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Why Things Bite Back: technology and the revenge of unintended consequences   book icon  
by Edward Tenner (1997)

read: 29 October 2002
rating: [+]
category: uncategorized

Tenner is fascinated by failure, he is curious about revenge. He notes that prior to the Industrial Revoltuion, there was almost no discourse about technological innovation being bad or dangerous or out and out spiteful. Advances were seen as a good thing. We know how far we have come from that nowadays. Everyone moans and groans about their labor-saving devices actually taking more time to accomplish tasks than their low-tech predecessors. This is what Tanner called the revenge effect. A new thing winding up doing the exact opposite of what it is supposed to do; low-fat foods causing you to gain weight, for example.

Tanner explores revenge effects and other failures of technology in a very level-headed way. He doesn’t whine about things that are hard to use, rather he explains how these failures occur, and what to do about them. He is also not an activist -- he doesn’t blame Big Business for society’s ills, he just tells it like it is. He investigates more areas than just high tech, he discusses innovations in domestic technology, sports technology and business technology. The end result is very readable since in many cases you are likely to smack your forehead and say “hey, that happens to me!”

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