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Technology has been the blessing and the bane of the 20th Century. Human life-span has nearly doubled in the West, but no century ever killed more human beings with new technologies than this. New technology became part of the machine of war, ranging from the staggering loss of life of the First World War to the media spectacle which brought the war in the Gulf into our living rooms. Improvements in agriculture have fed increasing billions, but now pesticides and chemicals threaten to poison the Earth. Richard Rhodes attempts to answer some fundamental questions arising from the prominence which technology plays in all of our lives. These problems and paradoxes have stirred impassioned debate, yet despite the central role technology has played in this century, VISIONS OF TECHNOLOGY is the first book to represent the rich diversity of commentary about this vital subject. This provocative treasury hightlights the views of the century's most prominent technological figures from Henry Ford, H.G. Wells, Rachel Carson and Albert Einstein to Aldous Huxley and John Glenn. As the cultural ambivalence towards technology takes us into the next century, Richard Rhodes provides a timely forum of debate about machines, systems and the human world.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780684863115
ISBN-10: 0684863111
Format: Paperback
(214mm x 139mm x 25mm)
Pages: 400
Imprint: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Publish Date: 19-Mar-2001
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions


US Kirkus Review » An anthology of short takes on the century's progress in invention/technology, selected and presented chronologically by a prize-winning writer who himself has contributed to the history of technology (e.g., Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb, 1995). The result is a mixed bag, leaving the reader frustrated (why this and not that) and querulous (where are we headed? what is the point?). Some selections celebrate moments of discovery; others discourse on the meaning and implications of an innovation, making value judgments. But, as he says at the outset, "The deep truth about the debate that fills this book is that it's a debate among the orthodox. . . . No one, not even the Unabomber, has proposed a return to a Hobbesian garden of the primates." So science and technology (the distinction blurs) emerge as the inevitable fallout of our enlarged brains. As for the limits, turn of the century writers like Henry Adams voiced fear of the dynamo, Samuel Gompers worried that the new industrial efficiencies were "producing wealth but grinding man" - themes that recur as the century develops. In due course, Rhodes gives us Oppenheimer confessing that scientists "have known sin," and Newton Minow lamenting TV's "vast wasteland." There are also the daring visions and realities of the Pill, the transistor, the laser, and the artificial intelligence pursuits of Herbert Simon and Marvin Minsky. In short, the 20th century is a technological dream - or nightmare, depending on your point of view. A serious omission is medical advances (because Rhodes says they are so well attended). Beginning with the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, molecular biology and its applications have become the technological movers and shakers in the late 20th century - and of the century to come. In the end, Rhodes has given us a collection of trees (with some species missing). Pity, because with a little more effort and more than cursory commentary he could have created pathways leading to a forest of ideas. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Richard Rhodes

Richard Rhodes is the author of several books. He received the Pulitzer prize for THE MAKING OF THE ATOMIC BOMB and the History of Science Society's Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize for DARK SUN. He has received numerous fellowships for research and writing, including grants from the Ford Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation Program in International Peace and Security and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He has been a visiting scholar at Harvard and MIT and a host and correspondent for documentaries on public television's Frontline and American Experience series. He is an affiliate of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.

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