New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future was published by Verso in the UK in June 2018, and the US in July. It can be be ordered from Bookshops UK, Amazon US, Amazon DE, and all good bookstores. It has been translated into more than a dozen languages.
We live in times of increasing inscrutability. Our news feeds are filled with unverified, unverifiable speculation, much of it automatically generated by anonymous software. As a result, we no longer understand what is happening around us. Underlying all of these trends is a single idea: the belief that quantitative data can provide a coherent model of the world, and the efficacy of computable information to provide us with ways of acting within it. Yet the sheer volume of information available to us today reveals less than we hope. Rather, it heralds a new Dark Age: a world of ever-increasing incomprehension.
In his brilliant new work, leading artist and writer James Bridle offers us a warning against the future in which the contemporary promise of a new technologically assisted Enlightenment may just deliver its opposite: an age of complex uncertainty, predictive algorithms, surveillance, and the hollowing out of empathy. Surveying the history of art, technology and information systems he reveals the dark clouds that gather over discussions of the digital sublime
“Technology is not the answer. Nor is it a solution. James Bridle’s lucid and fearless writing instead insists on technology as an open question and urgent problem—which nevertheless needs to be confronted in order to think the present and free the future from false algorithmic certainties.”
– Hito Steyerl, author of Duty Free Art
“One image that I cannot get out of my head reading James Bridle extraordinary new book is that even as we can access vast tech capabilities we may actually know less and less.”
– Saskia Sassen, author of Expulsions
“Computation brings humanity more darkness than enlightenment: a goblin horde of digital superstitions, invented and unleashed in just half a century. Yet James Bridle is fearless in our gloomy post-truth predicament; he’s a theorist, artist, technical visionary and even a moralist. Has he foreseen the worst?”
– Bruce Sterling, author of Pirate Utopia
“James Bridle, one of our surest guides, here offers us a widely informed, deeply felt, and occasionally terrifying course on living in and with the enveloping darkness of our time. It’s a must-read for anyone who’s ever wondered how we might come to terms with technological complexity, and emerge with our humanity intact.”
– Adam Greenfield, author of Radical Technologies
"An extraordinary, perceptive analysis of the various ways in which the rise of information technology has obscured, rather than illuminated, the operations of power in the world, and diminished our capacity to improve it. Brilliant and bracing."
– Mark O'Connell, author of To Be a Machine (Guardian Best Summer Reads 2018)
“A masterful study of all the things approaching out of the future’s night. Compelling and essential.”
– Warren Ellis, author of Normal and Transmetropolitan
- "The Age of Complexity", published in the Guardian Review
- "Known Unknowns", published in Harpers Magazine
- "Inside the infinite imagination of a computer", published in Dazed & Confused
- London, Monday June 25th, Virtual Futures
- Bristol, Tuesday June 26th, Ideas Festival
- Liverpool, Wednesday June 27th, Bluecoat
- London, Thursday June 28th, Serpentine @ Goethe Institute
- Housing Works, New York, October 2 2018
- Eye:beam, New York, October 4 2018,
“New Dark Age” is among the most unsettling and illuminating books I’ve read about the Internet, which is to say that it is among the most unsettling and illuminating books I’ve read about contemporary life.
An Orwell of the computer age.
Perceptive and thought-provoking
High time that someone rips open the windows and lets a little darkness into the room. Bridle's book is the best app for that.
[New Dark Age] lucidly argues how our enthusiasm for, and reliance on technology is working against us by undermining our ability to reliably anticipate future risks…Bridle’s multidisciplinary research deftly hopscotches across science, politics and the arts. His writing is clear and precise, showing his background in computer science and experience in public communication.
A doomy overture to a new era. A work of digital gothic in which the chills are provided by the unpredictable and unstoppable forces we’ve unleashed on the world in the decades since the Manhattan Project.
James Bridle is a master of finding contradictions within existing technologies... New Dark Age is an important text for the present moment.
A startling call to arms. Argues convincingly for a more informed integration with the technologies we have created.
A book-length argument for the idea that vastly proliferating knowledge—from mass surveillance, social media, artificial intelligence, and other sources—is paradoxically making the world harder to comprehend, while the technology that underlies it is creating environmental damage that we’re ill-equipped to understand or solve … Highly nuanced in its analysis of technology, and it provokes [one] to think more about the unspoken social and political assumptions underlying a lot of [the] industry.
Bridle is an increasingly talked-about artist and writer who considers the relationship between technology, culture and consciousness. Among the subjects of his art are drones and self-driving cars. His ambitious debut book, New Dark Age, which argues that the digital era is radically shifting the boundaries of human experience, is out in July.
– The Guardian, Fresh voices: 50 writers you should read now
Bridle invites us to engage in a direct confrontation with our decreasing comprehension of the world. Through a wide investigation of diverse fields from aviation to social media, the pharmaceutical industry and climate science, he sets out to show how our data-driven culture is threatening our existence as a species. While we might expect to be offered a route back to knowledge and security, Bridle’s book breaks new ground by proposing that we embrace uncertainty instead.
Don’t be put off by the title. It’s very good.