From Gutenberg to Google: The History of Our Future

Brookings Institution Press
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Network revolutions of the past have shaped the present and set the stage for the revolution we are experiencing today

In an era of seemingly instant change, it's easy to think that today's revolutions—in communications, business, and many areas of daily life—are unprecedented. Today's changes may be new and may be happening faster than ever before. But our ancestors at times were just as bewildered by rapid upheavals in what we now call “networks”—the physical links that bind any society together.

In this fascinating book, former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler brings to life the two great network revolutions of the past and uses them to help put in perspective the confusion, uncertainty, and even excitement most people face today. The first big network revolution was the invention of movable-type printing in the fifteenth century. This book, its millions of predecessors, and even such broad trends as the Reformation, the Renaissance, and the multiple scientific revolutions of the past 500 years would not have been possible without that one invention. The second revolution came with the invention of the telegraph early in the nineteenth century. Never before had people been able to communicate over long distances faster than a horse could travel. Along with the development of the world's first high-speed network—the railroad—the telegraph upended centuries of stability and literally redrew the map of the world.

Wheeler puts these past revolutions into the perspective of today, when rapid-fire changes in networking are upending the nature of work, personal privacy, education, the media, and nearly every other aspect of modern life. But he doesn't leave it there. Outlining “What's Next,” he describes how artificial intelligence, virtual reality, blockchain, and the need for cybersecurity are laying the foundation for a third network revolution.

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About the author

Before he became chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in 2013, Tom Wheeler started or helped found several companies offering new cable, wireless, and video communications services. A visiting fellow at Brookings, his previous books include Take Command: Leadership Lessons from the Civil War (Doubleday, 2000) and Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: The Untold Story of how Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War (Harper Collins, 2006).

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Feb 26, 2019
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Pages
302
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ISBN
9780815735335
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Language
English
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Genres
Computers / Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)
Computers / Networking / Intranets & Extranets
History / Europe / Western
History / United States / 19th Century
Technology & Engineering / Electronics / Digital
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The Civil War was the first "modern war." Because of the rapid changes in American society, Abraham Lincoln became president of a divided United States during a period of technological and social revolution. Among the many modern marvels that gave the North an advantage was the telegraph, which Lincoln used to stay connected to the forces in the field in almost real time.

No leader in history had ever possessed such a powerful tool to gain control over a fractious situation. An eager student of technology, Lincoln (the only president to hold a patent) had to learn to use the power of electronic messages. Without precedent to guide him, Lincoln began by reading the telegraph traffic among his generals. Then he used the telegraph to supplement his preferred form of communication—meetings and letters. He did not replace those face-to-face interactions. Through this experience, Lincoln crafted the best way to guide, reprimand, praise, reward, and encourage his commanders in the field.

Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails tells a big story within a small compass. By paying close attention to Lincoln's "lightning messages," we see a great leader adapt to a new medium. No reader of this work of history will be able to miss the contemporary parallels. Watching Lincoln carefully word his messages—and follow up on those words with the right actions—offers a striking example for those who spend their days tapping out notes on computers and BlackBerrys.

An elegant work of history, Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails is an instructive example of timeless leadership lessons.

The human brain has some capabilities that the brains of other animals lack. It is to these distinctive capabilities that our species owes its dominant position. Other animals have stronger muscles or sharper claws, but we have cleverer brains. If machine brains one day come to surpass human brains in general intelligence, then this new superintelligence could become very powerful. As the fate of the gorillas now depends more on us humans than on the gorillas themselves, so the fate of our species then would come to depend on the actions of the machine superintelligence. But we have one advantage: we get to make the first move. Will it be possible to construct a seed AI or otherwise to engineer initial conditions so as to make an intelligence explosion survivable? How could one achieve a controlled detonation? To get closer to an answer to this question, we must make our way through a fascinating landscape of topics and considerations. Read the book and learn about oracles, genies, singletons; about boxing methods, tripwires, and mind crime; about humanity's cosmic endowment and differential technological development; indirect normativity, instrumental convergence, whole brain emulation and technology couplings; Malthusian economics and dystopian evolution; artificial intelligence, and biological cognitive enhancement, and collective intelligence. This profoundly ambitious and original book picks its way carefully through a vast tract of forbiddingly difficult intellectual terrain. Yet the writing is so lucid that it somehow makes it all seem easy. After an utterly engrossing journey that takes us to the frontiers of thinking about the human condition and the future of intelligent life, we find in Nick Bostrom's work nothing less than a reconceptualization of the essential task of our time.
Barbara W. Tuchman—the acclaimed author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning classic The Guns of August—once again marshals her gift for character, history, and sparkling prose to compose an astonishing portrait of medieval Europe.
 
The fourteenth century reflects two contradictory images: on the one hand, a glittering age of crusades, cathedrals, and chivalry; on the other, a world plunged into chaos and spiritual agony. In this revelatory work, Barbara W. Tuchman examines not only the great rhythms of history but the grain and texture of domestic life: what childhood was like; what marriage meant; how money, taxes, and war dominated the lives of serf, noble, and clergy alike. Granting her subjects their loyalties, treacheries, and guilty passions, Tuchman re-creates the lives of proud cardinals, university scholars, grocers and clerks, saints and mystics, lawyers and mercenaries, and, dominating all, the knight—in all his valor and “furious follies,” a “terrible worm in an iron cocoon.”
 
Praise for A Distant Mirror
 
“Beautifully written, careful and thorough in its scholarship . . . What Ms. Tuchman does superbly is to tell how it was. . . . No one has ever done this better.”—The New York Review of Books
 
“A beautiful, extraordinary book . . . Tuchman at the top of her powers . . . She has done nothing finer.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“Wise, witty, and wonderful . . . a great book, in a great historical tradition.”—Commentary

NOTE: This edition does not include color images.
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