OVERRIDE

The Future of the Past

Alexander Stille

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

An engrossing look at the cultural consequences of technological change and globalization

Space radar, infrared photography, carbon dating, DNA analysis, microfilm, digital data bases-we have better technology than ever for studying and preserving the past. And yet the by-products of technology threaten to destroy--in one or two generations--monuments, works of art, and ways of life that have survived thousands of years of hardship and war. This paradox is central to our age. We use the Internet to access and assess infinite amounts of information--but understand less and less of its historical context. Globalization may eventually benefit countries around the world; it will also, almost certainly, lead to the disappearance of hundreds of regional dialects, languages, and whole societies.

In The Future of the Past, Alexander Stille takes us on a tour of the past as it exists today and weighs its prospects for tomorrow, from China to Somalia to Washington, D.C. Through incisive portraits of their protagonists, he describes high-tech struggles to save the Great Sphinx and the Ganges; efforts to preserve Latin within the Vatican; the digital glut inside the National Archives, which may have lost more information in the information age than ever before; an oral culture threatened by a "new" technology: writing itself. Wherever it takes him, Stille explores not just the past, but our ideas about the past, how they are changing--and how they will have to change if our past is to have a future.

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THE FUTURE OF THE PAST
1The Sphinx--Virtual and RealSITTING AT A computer terminal in Santa Monica, California, I watched the Great Sphinx of Giza take shape before my eyes as a scholar's careful measurements were transformed into an elaborate wire-frame model, then grew a "skin" that showed not the half ruined statue that now lies in the sands of Egypt but the Sphinx as it may have looked at the time of its creation forty-five hundred years ago, with its nose, royal beard, and headdress intact.Just a few miles away at the Getty Conservation Institute in Marina Del Rey, technicians have compiled
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Alexander Stille

  • Alexander Stille is the author of Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic and Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian Jewish Families Under Fascism. He is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and lives in New York City.
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The Future of the Past

Alexander Stille

ALA Notable Books - Winner
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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