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The Techno-Human Condition Hardcover – April 22, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (April 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262015692
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262015691
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #579,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"[A] valuable book" -- Andrew C. Revkin, Dot Earth- A New York Times blog

" The Techno-Human Condition will infuriate some, be dismissed out-of-hand by a few, but will unsettle almost all readers. The reason is, that while Allenby & Sarewitz's analysis of current problem solving is a bitter pill to swallow, there is an underlying understanding that their approach is not only correct but also essential to embrace. The book is a fast-paced, easy read. I couldn't put it down." -- Leonardo

"An important, provocative, and wide-ranging volume on the role of technology in our rapidly changing Anthropocene-era world. Essential reading for anyone interested in Methods to Shape the Future, World Futures, Security, Sustainability, and science/technology in general... a stimulating and timely book." -- Michael Marien, Global Foresight Books

"A smart, articulate, and even witty investigation that avoids derailing into either the utopian or the dystopian. If the best is enemy of the good, The Techno-Human Condition is the good at its best." -- Richard Rhodes , author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Making of the Atomic Bomb

"The Techno-Human Condition is first a cogent description of modernity from the perspective of a technological worldview and second a prescription for our problems through a rejuvenation of key Enlightenment precepts. The authors have clearly outlined how and why we are facing a fundamental cultural crisis precipitated by 'wicked complexity,' and this book is a clarion call for radical adjustment. I predict it will become a touchstone for reorienting our thinking about techno-society and the need to reconsider how global problems are faced by industrial societies." -- Alfred I. Tauber , Professor of Philosophy and Zoltan Kohn Professor of Medicine, Boston University

"I loved this book! I literally couldn't put it down! It made me think about the broad implications of my own research. My program is now to think about the issues the authors raise, and then to re-read the book in light of those musings. I just wish I could have the authors in my living room for a few hours (or days) to probe the issues they raise." -- Wm. A. Wulf , University Professor, University of Virginia; President Emeritus, National Academy of Engineering

About the Author

Braden R. Allenby is Founding Director of the Center for Earth Systems Engineering and Management, Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics, and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Arizona State University. He is the author of Reconstructing Earth: Technology and Environment in the Age of Humans.

Daniel Sarewitz is Professor of Science and Society and Cofounder and Codirector of the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes at Arizona State University and the author of Frontiers of Illusion.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By S. Walsh on January 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Allenby and Sarewitz raise some interesting and important points; however, the first few chapters promise more than the later ones deliver. Long before the end, the basic arguments have been repeated so often and in such unappealing jargon that this reader's patience wore very thin. The authors also have a number of annoying tics, such as their constant Enlightenment-bashing, which probably gets them points in some regions of academia but which otherwise comes across as mere name-calling. With some editing, this might have made a good long article or series of articles, but there's not really enough material for a book. Three stars because the last chapter, "The Museum of Human Frailty," is moderately amusing.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Judy Granny on September 23, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
This is an almost painful look at how enlightenment thinking has brought us to the soup we are in regarding the environment, warfare, healthcare, air travel, all those areas where our great problem-solving skills have failed us because we fail to see the consequences of our solutions, and that as mere humans are unable to foresee. So what is the answer? "The courage and wisdom to embrace contradiction, celebrate ignorance" (yes I got that right) "and muddle forward (but intelligently)."

So where does that leave us? Mostly with a lot of questions and arguments and doubts about what we believe most. "Individuals bear an individual responsibility for contributing to ethical dialog, because to fail to do so is to rob the system of its pluralistic wisdom."

Instead of charging ahead into the next mess, we need to seek alternatives and listen to all points of view. A perfect example of thinking with blinders on is the mad dash into genetically modified organisms that has carried us into a danger zone worse than quick sand. This is a difficult book, but one that everyone serious about our common future on this planet needs to read.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John McKnight on May 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An essential addition to the literature on transhumanism: the authors' critique is a critical antidote to the magical thinking of supporters and opponents of human enhancement and the transformative potential of "converging technologies."

They offer a very useful rubric for thinking about the complexity and impacts of technology and society, demonstrate its application to a variety of cases, historical, contemporary and near-future, and set out an ethical framework for managing socio-technical complexity - in all, a remarkably extensive undertaking for a slim and highly readable volume.

The authors are professors of mine: Allenby is on my dissertation committee. As always, when a reader knows the author(s), it's entertaining to hear their voices manifested. The two are quite different in their style and politics, but have produced a coherent whole without obscuring the individuality of their tones and areas of expertise.

An essential and foundational read for anyone interested in technological and social change.
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