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What Technology Wants [Paperback]

Kevin Kelly
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
Price: 10.68 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

27 Sep 2011
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.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 406 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (27 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143120174
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143120179
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 13.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 284,916 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating look at how technology evolves 15 Oct 2010
WHAT TECHNOLOGY WANTS offers a highly readable investigation into the mechanisms by which technology advances over time. The central thesis of the book is that technology grows and evolves in much the same way as an autonomous, living organism.

The book draws many parallels between technical progress and biology, labeling technology as "evolution accelerated." Kelly goes further and argues that neither evolution nor technological advance result from a random drift but instead have an inherent direction that makes some outcomes virtually inevitable. Examples of this inevitability include the eye, which evolved independently at least six times in different branches of the animal kingdom, and numerous instances of technical innovations or scientific discoveries being made almost simultaneously.

Kelly believes that technological progress has a symbiotic relationship with human population growth: technology makes increased population possible, while also relying on it to create both new minds that can be applied to further innovation and new consumers for those innovations. The book suggests that population is likely to peak and perhaps decline as global living standards rise and women choose to have fewer children, and it offers a number of possible scenarios under which it may be possible to decouple future progress from population growth.

One of the most interesting chapters delves into the possible dystopian side of advancing technology. The book quotes at length from Theodore Kaczynski's "Unibomber Manifesto." Kelly is willing to acknowledge the obvious logic of many of Kaczynski's arguments, even as he bemoans the fact that some of the most "astute analyses" of these issues comes from a mentally unbalanced murderer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too simplistic 8 Sep 2013
A frustrating read. While Kelly's enthusiasm for the impact of the internet on our lives is undeniable it is also rather simplistic. The title and strapline of the book sum this up. Technology does not want anything - it is not conscious. It is certainly not a "living force" as the subtitle suggests.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting ideas but too deterministic 2 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I like Kevin Kelly's writing when he describes how digital technologies interact with our daily lives but he goes too far with this book in terms of a technologically deterministic view of the digital revolution. The title sums this up - technology does not want anything, it is neutral. If you can see past this then there are some good parts to the book and it is certainly worth a read.
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25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This isn't a book, it's a laundry list 24 Mar 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you like this sort of thing (from the chapter "Ordained Becoming")
"I make the case in this chapter that the course of biological evolution is not a random drift in the cosmos, which is the claim of current text-book orthodoxy. Rather, evolution - and by extension, the technium - has an inherent direction, shaped by the nature of matter and energy."
Then you'll like this book.
If however you find this a bit overblown and begin to get bored by phrases such as
"The technium is the way the universe has engineered its own self-awareness"
"...we stand at the fulcrum of the future"
(both quotes from p 357)
then you won't.
Personally I found the book like being forced to listen to the ramblings of a pothead and just wished the author would go and raid the fridge to give me a break.
This is a pity, because Kevin Kelly's thesis is fascinating. Knowledge (what he portentously calls the technium) grows and as it grows it becomes more like life; self organising, self reproducing and co-operative.
This has profound teleological and social implications, which sadly don't really get thought through. Instead, we get a mess of anecdotes from evolutionary biology and sociology to support the idea of the existence of this "technium". There is also a book within the book, a discussion which quotes the unabomber so extensively that one suspects a case of copyright infringement. Lucky for us, and lucky for Kelly, the unabomber is serving 1,000 years in jail so probably can't sue.

You'd think it impossible to write a boring book on such a subject as the "technium". Kelly proves that on the contrary, it's easy. He credits his editor, a certain Paul Tough, with rescuing the book from verbosity. Maybe it was even worse before, so we should be grateful for small mercies. God, mercifully for Him, is absent until the last pages, where he is permitted a small walk-on part by the author.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A great read 12 April 2013
By Harri
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The product is great but after purchasing the kindle version I could not get page numbers and therefore had to buy a paper copy.
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