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Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Edward Tenner
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2. September 1997
In this perceptive and provocative look at everything from computer software that requires faster processors and more support staff to antibiotics that breed resistant strains of bacteria, Edward Tenner offers a virtual encyclopedia of what he calls "revenge effects"--the unintended consequences of the mechanical, chemical, biological, and medical forms of ingenuity that have been hallmarks of the progressive, improvement-obsessed modern age. Tenner shows why our confidence in technological solutions may be misplaced, and explores ways in which we can better survive in a world where despite technology's advances--and often because of them--"reality is always gaining on us."  For anyone hoping to understand the ways in which society and technology interact, Why Things Bite Back is indispensable reading.  "A bracing critique of technological determinism in both its utopian and dystopian forms...No one who wants to think clearly about our high-tech future can afford to ignore this book."--Jackson Lears, Wilson Quarterly

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  • Taschenbuch: 448 Seiten
  • Verlag: Vintage; Auflage: Vintage Pbk. (2. September 1997)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0679747567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679747567
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 2,4 x 13 x 20 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 3.7 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (14 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 138.479 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)

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If it can go wrong, it will--thus Murphy's Law. Science journalist Edward Tenner looks more closely at this eternal verity, named after a U.S. Air Force captain who, during a test of rocket-sled deceleration, noticed that critical gauges had been improperly set and concluded, "If there's more than one way to do a job and one of those ways will end in disaster, then somebody will do it that way." Tenner concurs, and he gives us myriad case studies of how technological fixes often create bigger problems than the ones they were meant to solve in the first place. The indiscriminate use of antibiotics, by way of example, has yielded hardier strains of bacteria and viruses that do not respond to pharmaceutical treatment; the wide-scale use of air conditioning in cities has raised the outdoor temperature in some places by as much as 10 degrees, adding stress to already-taxed cooling systems; the modern reliance on medical intervention to deal with simple illnesses, to say nothing of the rapidly growing number of elective surgeries, means that even a low percentage of error (one patient in twenty-five, by a recent estimate) can affect increasingly large numbers of people. Tenner examines what he deems the "unintended consequences" of technological innovation, drawing examples from everyday objects and situations. Although he recounts disaster after painful disaster, his book makes for curiously entertaining, if sometimes scary, reading. --Gregory McNamee


This work shows how scientific and technological advances solve acute problems but offer chronic problems in their place. People are still dissatisfied despite the improvements technology has brought. Extensively documented, the resulting overview may offer possible problem-solving solutions. -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.

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One of industrial and postindustrial humanity's parennial nightmares is the machine that passes from stubbornness to rebellion. Lesen Sie die erste Seite
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
1.0 von 5 Sternen Mistitled? 3. Mai 2000
Maybe I had the wrong expectations from a book titled "Why Things Bite Back." I expected to read what it was about things and our relationships to them that create discomfort and even tragedy. I wanted an exploration into why the drawbacks of things are overlooked until it's too late, and how we can learn to avoid that. Instead I got "A Bunch of Things That Go Wrong," story after story of the unforseen consequences of technologies. I was looking for insight and got observation instead.
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1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Good book; looking forward to the revised edition 18. September 2000
Publishers prefer catchy titles for their books, and this one is certainly catchy, but its subtitle is what buyers should pay attention to. Unlike some other reviewers, I was pleasantly surprised by the author's scrupulously neutral (some would even say optimistic) tone, which gives authority to his analysis. I was prepared for an anti-technology rant. Instead I found a carefully researched -- and fascinating -- set of cautionary tales. I WOULD take this book along to the beach, but I'm also somebody who reads the reverse side of cereal boxes.
What I got out of reading this book is more than just that new technologies can have unintended consequences -- that is to say, that people frequently FAIL to predict their consequences -- but also that it is essentially IMPOSSIBLE to predict all such consequences. The policy implications may be subtle, but they are important: while we might be able to improve our predictive abilities somewhat, we should be much more humble in our assumptions about the likely environmental, economic and social effects of technologies. There is much more to his argument, of course, but the evidence Tenner marshals in order to underscore this central point makes the book a must-read for anybody working in areas where technological development plays a central role.
If Edward Tenner has any plans to write a 2nd edition, I hope that he also includes some examples of the unintended consequences of new energy technologies and consumer electronics (besides computers). If he does, I'll buy that one too.
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1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen techno-revenge 23. Januar 2000
I discovered Tenner's ideas on how technology bites back when I read a magazine article on the history of the chair-- how it was first a throne, for royalty, and how gradually, wealthy people owned them-- that chairs led to tables, led to computer keyboards-- and backpain. I really liked how the history of so simple a device could be so fascinating.
So I found the book. Being in health care, I was pleased to discover that so much of the book covers the way that medical technology has bitten boack, and how we have been, to some extent, misled on the "wonders" of modern drugs and therapies. For example, the dazzling emergency medical techniques developed in Korea and Viet Nam now allow meergency docs to save more crash victims lives, but that now allows more para and quadraplegics, more brain-damaged to live at huge expense. It's good that they can be saved, but expensive.
I've used this book as a source of some great quotes and interesting facts in my lectures on alternative health care.
It really opens your eyes to see that a gee whiz technology can also have "bite-back" effects you'd never think of.
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Von Bartleby
I can't recall reading another book on technology that was as well-balanced as this is. For this reason alone, Why Things Bite Back is good reading.
But Tenner achieves much more than balance. He identifies useful categories, like revenge effects and reverse revenge effects. Within the former, Tenner identifies repeating effects (e.g., doing the same thing more often rather than gaining free time, as happened with time-saving devices like home clothes washers and dryers when we quit taking as many clothes to the laundry), recomplicating effects (e.g., being expected to remember more numbers as we go from rotary to push button telephone "dialing"), regenerating effects (e.g., Patriot missles breaking up Scuds into multiple, smaller projectiles), and recongesting effects (e.g., the transformation of apparently limitless electromagnetic bandwidth to congested, largely filled bandwidth).
Whew! When reading this, I wondered how Tenner would later use these categories, which he introduced at the beginning of the book. Well, he does return to them and, in doing so, seems to be taking a first pass at crafting a useful nomenclature.
My main problem with the book is that Tenner presses some of the arguments too hard, such as the perceived link between defeating TB and facilitating AIDS. I was disappointed to see this argument pop up again 260 pages after its first mention--this time in the book's conclusion.
Tenner concludes that we can best manage revenge effects by retreating from intensity through three means: diversification, dematerialization, and finesse. Tenner provides numerous examples of each strategy, such as fostering diversity in plant species, substituting brains for stuff, and allowing a fever to play its role in fighting infection.
Lesen Sie weiter... ›
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4.0 von 5 Sternen To Engineer is Human 5. Juli 2000
This book deserves a 5-Star rating for the depth of its research, the overall quality of descriptive analysis, and the scope of its coverage. It is full of well-documented examples of technological unintended consequences.
It falls to a 3-Star rating for its failure to explain why these things happen, and for its dry, flat tone. I'm fairly sure this was written as a popular book on the subject, and not a text book, and as such we expect a different kind of writing. (College students are forced to read any number of numb, incomprehensible texts.) Other popular accounts of technical issues manage to hew to the science and engineering line with livelier writing. ("To Engineer is Human" is a good example.) "Why Things Bite Back" is clearly written, it just isn't a page turner, and lacks the sense of "I was there" that fosters a close relationship between the reader and the book.
The book failed to touch on other examples of unintended consequences. In fairness to Tenner, he never pretends to cover non-technological issues. The examples and impact of the law of unintended consequences in the social sciences, law, and government is possibly even greater than technological issues. Just as an example, think of the unintended consequences of the U.S. income tax laws. Tens (or hundreds) of thousands of professionals are paid billions of dollars a year to help citizens negotiate what started as a method of financing government. These social issues are at least as interesting as the technology issues. Maybe Tenner needs to write a second book.
Recommended, but not a good book for reading at the beach.
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Die neuesten Kundenrezensionen
4.0 von 5 Sternen Technologies unitended consequenses!
This raises the idea that sometimes we, i.e., the common man has to be a bit weary with new inventions. DDT was seen at first as a god send. Lesen Sie weiter...
Am 24. April 2000 veröffentlicht
5.0 von 5 Sternen Avoid getting trampled in the technology "improvement" race.
This book is a well researched and enjoyable examination of some of the most perplexing outcomes of technological innovation. Lesen Sie weiter...
Veröffentlicht am 25. März 2000 von Craig Webster
5.0 von 5 Sternen Many fascinating insights - a great read
This is an excellent book that explores in a very interesting way the complex and often unforeseen consequences of "improved" technology. Lesen Sie weiter...
Am 3. November 1999 veröffentlicht
4.0 von 5 Sternen Interesting and encyclopedic survey
Interesting and encyclopedic survey of the way our technological advances come back to bite the hand that creates them.
I loved the varied revelations about revenge effects. Lesen Sie weiter...
Veröffentlicht am 27. Oktober 1999 von A. Carey
2.0 von 5 Sternen Simple Premise
I already knew most of what Tenner's book contained and therefore, I was bored early on. Not as interesting as I had hoped
Veröffentlicht am 2. Oktober 1999 von puffinswan
2.0 von 5 Sternen Terribly frustrating to read. Just seems narrow-minded
The writing is fine and there's some good stories, but he is frustratingly glum. I think there are good/bad consequences and a whole book just on the bad is boring to read. Lesen Sie weiter...
Am 6. Dezember 1998 veröffentlicht
4.0 von 5 Sternen Examples of The Law of Unintended Consequences
Tenner's book is a short history of things going wrong -- from the introduction of carp and mollusks into the American great lakes to industrial accidents. Lesen Sie weiter...
Veröffentlicht am 29. September 1998 von D. W. Casey
4.0 von 5 Sternen Intriguing thoughts on our world
This book shows the intriguing, frustrating, path our civilization has wandered and continues to wonder through. Lesen Sie weiter...
Am 5. August 1998 veröffentlicht
4.0 von 5 Sternen Interesting information, writing style a bit dry.
Having read this book, I now actively look for the unintended consequences of technology. Living near Tenner, I found his occasional references to happenings in his hometown to be... Lesen Sie weiter...
Am 14. April 1998 veröffentlicht
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