Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
Intriguing, insightful, overall an enjoyable read
on October 19, 2012
Thomas P. Hughes looks at technology "as a creative process involving human ingenuity" and "as a means to shape the landscape" by "craftsmen, mechanics, inventors, engineers, designers and scientists using tools, machines and knowledge to create and control a human-built world" (p.3.) Emphasizing creativity and control, Hughes examines this symbiotic relationship between humans and technology as our creation, and technology's affect on the society and culture.
Acknowledging the complexity of technology, Hughes interweaves the history of technology over the past two centuries with the progression of society, culture, art, and architecture. In telling the story, he shares how technology has become an essential part of life, influencing all aspects of human activities. He concludes: "Today the endangered state of the natural environment, the deteriorating human-built world, and the threat of technology out of control reflect people's values and their resigning themselves to determinism. A change in values and an activist stance toward technological change will be an effective response to these pressing problems. Such a value change and activism will not come about, however, unless technology is better understood. This book is intended to provide such an understanding" (p.173.)
Human-Built World clearly illustrates the impact of technology on society, good and bad. However, in Hughes view, there is an imbalance of influence, where society's impact on technology is at best subtle, possibly driven by an imbalance of values (ex. need for mass production driven by mass consumption.) As a technologist, I found the book intriguing and illuminating, leaving me thirsty for more insights and positive examples in culture and technology. Though I partly agree with Hughes conclusion, I do question our ability to shape technology perfectly, given its complexity and the difficulty in predicting its impact and evolution, yet alone establishing shared cultural values. Regardless, this was an enjoyable read.