Being Digital

Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital (Rydalmere: Hodder and Stoughton, 1995).

A prescient look at the unfolding digital age in the mid 1990s. Director of the MIT Media Lab, Nicholas Negroponte, explains the coming transition from a world of atoms to a world of bits.

In the near future, he predicts we will live in a world where ever more things that we once accessed in physical form – novels, textbooks, albums – will be digitally and almost instantaneously shared.

More than twenty years later, Negroponte has been vindicated on many predictions: from the rise of digital TV, to the replacement of many human workers by robots and AIs, to the growth of wearable computing (think Fitbits) to the age of ubiquitous computing (aka ‘the Internet of Things’).

This is a smart and enjoyable book. The problem with reading it two decades on is that you already know how it ends. The predictions no longer seem bold, or exciting or scary. They’re here now, and are mostly unremarkable aspects of our present reality.

In one sense that’s a win for Negroponte ’95, but the realisation of his predictions also renders the model largely obsolete.

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