Who benefits from their adoption? In answering these questions, Greenfield’s timely guide clarifies the scale and nature of the crisis we now confront —and offers ways to reclaim our stake in the future.
About the Author
Previously a rock critic, bike messenger and psychological operations specialist in the US Army, Adam Greenfield spent over a decade working in the design and development of networked digital information technologies, as lead information architect for the Tokyo office of internet services consultancy Razorfish, Independent User-Experience Designer and Head of Design Direction for Service and User-Interface Design at Nokia headquarters in Helsinki.
Selected in 2013 as Senior Urban Fellow at the LSE Cities centre of the London School of Economics, he has taught in the Urban Design program of the Bartlett, University College London, and in New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. His books include Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing, Urban Computing and Its Discontents, and the bestselling Against the Smart City.
“Adam Greenfield goes digging into the layers that constitute what we experience as smooth tech surface. He unsettles and repositions much of that smoothness. Radical Technologies is brilliant and scary” −Saskia Sassen, Columbia University, author of Expulsions
“We exist within an ever-thickening web of technologies whose workings are increasingly opaque to us. In this illuminating and sometimes deeply disturbing book, Adam Greenfield explores how these systems work, how they synergize with each other, and the resultant effects on our societies, our politics, and our psyches. This is an essential book.” −Brian Eno
“A tremendously intelligent and stylish book on the ‘colonization of everyday life by information processing’ calls for resistance to rule by the tech elite … a landmark primer and spur to more informed and effective opposition.” —Steve Poole, Guardian
“A work of remarkable breadth and legibility that acts as both a technical design guide and a sharp political critique of the networked products that are reshaping society.” —Scot Ludham, The Monthly (Australia)
“Provides a grounded guide, a cautionary tale in which each chapter walks readers through another layer of a dazzling and treacherous landscape.” —Jennifer Howard, Times Literary Supplement
“Of all the books I’ve read this year, one that really stood out was ‘Radical Technologies’ by Adam Greenfield, which describes some of the ways innovation is transforming our daily lives … Change is inevitable. The big question is, How do we retool ourselves? How do we function in this new, utterly transparent world? What are the social consequences of what we are experiencing?” —Indra Nooyi, Wall Street Journal (Books of the Year 2017)
“Does an excellent job of introducing non-specialist readers to some of the game-changing technologies that are transforming our lives and that are set to affect the social, economic, political and cultural evolution of humanity … a very valuable contribution to the discussion about what that future should look like.” —Morning Star
“A systematic analysis of the hazards posed by the most revolutionary of new technologies … his analyses are extremely proficient at uncovering the risks and contradictions that our enthusiasm for new technology has occluded … a vital counter-statement to such pervasive utopianism.” —Public Seminar
“Fascinating and scary … [Adam Greenfield] is very well informed about a whole host of technologies that we hear a lot about but (if you’re like me) have a hard time grasping. He’s a graceful writer, so even when he’s angry he’s eloquent without relying on emotional cues or nostalgia. More importantly, he thinks new technologies have a lot of potential—but if we fail to pay attention, all of its benefits will reinforce current power structures. What they call ‘innovation’ now that ‘progress’ has gone out of style is the entrenchment of power and wealth.” —Barbara Fister, Inside Higher Education