What Technology Wants

What Technology Wants

3.5 15
by Kevin Kelly
     
 

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A refreshing view of technology as a living force in the world.

This provocative book introduces a brand-new view of technology. It suggests that technology as a whole is not a jumble of wires and metal but a living, evolving organism that has its own unconscious needs and tendencies. Kevin Kelly looks out through the eyes of this global technological system to

Overview

A refreshing view of technology as a living force in the world.

This provocative book introduces a brand-new view of technology. It suggests that technology as a whole is not a jumble of wires and metal but a living, evolving organism that has its own unconscious needs and tendencies. Kevin Kelly looks out through the eyes of this global technological system to discover "what it wants." He uses vivid examples from the past to trace technology's long course and then follows a dozen trajectories of technology into the near future to project where technology is headed.

This new theory of technology offers three practical lessons: By listening to what technology wants we can better prepare ourselves and our children for the inevitable technologies to come. By adopting the principles of pro-action and engagement, we can steer technologies into their best roles. And by aligning ourselves with the long-term imperatives of this near-living system, we can capture its full gifts.

Written in intelligent and accessible language, this is a fascinating, innovative, and optimistic look at how humanity and technology join to produce increasing opportunities in the world and how technology can give our lives greater meaning.

Editorial Reviews

Kevin Kelly (Out of Control: New Rules for the New Economy) thinks that technology has a mind of its own. He doesn't mean that in the hackneyed sense of heavy-handed "robots gone wrong" sci-fi stories; instead in his carefully reasoned new book, he proposes that technology has become a near-living thing, an evolutionary life force that possesses its own trajectories and imperatives. The pervasive strength of those tendencies, he argues, make technology as great a force in the world today as nature itself. What Technology Wants is a visionary book, but it is grounded in specificity. In its pages, Kelly identifies the directions that technology is now leading us. Persuasive, cutting-edge arguments about an unavoidable subject.

Booklist
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
Kirkus Reviews

Wiredfounding editor Kelly (Asia Grace, 2002, etc.) attempts to balance a clear-eyed overview of the rise of technology and its place with a grand statement about what it all means.

The author's arguments are careful and convincing—to a point. What does he mean by technologywanting something? Is he serious? Yes, he is, and patient readers will find that Kelly has read and thought deeply about this question for decades, beginning with his days as a contributor to theWhole Earth Catalog in the '70s. He cites conversations with several dozen of the best-known thinkers and writers on the subjects of science, technology and cosmology, including Richard Dawkins, Robert Wright, Ray Kurzweil, Freeman Dyson, Stewart Brand and Chris Anderson, to name just a few. What Kelly and colleagues have observed is the steady, sometimes exponential growth of what the author calls the "technium" (the sum total of all human technology), the development of which mostly escaped human notice until Enlightenment inventors and engineers put it into overdrive. Kelly argues that the seeds for this critical mass were sown in the very beginning of time, that the techniumwanted to be and just needed the conditions, including sufficiently brainy primates, in place for its existence to be met. This argument, plausible as it seems, ultimately must be taken on faith. The strongest part of the book is the author's utilitarian defense of technology against technophobic critics—represented at the extreme by the Unabomber—and he holds up the Amish as an admirable example of a society that approaches technology with the proper mixture of suspicion and respect. No matter how someone feels about technology, however, Kelly claims that it will be what it wants to be, and humans need to understand the role we play in its uses and abuses.

Techno-mysticism aside, a timely and urgent book about the possibly dangerous fruits of human inventiveness.

William Rosen
…delivers many of the pleasures of a wonderful catalog, with page after page of entries, each one more appealing than the last, assembled by someone with an insatiable curiosity…As with a catalog, the lack of a narrative structure (or even an obvious destination) is beside the point and, in any case, is more than balanced by some truly fascinating detours…for most readers, Kelly's polymath erudition and infectious confidence…will prove more than sufficient.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher
"...consistently provocative and intriguing."
-The Economist

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670022151
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/14/2010
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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From the Publisher
"A sharp-eyed study of our abiding need for cars, computers and gadgets." —-The New York Times

Meet the Author

Kevin Kelly helped launch Wired magazine and was its executive editor for nearly seven years. He has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist. His previous books include Out of Control and the bestselling New Rules for a New Economy. He lives in Pacifica, California.

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What Technology Wants 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
In this fascinating book, Kevin Kelly, a co-founder and executive editor of Wired magazine, draws on a broad range of disciplines to make synthesizing observations about the relationship of technology to life. Unlike many contemporary writers, Kelly uses the term “technology” broadly. He isn’t just talking about the newest electronic gadgets; rather, he traces a history that reaches from chipped stone tools to the latest tech toys. Most readers will find some places where Kelly’s argument goes too far or slides past an objection, but anyone who dips into his treatise will find it compellingly written and vastly intriguing. getAbstract recommends this thought-provoking work to futurists, planners, innovators, and those interested in human nature and history.
Ravenquill More than 1 year ago
Strictly speaking, this book is more philosophy than science, but it is a grand thought experiment at that! The author argues compellingly that the progress of culture and technology are a continuation of the process of biological evolution, itself a continuation of the self-organization of matter through physical and chemical processes stretching back to the start of the universe.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NewMommy More than 1 year ago
Kevin is a genius -- literally. I loved getting his back story. Makes reading everything else he's written even more powerful.
Prince_Jerome More than 1 year ago
Heres a great piece of work. Excellent for those new, and experienced with futurism,technological singularity, or the Technium as Kevin Kelly has referred to it as. For the full PlusUltraTech review check out our dot com site.
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