Video: Why we lost our fear of computers as tools of social control

At my book event at Town Hall Seattle in February, I talked a bit our long-lost fear of computers — about how in the 1960s and 1970s Americans widely viewed computer and computer networking technologies with skepticism and outright fear. It was not a fringe fear, but ran across ideological and partisan lines — from the New Left to Southern conservatives. People saw these technologies not as tools of liberation, but instruments of corporate and government power. They saw them as a threat.

I got a question from the audience about how that happened and why: Why did American society lose its fear of computers and get infected with tech utopianism?

My answer was that this ideological flip began in earnest with commercialization of computer technology. And the bigger lesson from this history is that cultural memory tracks with political and economic power. We remember things that power wants us to remember. We forget things that go against it.

Here's the clip:

—Yasha Levine

Read more: media lectures

< Back