Digital history & historiography

Technology Eats History: Time and Techno-metabolism in the Anthropocene

30 January 2024

Technology Eats History: Time and Techno-metabolism in the Anthropocene

Photo by Carlos Andrés Reyes (Own work) [CC BY 2.0 Deed], via Flickr. Rotated and cropped.

Lecture by Paul N. Edwards, Director of the Program on Science, Technology & Society at Stanford University.

What we call “technology” today involves intensely concentrated metabolic processes, ingesting and transforming energy and materials on a planetary scale. Techno-metabolism also concentrates and compresses time. Its temporalities include Earth's deep past (fossil fuels, minerals) and its present (biological net primary production). The Anthropocene epoch – with humanity as a new geological force – now appears likely to consume, as well, the human future, potentially to the extinction of our species. Holding multiple temporal and spatial scales within our analytic frameworks has proven (unsurprisingly) difficult for STS and History of Technology. This talk offers ways of reconfiguring our conceptual and methodological tools to meet this urgent challenge.

Paul N. Edwards is Director of the Program on Science, Technology & Society at Stanford University (where he also co-directs the Stanford Existential Risks Initiative), and Professor of Information and History(Emeritus) at the University of Michigan. He is the author of A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming (MIT Press, 2010) and co-editor of Changing the Atmosphere: Expert Knowledge and Environmental Governance (MIT Press, 2001), as well as numerous articles and other books. With Janet Vertesi, he co-edits a book series, Infrastructures, for MIT Press. Edwards recently served as a Lead Author for the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2021).


Tuesday, 30 January 2024, at 17.30 CET

C²DH Open Space (4th floor, Maison des Sciences humaines)