"The Story of Technology" is the best book I've ever read on the subject - hands down
Monday, August 12, 2019 at 1:48PM
Thomas P.M. Barnett in Recommended books, What's Tom Up To?

 

As someone who’s penned bestsellers on the difficult-to-grasp complexities of today’s world, I know exactly how hard it is to tackle such subjects in a way that makes them more accessible to readers. It entails – believe it or not – a great deal of trial and error across a career, as you laboriously learn what works and what doesn’t with all manner of audiences. In this book, Dr. Daniel M. Gerstein tackles the daunting subject of technology and its impact on our planet over time. The result is an amazingly accessible volume of just under 300 pages of text – an impressive achievement that reminds of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. Consider this: the book’s list of acronyms runs more than four pages!

Gerstein’s stated intent here is most laudable: a desire to address the growing social anxiety about the crashing wave of technological developments, or, as he describes it, “the convergence of multiple fields [with] the potential to fundamentally alter the human existence.” He accomplishes this difficult feat by providing structure and method to interpret the technological advances currently sweeping our world, drawing upon his decades in the U.S. military and later in the Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Directorate.

My favorite parts of the book are its simplest, where Gerstein patiently walks the reader through a basic lexicon of science versus technology, research versus development, and innovation versus transformation – all the while covering events from the Bronze Age through Russia’s successful hacking of the 2016 presidential election. From there he lays out an “assessing framework” that parses out how technology developments unfold, linking their practical availability to society to their proper management across both government and industry. In sum, the book reads like an executive MBA in technology transfer – a genuine tour de force in a subject desperately in need of one.

But the greatest accomplishment of this delightful read (for me, one engrossing morning) is the understanding and confidence it imparts to the reader, whether they’ve long been interested in technology or have never summoned the courage to attempt a read this. As such, I would recommend The Story of Technology as both an intellectual salve to today’s angry populism, which harbors innumerous fears of technology’s coming “subjugation” of humanity, and as a must-have textbook for any leadership-focused curriculum.

Here's the Amazon link.

I got an advance copy from the author, whom I've known going back to shared experiences in the Pentagon. Keep an eye out for it. 

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