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Smoke & Mirrors: How Hype Obscures the Future and How to See Past It

Gemma Milne

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An insightful guide to cutting through the hype (and idealism) that blinds us in the world of science and technology. Gemma Milne looks at nine different areas of research, from feeding the world to cures for cancer, and reveals how we're prevented from seeing what is really going on in the world, and held back from making real progress.

'A much-needed blast of fresh air! Gemma Milne expertly shows us how to separate the truth from the hype surrounding the emerging techs of today, and those of the near-tomorrow.'
Lewis Dartnell, author of Origins: How the Earth Made Us

'I loved this book! This is exactly the sort of sceptical, cut-through-the crap-but-still-excited-about-what's-emerging book around tech innovation that's sorely needed, yet is so hard to find . . . essential reading for anyone who's serious about how real-world advances might be effectively harnessed to build a better future.'
Dr Andrew Maynard, scientist and author of Films from the Future and Future Rising

'Smoke & Mirrors is a vital contribution in a world where technological progress promises so much, but too often disappoints. If, like me, you believe that advances in science and technology are our best hope for solving the grand challenges of our times, this book is the indispensable guide to avoiding the mirages and the charlatans along the way.'
Matt Clifford, co-founder and CEO of Entrepreneur First

'A refreshingly grown-up, clear-headed look at the interaction between science, technology and the media - readable without being dumbed down, acknowledging complexities without being heavy.'
Tom Chivers, author of The AI Does Not Hate You

'In this book, we see technological hype for what it is: not mere exuberance, but a form of attention-seeking. As some technological hucksters stake claims on our future and try to foreclose alternatives, we need strong defences. Gemma Milne offers a spotter's guide to hype, using science to bring speculation down to earth. People inside and outside the world of technological innovation need this book.'
Jack Stilgoe, author of Who's Driving Innovation?




Bombastic headlines about science and technology are nothing new. To cut through the constant stream of information and misinformation on social media, or grab the attention of investors, or convince governments to take notice, strident headlines or bold claims seem necessary to give complex, nuanced information some wow factor.

But hype has a dark side, too.

It can mislead. It can distract. It can blinker us from seeing what is actually going on.

From AI, quantum computing and brain implants, to cancer drugs, future foods and fusion energy, science and technology journalist Gemma Milne reveals hype to be responsible for fundamentally misdirecting or even derailing crucial progress.

Hype can be combated and

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Gemma Milne

GEMMA MILNE is a Scottish science and technology writer and podcaster, whose works has been published or broadcast by the BBC, the Guardian, CNBC, Offscreen Magazine, Quartz and others. She is also the Deep Tech and Science Startup Contributor for Forbes Europe. Gemma is the co-founder of Science: Disrupt - a media outlet covering advances in science startups, research process and industries such as space, energy, health and advanced computing. She works with the World Economic Forum as one of their Global Shapers, and is also a scientific advisor to the European Commission, helping them decide which scientific innovations should be funded with government money. She is also a Venture Scout for Venture Capital firm Backed VC. She is on the Innovation Juries for SXSW and the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences and has delivered keynote addresses at SXSW, TEDx, WPP Stream, Cannes Lions and Dubai Lynx on many different science and technology topics. She has won many awards in the technology, science and startup space including Best Startup Founder at the FDM Everywoman in Technology awards 2018, and Best Future Leader at the Tech Leader Awards from Information Age in 2017 and was a Finalist in the IPSE Freelancer of the Year awards.

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