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The Shock Of The Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 Paperback – 10 Jan 2008
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So the new is old, and the old is new! Marvellous stuff, and absolutely spot-on. (Simon Jenkins)
he eviscerates our obsession with novelty... (Hugh Pearman The Sunday Times)
newfangled things are sexy, but how significant are they?...Edgerton provides a corrective by emphasising some of the overlooked technologies that affect the lives of many. (John Sparks Newsweek)
David Edgerton's The Shock of the Old is a book I can use. I can take it in two hands and bash it over the heads of every techno-nerd, computer geek and neophiliac futurologist I meet. (Simon Jenkins Guardian)
...iconoclastic and thought-provoking book...he makes a strong case that accords with what Virgil identified around 25BC as a definitive human characteristic. Our lives consist of semper cedentia retro: always going forwards backwards. (The Times)
It's rare for a book to make you see the world differently, but this alternative history does exactly that on almost every page. (Guardian)
The first proper global account of the place of technology in twentieth century history, this brilliant, thought-provoking book will radically revise our understanding of the relationship between technology and society.This first ever history of technology casts aside the usual stories of inventions and focuses instead on what people actually use. It reassesses the relationship of technology and society, using unrecognised examples such as Spanish synthetic petrol, Japanese rickshaws, American gas chambers, Soviet tractors and Turkish battleships.We do not live in an era of ever increasing change, and the most important technologies of the twenty first century are often overlooked today. Drawing on political, economic and cultural history, "The Shock of the Old" dispels misplaced futurism and exemplifies a radical new way of looking at our world.See all Product description
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David Egerton's book is at one level a useful corrective to the idea that technological changes take place quickly and completely, and so strikes a blow against the worship of so-called "innovation" which these days just seems to be away of making a quick fortune out of some technological novelty or other. What Egerton demonstrates is that technologies do not simply replace each other but exist alongside each other for long periods of time. A classic would be the bicycle which ought to have been replaced generations ago by the car, but in fact flourishes and in many cases is making a comeback. But in turn, this is because the technology of the bicycle as dramatically improved, and compared to the heavy awkward machines of my youth, today's are much more sophisticated and way almost nothing. This book will substantially change how you see the application of technology to daily life, and how far you are convinced by the endless rhetoric and ideology of "innovation". The conclusion, I think, is that most of us do not particularly want innovation, so much as wanting technology that is reliable and actually works.
Given this seperation, the book points out that virtually all the innovations of the last century are based on technology dating back to the start of the last century. It's a neat idea, well researched and backed up. At that level it's a good read and a new perspective on technology and innovation. At the end of the day, though, the author doesn't really draw out any conclusions from his work, leaving the reader feeling frustrated and wondering what was in the author's mind.