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Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson

Networks and Power

Niall Ferguson is a senior research fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, and at the Hoover Institution, Stanford, as well as visiting professor at the New College of the Humanities, London.

His books include The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook (02018); Civilization: The West and the Rest (02012); and The Ascent of Money (02009).

Advance tickets for this Seminar are sold out. A limited number of tickets will be released starting at 6:30pm at the ticket tables in the theater lobby. Doors to the theater open at 7:00pm.

Long Now Members can also watch our live video stream and a public podcast will be released after the talk.

“This time is different.”

Historians: “Ha.”

“The Net is net beneficial.”

Historian Niall Ferguson: “Globalization is in crisis. Populism is on the march. Authoritarian states are ascendant. Technology meanwhile marches inexorably ahead, threatening to render most human beings redundant or immortal or both. How do we make sense of all this?”

Ferguson analyzes the structure and prospects of “Cyberia” as yet another round in the endless battle between hierarchy and networks that has wrought spasms of innovation and chaos throughout history. He examines those previous rounds (including all that was set in motion by the printing press) in light of the current paradoxes of radical networking enabled by digital technology being the engine of massive hierarchical companies (Facebook, Amazon, Google, Twitter, and their equivalents in China) and exploited by populists and authoritarians around the world.

He puts the fundamental question this way: “Is our age likely to repeat the experience of the period after 1500, when the printing revolution unleashed wave after wave of revolution? Will the new networks liberate us from the shackles of the administrative state as the revolutionary networks of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries freed our ancestors from the shackles of spiritual and temporal hierarchy? Or will the established hierarchies of our time succeed more quickly than their imperial predecessors in co-opting the networks, and enlist them in their ancient vice of waging war?”

Niall Ferguson is currently a senior research fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and visiting professor at the New College of the Humanities. His books include The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook (2018); Civilization: The West and the Rest (2012); and The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World (2009).

Stewart Brand's Summary will be posted after the Seminar takes place.

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Seminar Sponsors

Will and Margaret Hearst • David and Abby Rumsey • Kim Polese • Shel Kaphan • Garrett Gruener • The Libra Foundation • Peter Baumann • Brian Eno • Greg Stikeleather • Richard and Angie Thieriot • Nion McEvoy • Cameo Wood • Susie Tompkins Buell Fund • Panta Rhea Foundation • Ping Fu • Peter Schwartz • The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation • Dean Ornish • The Baum Foundation • Lawrence Wilkinson • Mercy Burton Russell • Asia Society Northern California • Stripe • The Long Now Membership

We would also like to recognize George Cowan (01920 - 02012) for being the first to sponsor this series.