• What Technology Wants

  • By: Kevin Kelly
  • Narrated by: Paul Boehmer
  • Length: 15 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 10-14-10
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio
  • 4 out of 5 stars 4.0 (434 ratings)

Regular price: $20.28

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Editorial Reviews

Cutting-edge technology watchdog Kevin Kelly has done it again. It is no longer silly to think of technology as having a pulse, and the former editor of Wired magazine certainly has his finger on it. In this compelling new view of the many parallels between biological development in humans and humans' development of technology, the interconnectedness of the biosophere and the technium has never been so clear. Supergeeks rejoice, not only for this exciting speculation on what our future holds, but also for the fact that it is narrated by the one and only Paul Boehmer, a terrific Shakespearean actor better known for his role as stranded Vulcan in one of the most beloved eipsodes of Star Trek: Enterprise.
Boehmer gives voice to this deep scientific inquiry with energy and precision. Kelly is keen on researching a breadth of evidences to secure his theory about what technology wants from us, and Boehmer steps lightly through the many lists of supporting examples in a tone that shows just how captivating they are. Did you know that rock ants have a system for calculating the volume of a room, in order determine the appropriate dimensions of the nest they want to build? Did you know that the Amish are in a heated debate over the possible adoption of cell phones? Did you know that a toaster makes decisions? The scope of Kelly's considerations is astounding.
This comprehensive look at technology as a near-living system will shock and delight both luddites and technophiles alike. Kelly's previous major work, Out of Control, was at the top of the Wachowski brothers' required reading list for actors in their Matrix film trilogy. This time around, the first few chapters are almost like watching the evolutionary montage that opens Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Perhaps the futuristic trajectory of Kelly's book is slightly more optimistic and his conclusion somewhat more scientific, but given the mirror of Kubrick's film, Trekkie Paul Boehmer is the perfect choice of narrator for this weirdly wonderful book. —Megan Volpert
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Publisher's Summary

This provocative book introduces a brand-new view of technology. It suggests that technology as a whole is not a jumble of wires and metal but a living, evolving organism that has its own unconscious needs and tendencies. Kevin Kelly looks out through the eyes of this global technological system to discover "what it wants." He uses vivid examples from the past to trace technology's long course and then follows a dozen trajectories of technology into the near future to project where technology is headed.
This new theory of technology offers three practical lessons: By listening to what technology wants, we can better prepare ourselves and our children for the inevitable technologies to come; by adopting the principles of proaction and engagement, we can steer technologies into their best roles; and by aligning ourselves with the long-term imperatives of this near-living system, we can capture its full gifts.
Written in intelligent and accessible language, this is a fascinating, innovative, and optimistic look at how humanity and technology join to produce increasing opportunities in the world and how technology can give our lives greater meaning.
©2010 Kevin Kelly (P)2010 Tantor
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By David Everling on 04-09-11

Sprawling scope, an ambivalent thesis

Kevin Kelly's contemplation of meaning, couched in terms of the "Technium" (all technology and its trends), which includes our minds, life itself, and indeed all the cosmos.

I like Kelly's description of history and the aforementioned contemplation of existence better than I like his assessment of present technology, or his transition to potential futures and proscriptive ways of living, but there were parts from each perspective I enjoyed and agreed with throughout the book.

That said, much of the best elaborated ideas are borrowed from contemporaries (e.g. techno-futurist Kurzweil), and what Kelly does try and establish himself is a mixed bag. I found myself alternately nodding vigorously in agreement and then shaking my head disappointedly at vague language, unjustified leaps, occasionally excessive proselytizing. In most cases I wanted Kelly to take the discussion he had built up so well in a different direction, and we diverged more frequently than I had expected to at the outset.

The book feels like it could be stronger in progression and thesis if it maintained a steady philosophical position throughout, but Kelly comes across as trying hard to reconcile his personal ambivalence over how to handle technology. He issues statements that fit nicely into prevailing Western scientific thought, only to act as if it were never said in a later chapter, letting Eastern philosophical wisdom and personal reflection do all the talking instead. My discomfort doesn't stem from his choosing one way of thinking over the other per se, but in his inconsistency. Perhaps over the seven years that Kelly wrote the book he changed his mind and mood back and forth, writing a chapter or two when his views leaned enough one way or the other. I wonder if he's not yet confidently settled on an ideology for himself, let alone the Technium, but if nothing else this informed self-discussion does make for a worthwhile read.

In sum, I liked the book... but I wanted to like it more.

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7 of 8 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Ted on 11-24-10

Poor Science to Back a Solid Thesis

"If there's justice, it will win the Pulitzer Prize." --Seth Godin
"Nuh uh." -- me
I was suprised at how many scientific errors Mr. Kelly commits in laying out his thesis for this book. His thesis is solid, but he frequently and unnecessarily distorts scientific theory to support it. He clumsily argues that evolution has direction, citing prominent scientists like Richard Dawkins, despite that Dawkins has long asserted that any perceived destination for evolution results simply from our own narcissistic perspective. Kelly also uses several erroneous cliches about the history of human evolution to support his thesis. By the end of the book, I was disappointed that Kelly so poorly argued such an important thesis. For lack of better editors, this book ends up stuck between popular psychology and scholarly thought.

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13 of 16 people found this review helpful

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