Technology Matters: Questions to Live With

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Overview

Technology matters, writes David Nye, because it is inseparable from being human. We have used tools for more than 100,000 years, and their central purpose has not always been to provide necessities. People excel at using old tools to solve new problems and at inventing new tools for more elegant solutions to old tasks. Perhaps this is because we are intimate with devices and machines from an early age—as children, we play with technological toys: trucks, cars, stoves,telephones, model railroads, Playstations. Through these machines we imagine ourselves into a creative relationship with the world. As adults, we retain this technological playfulness with gadgets and appliances—Blackberries, cell phones, GPS navigation systems in our cars.We use technology to shape our world, yet we think little about the choices we are making. In TechnologyMatters, Nye tackles ten central questions about our relationship to technology, integrating a half-century of ideas about technology into ten cogent and concise chapters, with wide-ranging historical examples from many societies. He asks: Can we define technology? Does technology shape us, or do we shape it? Is technology inevitable or unpredictable? (Why do experts often fail to get it right?)? How do historians understand it? Are we using modern technology to create cultural uniformity, or diversity? To create abundance, or an ecological crisis? To destroy jobs or create new opportunities? Should "the market" choose our technologies? Do advanced technologies make us more secure, or escalate dangers? Does ubiquitous technology expand our mental horizons, or encapsulate us in artifice? These large questions may have no final answers yet, but we need to wrestle with them—to live them, so that we may, as Rilke puts it, "live along some distant day into the answers."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Nye's book addresses many of the issues and debates surrounding our highly textured technological society, and these are reflected in the questions he asks. Does technology control us?
Does it lead to cultural uniformity or diversity? To sustainable abundance or to ecological crisis?
To more security or escalating danger? The book is rich in examples, is easily readable and is short enough to be recommended for a day's read." Nature

The MIT Press

"The incessant march of technology's evolution is the subject of David Nye's very readable book. It is written in the form of questions and expansive answers, with read like a primer
(if not a discursive catechism) on what historians of technology have been thinking about over the half-century or so since their field was formalized. One of the striking effects of Nye's treatment is that it leads the reader to the incontrovertible conclusion that the answers to questions about technology evolve no less than technology itself. This is hardly surprising: thinking and writing about technology can be as creative a pursuit as inventing." New
Scientist

The MIT Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262640671
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 10/31/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 390,702
  • Product dimensions: 5.37 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

David E. Nye is Professor of American History at the University of Southern Denmark. The winner of the 2005 Leonardo da Vinci Medal of the Society for the History of Technology, he is the author of America's Assembly Line (MIT Press) and other books.

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Table of Contents

1 Can we define "technology"? 1
2 Does technology control us? 17
3 Is technology predictable? 33
4 How do historians understand technology? 49
5 Cultural uniformity, or diversity? 67
6 Sustainable abundance, or ecological crisis? 87
7 Work : more, or less? : better, or worse? 109
8 Should "the market" select technologies? 135
9 More security, or escalating dangers? 161
10 Expanding consciousness, or encapsulation? 185
11 Not just one future 209
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