FROM KNOW-HOW TO NOWHERE: The Development of American Technology by Elting E. Morison

FROM KNOW-HOW TO NOWHERE: The Development of American Technology

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Morison tells us that early American technology developed within a context of limited scope and purpose, with concrete designs on nature and distinct human needs to fulfill. He illustrates his points by discussing the construction of canals, the refinement of iron, the invention of the incandescent light, and the men who pursued such advances. Since then, technology has been overwhelmed by the notion of ""progress""; it lacks a center, a coherent, restrained plan and it seems to be running madly off in all directions. We have introduced many changes into the world, but we have not paused to decide what to do with them. Morison speaks of a ""mismatch"" between our power and our confusion about our needs. An ""apocalyptic call to arms"" in the ""war on pollution"" has little meaning. He insists that we must clarify human want: what is the place of work in man's nature -""a perennial curse, a manifestation of love, a biological need, a neurotic necessity, or just something. . . to do?"" What of other needs? How much abstraction can man tolerate? How much logicality can he stand? How much power can he accept before he abuses it? Finally, Morison calls for ad hoc ""committees of public safety"" to coordinate research and engineering. He manages to combine the virtues of both scientist and humanist without their vices. A refreshing book.

Pub Date: Nov. 29th, 1974
Publisher: Basic Books