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Unbound by Richard L. Currier

Unbound (2015)

by Richard L. Currier

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Currier is defining technology "as the deliberate modification of any natural object or substance with forethought to achieve a specific end or serve a specific purpose." Which this in mind, he lists eight technologies that have caused us to metamorphize gradually into the species that we are today, beginning with spears and digging sticks, which he believes promoted upright posture and bipedal locomotion, and finishes with the technology of digital information. He is well aware that not everyone agrees with his various theses, but they still make for thought-provoking reading.

Currier also points out some of the dire consequences that have accompanied our evolution, and have only gotten worse as we have more control over our environment and expanded our population: pollution, extinction, resource scarcities, etc. He points out how much fiction is in science fiction. We presently have no ability to transfer a significant population to another planet, which would require thousands of years of travel barring some unknown breakthrough. So far, building artificial environments independent of the natural biosphere have failed. He hopes that we will cleverly avoid disaster, but he doesn't count on it.

Everyone who reads this will probably take issue with one or more ideas, but it is very worth reading just for the thinking that it encourages. It has made me think much more deeply about things that I have taken for granted.

As a librarian, I am a little fearful that he is too optimistic that all of our information, such as that in books and on microfiche will be transferred onto the Internet, and I fear it may get lost. Many of my managers while I was still working believe in the "magic Internet," i.e., that in some mysterious yet concrete fashion all information is transferred into digital format without human intervention and all older formats can be discarded. The head of our IT division had great trouble understanding that information only got on the Internet if someone puts it there, and that costs work and money, neither of which he wanted to expend.

I also question his apparent belief that women and their work were highly valued in patriarchal cultures since societies became sedentary. He does point out that women lost their sexual freedom, but it seems to me that they lost more than that. A number of religions assure them that they are the cause of sin; they frequently had fewer civil rights than males; they often had no property rights, etc. Their work may have been important, but that doesn't mean that it was appreciated at its true worth. It is sadly easy to devalue work that one doesn't do. ( )
  juglicerr | Jan 30, 2017 |
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Book description
Human life has been repeatedly transformed by certain key technologies, each of which has triggered a profound metamorphosis.

The fabrication of weapons, the mastery of fire, and the technologies of clothing and shelter transformed the human body, enabling us to walk upright, shed our body hair, and migrate out of tropical Africa into temperate climates. Symbolic communication changed human evolution from a slow biological process into a fast cultural process. Food production transformed the relationship between humanity and the environment, and with technologies of interaction led to the birth of civilization. Precision machinery, developed to build accurate clocks, spawned the industrial revolution and the rise of nation-states; and in the next metamorphosis, the rise of digital technologies may well lead to the birth of a global civilization.

Synthesizing the findings of primatology, paleontology, archeology, history, and anthropology, Richard Currier reinterprets and retells the modern narrative of human evolution that began with the discovery of Lucy and other Australopithecus fossils. But the same forces that allowed us to integrate technology into every aspect of our daily lives have also brought us to the brink of planetary catastrophe. Unbound explains both how we got here and how human society must be transformed again to achieve a sustainable future.-- Provided by publisher.
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