15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Fascinating and compelling, 28 Feb. 2010
Erudite and richly informative, this is a brilliantly written book whose arrival couldn't be more welcome and timely.
Ostensibly it is the history of man's technological progress from thousands of years ago to today - R Winston asks whether it really is progress at all: in pursuing better lives for ourselves have we set ourselves on a collective march towards self-annihilation, of our own species and of the rest of the planet? Fairly portentous stuff then. Though don't be mistaken into believing that this book is all doom and gloom or relentless pessimism...in fact much of it is also a celebration of man's inventiveness, creativity, adaptability and versatility - indeed no other animal has come close to what we have achieved in this respect. Plus the book is peppered with regular doses of good humour and humility - refreshingly there are many instances where Winston generously acknowledges and praises fellow doctor's or scientists's achievements (and one wonders whether this is a grace sorely lacking in other scientist's repertoire). By chronicling man's inventions and their unexpected consequences, Winston covers a whole myriad of topics: farming, medicine, weaponry, even writing and communication -but for me as a lay person, the most arresting and interesting chapters were the those about science and the scientific community, and I suspect that will be the case for most people. As a whole, the book is brave, inspiring fascinating and compelling - it encourages us to embrace the ethical challenges of the future and offers us hope in doing so. Above all, it's a really really good read.