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What Technology Wants
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Top Customer Reviews
First, the positives. There are excellent overviews of the historical development of science as well as the concept of convergence that recurs in scientific and technological development (and also, as the author points out, in film-making). The case for considering technology as a self-perpetuating organism is forcefully made, and examples of parallels between evolutionary development and technological development are treated in depth.
There is also a helpful discussion about man's relationship to technology, covered in three chapters collectively called Choices. Here Mr. Kelly views the perspective of the Unabomber, the Amish, and a proposed contemporary search for a convivial relationship. As odd as it sounds to use the Unabomber as a lens through which to view technology, it is extremely powerful. The obvious point is that it is quite unthinkable to live without technology (Ted Kaczynski typed his manifesto and rode a bike), so that finding a personal balance with it should be the goal (preferably one that does not include bombs - either mail-bombs or the nuclear variety).
Second, the controversies. If I correctly interpreted what Mr.Read more ›
Roughly, this is a book about where our technology (or technium), if it can be considered autonomous, wants to go. The subtext is an lasting inquiry into whether, roughly, technology makes people happy or not. As such I'd consider it in a dialogue with writers like Thoreau and Edward Abbey, and more recent books like Shop Class as Soulcraft, Into the Wild, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
By profession I read a lot of tech books, from academia to business press and among them Kelly's book truly stands out. There are a few reasons. First, Kelly is just writing at a much deeper level than most authors have the courage to tackle. Most tech writers allow their natural optimism or pessimism to remain unexamined; For Kelly that is the topic itself, and it is refreshing. Compared with Kelly's book, many other books feel unbearably superficial (even perhaps my own!)
Second, Kelly writes from a level or deep personal experience which makes all the difference. This isn't about trite anecdotes or reporting, but rather the experience of a man who has tried living like the Unabomber at least for periods of his life. Basically, he has tried life with lots of tech, with little, and in between. He has, therefore, convictions from that experience that feel deep and genuine.
Third, Kelly has a natural, easy prose and an honesty in his voice which carries through every paragraph. It is extremely hard to write on abstract topics like the existence of a technium without quickly becoming technical or very confusing. For me at least, the book was a page-turner, which you expect from narrative but not from philosophy.
The answer is "buy it. Absolutely, yes!"
It is Kevin Kelly's (KK's) magnum opus.
It is important, clearly and elegantly written, and
thoroughly researched. Also, it's so good,
it was hard to put down.
Nobody is better qualified to write about technology and tools.
This has been KK's lifetime focus, first as an editor of
the Whole Earth Catalog (the bible of the hippie back-to-nature movement),
second as a cofounder of the Well (a prominent early online community),
then as executive editor of Wired, and finally as curator of Cool Tools
(a popular website that reviews favorite tools) -
not to mention his other widely-read books, eg "Out of Control."
Other reviewers have summarized the book's major themes,
included key quotations, and told you why the book is important.
Coming late to the party, I will just hit a few crucial points that
other reviewers have neglected.
First, what I absolutely love about the book is KK's personal approach to life.
Reading Wired you might think he would be using every fancy tech gadget
the minute it comes out. Nothing could be further from the truth.
He does not carry a cellphone; does not travel with a laptop;
has no cable connection and does not watch tv. Why?
Because he genuinely cares about his QUALITY of life.
Kevin is a guy who spent years owning nothing but a sleeping bag and a bike,
who admires the Amish, and who is decidely not an early adopter.
Like the Amish, he will thoroughly evaluate a new device
before allowing it into his personal world.
Ambivalence and thoughtful examination are the essence of KK's approach to technology.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
For years I have had a view that it should be possible to define a type of information processing system which would have as instances the individual human mind/brain and human... Read morePublished 1 day ago by Peter Shaw
I think I found this book from a mention on Tyler Cowen’s website. I thought it might be interesting so I bought it. It was not interesting. Do not waste your time or money on it. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Clifton B. Chadwick
Thought provoking. Kelly's ideas were well thought out and supported. I'm not sure he completely made his case about Technology being it's own entity (of sorts), but I liked the... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Paul Freeman
The premise of an email being organic and that technology can involve being employed by a bacterium are fascinating concepts. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Tom D
Text written from the perspective of someone who is clearly biased. Not at all surprising from a Sociologist but disappointing that it was so apparent throughout the entire body... Read morePublished 7 months ago by P. Gaumond
Great, well researched and thoughtful look at our past and future trajectory.Published 7 months ago by Brian M.
Here we have the compendium of the trend of 'technology', and what this trend means is more than almost any reader can guess...Published 7 months ago by DClaussen
A great book that will really blow your mind and will stick with you for years. I look at technology as a whole quite differently after reading Kelly. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Book Enthusiast