Whatever happened to our cybernetic utopia?

Public talk by Fred Turner (Stanford University).

45 min talk, 45 min Q&A

In the early years of the internet, computer scientists and poets alike dreamed of a computer-powered utopia in which individuals could leave the social norms and bureaucratic institutions of Cold War America behind. Today, critics argue that corporate social media, ubiquitous surveillance, and artificial intelligence are destroying those dreams and bringing us to the edge of a technological hellscape. This talk makes a different case. By looking closely at the ways digital media are changing where and how we work, it shows that key elements of the utopian dreams of the late 1960s have in fact come into being, at least for some. Our challenge now, it concludes, is to use our political institutions to lock in those gains and to share them far and wide.


Fred Turner is the Harry and Norman Chandler Professor of Communication at Stanford University. He is the author of several award-winning studies of the impact of new media technologies on American culture, including most recently, with Mary Beth Meehan, Seeing Silicon Valley: Life Inside a Fraying America. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a LeBoff Distinguished Visiting Scholar at New York University, and twice a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. Before becoming a professor, he worked as a journalist for ten years. He continues to write regularly for newspapers and magazines in America and Europe. More information.