Technology has become a cornerstone of modern life, affecting how we shop, read, monitor our health and keep in touch with friends and family. But what lies in store for the future? Will cities get smarter, does facial recognition poses a threat to our privacy or will implants help alleviate illness and other ailments?
Here’s our selection of the best books that explore how technology has changed our lives and what to expect in the years ahead.
People vs Tech by Jamie Bartlett
The subtitle of this book reads ‘How the internet is killing democracy (and how we save it)’ which gives you a good idea of what it’s all about. Jamie Bartlett explores the way that micro-targeted election campaigns, advertising, and invasive use of data gathering by large tech companies poses a threat for civil society.
With the Cambridge Analytica scandal highlighting how social media can be used to change the course of world events almost subconsciously, Bartlett (who also authored the excellent The Dark Net) explains how people can fight this quiet erosion of their rights and use technology to create better lives rather than the bleak one that is currently on the horizon.
Winner of the 2019 Transmission Prize and longlisted for the 2019 Orwell Price for Political Writing, this is essential reading.
Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark
Artificial Intelligence is one of the areas of technology seeing the biggest investment as companies race to build the best virtual mind. Max Tegmark, an MIT professor, uses his expertise to outline the challenges this emergent software brings with it in terms of replacing people’s jobs, the automation of warfare and other dangers, while also looking at the advantages that truly intelligent computers could bestow upon their human creators.
Life 3.0 has already become a New York Times bestseller, won both The Telegraph and The Times book of the year awards, and found its way onto the reading lists of Barak Obama and Bill Gates. So, you should definitely pick up a copy.
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
While not technically a book about technology, Homo Deus is a vision for where humanity goes next and how artificial intelligence, gene modification, health tech and automation will alter the way society functions. Following up his worldwide phenomena, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari returns to the writing chair once more and has produced another thought-provoking bestseller.
To Be A Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death
Irish journalist Mark O’Connell recounts his experiences with people who are looking to extend their lives through technology. His journey takes him alongside the various characters that make Transhumanism such an interesting and slightly baffling movement. Can death be defeated by loading our consciousness onto hard drives? We’re not convinced, but it’s a cracking good read that makes you laugh and then wonder about the ideas themselves.
Click Here to Kill Everybody by Bruce Schneier
Bruce Schneier has been writing about digital security and privacy for around fifteen years now, calling himself a ‘public-interest technologist’. A cryptographer and fellow at Harvard, he’s a very clever chap who has spent a large part of his time trying to make people aware of how hackers and tricksters can steal your information.
In his new book, Schneier focusses on smart devices and the arrival of the internet of things where your fridge, thermostat, vehicle and of course smartphone interact to make your life easier. With this convenience comes the opportunity for bad people to have a field day, so he lays out the potential dangers of self-driving cars, web-enabled pacemakers and other devices that may be vulnerable to attack, plus how as a society we can safeguard against their abuse.
Soonish: 10 Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything
With many of the books on this list being reasonably serious, those who want something a little lighter will appreciate this great collaboration between Dr Kelly Weinersmith and Zach Weinersmith.
Looking at the various technologies that could appear in the near future – including nuclear fusion-powered toasters, human/machine brain interfaces, and biological 3D printing – they discuss how these innovations will affect everyday life and whether that will be a good thing or not?
Popular science with a witty sense of humour, not a bad combination at all. Now, how can we print a pint a Guinness?
The Nostalgia Nerd’s Retro Tech
While it’s good to look forward to the future, we didn’t want to neglect the rich history that has brought us to this point. Nostalgia Nerd is an expert in this particular area, with his YouTube channel currently entertaining well over a quarter of million subscribers with his pursuit of old games consoles and home computers.
His success led to him create this guide to Retro Tech, one that’s a treasure trove for anyone who grew up a ZX Spectrum, Atari ST, Gameboy, Neo Geo or other classic devices. Illustrated with images throughout and exhaustive in its coverage, Retro Tech is a wonderful trip down memory lane.