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.
Praise for From Google to Gutenberg
“With each new book, Tom Wheeler cements his stature as one of the foremost “explainers” of technology and its effects throughout our history. He seems to sense in his bones the age-old (and comforting) truth that “there’s nothing new under the sun,” and yet is able to weave together complex and fascinating stories about the machines we make–and the way they make us.”
—Ken Burns, filmmaker
“Sometimes we have to take a step back in order to understand what’s under our noses. With his entertaining account of three historical network revolutions, and the reactions they inspired, Tom Wheeler gives us the tools to understand the one we are living through today—and where it might take us tomorrow.”
—Tom Standage, author, The Victorian Internet
“A fascinating review of 500 years of new technology and the challenges as well as opportunities of technological change.”
—Steve Case, American entrepreneur, founder AOL
“Impressively informed and informative, accessibly organized and presented, From Gutenberg to Google: The History of Our Future is an extraordinary history of communication technologies and their social/political impact.”
—Midwest Book Review
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).