future Mike Masnick on TechDirt links to a Slate review by Jack Shafer of an interesting-looking book: I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain are Being Creatively Disrupted, by Nick Bilton. (We’ve mentioned Bilton a few times in the past, such as when he was told he couldn’t read an e-book at a a coffeeshop, or when he got into a discussion with fellow writer George Packer about whether the Internet affects attention span.)

The review, and Masnick’s review of the review, focuses on predictions of techno-apocalypse throughout history:

The locomotive riled 19th-century Great Britain, which feared that engines would blight crops, terrify livestock, and asphyxiate passengers with their high speeds (greater than 20 miles per hour). The numbskullery continues. Gutenberg’s press was going to destroy the clergy and destroy the state. Television was rotting the public’s brain. Comic books were corrupting our youth. Similar predictions and warnings about the bicycle, the radio, the automobile, the airplane, the washing machine, and the microwave were sounded.

The book casts the panics of the present-day, such as the aforementioned Internet attention span crisis, in the light of these previous ones that never came. It talks about where the current rapid pace of change might be leading, and how we can deal with it.

A sample excerpt consisting of the introduction, part of the first chapter, and the epilogue is posted on Scribd, and it makes for some interesting reading. In the part of the introduction I’ve read so far, Bilton talks about how his love affair with the print edition of the New York Times waned over the years in favor of the electronic version, and how he got into trouble when he told Wired reporter Ryan Singel that he did not read the print version of the Times himself anymore.

And Bilton is using QR codes in the printed book to link to a section of his website where discussion and supplemental material is posted. This includes videos, such as the one embedded below.

I might just have to ante up and buy the e-book, which is available for Kindle for $9.99 or, oddly enough, for Nook for $13.45. There is reportedly a free iPhone/iPad app, too, though I couldn’t dig up the link in the time I had.

Nick Bilton – I Live in the Future & Here’s How it Works from Nick Bilton on Vimeo.


  1. For what it’s worth, I think the one about TV has more than a measure of truth. Fewer people read books for leisure, and reading is a great way extend attention span. I see it with my 7 year old. I let him watch entirely too much tv when he was younger, and now it’s an uphill battle to keep him focused.

    Maybe a moral of the story is that even while dire predictions ultimately prove false, technology does change us in more subtle–but possibly more profound–ways than we realize.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail newteleread@gmail.com.