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VISIONS OF TECHNOLOGY: A Century Of Vital Debate About Machines Systems And The Human World (Sloan Technology) First Edition Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0684839035
ISBN-10: 0684839032
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Technological wariness is an enduring disturbance, with roots in religion," writes popular-science interpreter Rhodes in his introduction to this welcome anthology of 20th-century scientific invention. "Prometheus stealing fire from the gods and giving it to humans carries the sense of it; so does the serpent persuading Eve to taste the knowledgeable apple, and the Jewish myth of the Golem, a Frankenstein's monster animated by incorporations of holy words." Gods and monsters abound in these pages, made up of excerpts from essays, reports, articles, and speeches by both inventors and their critics. Rhodes includes, for instance, a worried editorial from 1931 by the journalist Floyd Allport, who presciently noted the community-destroying effects of technological advances such as the private car and the telephone; he also reproduces any number of warnings from the likes of Aldous Huxley, Vannevar Bush, and Edward Abbey that humankind's scientific imagination far outstrips our moral capacity. Joining these jeremiads in Rhodes's pages are more optimistic assessments, including Intel Corporation founder Gordon Moore's famous formulation, from 1965, that "the complexity of integrated circuits has approximately doubled every year since their introduction," whereas "cost per function has decreased several thousand-fold"--which explains why personal computers, among other items, have become increasingly more powerful and yet less expensive. Anyone interested in the development of 20th-century science, applied or theoretical, will delight in Rhodes's collection. --Gregory McNamee

From Scientific American

"The Western world has argued passionately about technology--what it is, where it's going, whether it's good or bad for us--throughout the twentieth century, even while inventing it at a ferocious and accelerating rate," Rhodes writes. "This anthology samples that vital debate." Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb, excerpts the writings of many people who either helped to develop technology or pondered its impact; his selections make rewarding reading. He begins with journalist Mark Sullivan, pointing out in the 1920s that the words "radio," "movie" and "aviator" were unknown in 1900, and he carries on with 213 more contributions from both well-known and obscure observers of the technological scene. The book is part of the Sloan Technology Series of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
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Product Details

  • Series: Sloan Technology
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (March 4, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684839032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684839035
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,806,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
This is not a run of the mill anthology of 20th Century scientific thinking and predictions. This a many and varied collection of articles, some so short as to only occupy a few lines, whilst some run to 2 or 3 pages.
Some of them are ironic, such as predictions that never came to pass (eg Spiro Agnew on Supersonic flight), whilst others transpire to be very omniscient in their warnings for the future (concerns about the 'O' rings on the Space Shuttle 6 months before Challenger exploded).
Well worth a read to look back at where we were, consider where we've come to, and where we might be going.
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Format: Paperback
This book has been required reading for the Technology and Society course I teach for more than five years. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn't go out of print because it presents a wonderful view of the development of technology during the 20th century, in the voices of those who lived it. The short vignettes are engaging and even college seniors in their final semester can't put it down. It should be great for casual reading as well. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Richard Rhodes presents a chronological collection of technology-related articles, written during the 20th century. Since we are born into an "already-made" technological world, I found it revealing to get the perspective from people who lived at the time these inventions and findings were made. It is surprising to realize that many of the concerns about techology development shown by people at those days are still in the minds of individuals today.
It is not only interesting and instructive to read about how technology has developed during the past century, but it also makes us evaluate how technology affects us and, to some extent, defines the way we think and do things today.
I particularly liked the idea of having several short articles (1 to 4 pages each) written by a large variety of people. This structure lets you read several articles in a row and pick up your reading after several days, without loosing the overall picture.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in knowing a little more on how technology has developed through the eyes of both people who worked on it and people who lived the inmediate consecuences of it. I think it is a excellent source for analysis for people in the area of Philosophy of Science.
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Format: Hardcover
One can look at A. Lincoln's address at Gettysberg makes one think that he had devine assistance unless you read where Lincoln was coming from and see how studied he was thereby allowing him to draw from history. Much of the technology we see now e.g. the hypertext language and other internet interworkings, satellite and missile activity came from "Techies" that studied techniques that came before allowing them to became fast studies. Most of our amazing break throughs came about by building on giants of the past going back to Leonardo, and many many more. Book was a good reminder of the progress of order and a lot of damn hard work.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It came on time, and the book was better than advertised.
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