The Day The Universe Changed
by James Burke
Both these books combine history with a description of the
impact of technology on society/culture. The Day the Universe Changed
analyzes these topics by investigating the origins of several common but
significant technological advances; computers, atomic weapons, the
printing press. His thesis is that these inventions literally "changed
the universe" it that they completely changed how people though about
the world. Very significant if combined with the concept of memetics
If you're interested in finding out what Burke thinks about
things you can search for him in the WWW. There are usually several
interviews and papers to be found in order to give you a taste of his
thinking and rhetorical style. I consider Burke as inspiring an author
in terms of the aplicability and breadth of his ideas as Dawkins. If
you've read The Extendeded Phenotype then TDTUC is a must. The
synthesis of the two is dizzying in it's elegance and power in
explaining trends in society.
The Printing Press as an Agent of Change
by Elizabeth Eisenstein
A rigorous historical treatment of the effect of printing on
religious, scientific, and political thought in Europe. Her thesis is
that many of the debates concerning the seeds of the "modern" era (the
reformation, the scietific revolution, etc.) can be traced to the effect
of text on the thinkers of the era.
This book is especially relevant since we sit at the brink of a
communications revolution (the net) as, if not more, significant.
Eisenstein's thesis is that the advent of text actually changed the way
people thought and were able to think. Her work resonates well with a
lot of what you see in the current clips and forwards. It provides good
To Engineer is Human
by Henry Petroski
His first book, and it my opinion the best, describing the
thought process of engineering as they might apply to "real life". It
is a good step toward a rational model of behavior.
The Making of the Atomic Bomb
by Richard Rhodes
A masterpiece. This narrative weaves science, technology,
engineering, culture, and politics into a panorama that forcefully
demonstrates the dramatic effect of technology on the way people think.
It's a good read, too. Rhodes second book: Dark Sun is more oriented
towards the politics of the Hydrogen Bomb and less interesting, in my
opinion, than the first...but still good.
by Daniel Yergin
A modern history of the petroleum industry and the profound
influence of oil on what he describes as "hydrocarbon man" (that is, us)
from the inception of the industry to the Gulf War. The world might
start communicating electronically, but it still runs on oil. That fact
of existence can be used to rationalize a lot of history and current