- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Viking; 1st Printing edition (October 14, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670022152
- ISBN-13: 978-0670022151
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 104 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #931,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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What Technology Wants 1st Printing Edition
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Verbalizing visceral feelings about technology, whether attraction or repulsion, Kelly explores the “technium,” his term for the globalized, interconnected stage of technological development. Arguing that the processes creating the technium are akin to those of biological evolution, Kelly devotes the opening sections of his exposition to that analogy, maintaining that the technium exhibits a similar tendency toward self-organizing complexity. Having defined the technium, Kelly addresses its discontents, as expressed by the Unabomber (although Kelly admits to trepidation in taking seriously the antitechnology screeds of a murderer) and then as lived by the allegedly technophobic Amish. From his observations and discussions with some Amish people, Kelly extracts some precepts of their attitudes toward gadgets, suggesting folk in the secular world can benefit from the Amish approach of treating tools as servants of self and society rather than as out-of-control masters. Exploring ramifications of technology on human welfare and achievement, Kelly arrives at an optimistic outlook that will interest many, coming, as it does, from the former editor of Wired magazine. --Gilbert Taylor
"...consistently provocative and intriguing."
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The answers are not simple, in fact that are impossibly complex. Tracing cosmological, biological, and technological evolution Kelly makes an honest attempt at revealing the truly BIG answers--Man, God, Life, and Meaning. All within a historical and scientific framework.
This book has more facts and history than you can shake a spoon at and for those alone it's worth reading. Why is the smallest Rock ant smarter than our best computers? Humans can go to space but we can't make basic judgemental calls--Why? What tech will continue evolving and what will stay the same for millennia (more)? Why do the Amish use diesel engines drawn by horses? How many times have eyes evolved independently? How many individual times was Harry Potter written? Why do technological terrorists shop at Walmart? What level of tech will make you happy? All of these are answered in incredible, clear detail. The first quarter of the book is a very large scale view of technological evolution. This serves as the framework that is theoretically modified in more specific directions later.
The truly remarkable parts of this book occur in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. This is where Kelly takes your concerns and goes 10 steps beyond even the most audacious science fiction in describing technology as a living force in the greater evolutionary context of the Universe. It makes The Matrix seem like a puppet show and the remarkable thing is that Kelly says it is--in comparison to real life. Life really is stranger than fiction.
The last quarter loses steam as it concludes. With all his major points made, Kelly spends a lengthy analysis on how exactly future technology will develop. It is very convincing but understandably broad (and unknowable!). The last quarter does not detract one bit from the immensity of the ideas presented in the first 3 quarters.
What I like best is Kelly's passionate, clear, yet remarkably humble writing. The idea that we are nothing more than free yet completely inconsequential parts of a vast autonomous system is haunting yet inspiring. Kelly isn't concerned with fame or even academic impact. If he didn't write this, book someone else would have. Even Einstein only beat inevitability by a few years. He understands the scale of it all. Above all, he is concerned with the human element: how to make our lives better and how they will change in the immediate and long term future. As they always have.
Technology or "technium" is not seen as similar to natural evolution but as the next phase of a wider evolutionary process. Some parts could remind of "I Robot" by Asimov but the general idea is:
Phase 1: Evolutionary process has its specific features and can be seen everywhere.
Phase 2: "Technium" is starting the same process through man-made artifacts and ideas.
Phase 3: "Technium" is not starting a new process. Instead, it is the continuation of the same process.
Phase 4: What can be said about the future?
Perhaps the main advice for a potential reader should be an unfair one: Keep trying. It is unfair since a bad book does not deserve to be finished and this one could be seen in some parts as a bad book that already made its whole point. Not true. For instance, the chapter devoted to the Amish could be boring for many people (including me) but, after that one, it is possible to find others much more interesting.
Paradoxes like the one shown with electric engines, present everywhere just before dissappearing (because we are not even conscious of how many common devices are powered by electric engines) are very interesting. It is worth to read it.
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