The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves

W. Brian Arthur, Author . Free Press $27 (246p) ISBN 978-1-4165-4405-0

What is technology in its nature, in its deepest essence? Where does it come from? How does it evolve? With contagious enthusiasm, Arthur, an economics professor and a pioneer of complexity theory, tries to answer these and other questions in a style that is by turns sparkling and flat. Technology is self-creating, though it requires human agency to build it up and reproduce it. Yet technology evolves much like organisms evolve, and Arthur cannily applies Darwin's ideas to technologies and their growth. All technologies descend from earlier ones, and those that perform better and more efficiently than others are selected for future growth and development. But radical novelty in technology cannot be explained by this model of variation and selection, so Arthur argues that novel technologies arise by combination of existing technologies. For example, a hydroelectric power generator combines several main components—a reservoir to store water, an intake system, turbines driven by high-energy water flow, transformers to convert the power output to a higher voltage: groups of self-contained technologies—into a new technology. Arthur's arguments will likely alter the reader's way of thinking about technology and its relationship to humanity. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 06/29/2009
Release date: 08/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 316 pages - 978-1-84614-017-4
Paperback - 246 pages - 978-1-4165-4406-7
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-4391-6578-2
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