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Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended… (1996)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679747567, Paperback)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
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:56 -0400)
Technology has made us healthier and wealthier, but we aren?t necessarily happier in our zealously engineered surroundings. Edward Tenner is a connoisseur of what he calls revenge effects-the unintended, ironic consequences of the mechanical, chemical, biological and medical forms of ingenuity that have been hallmarks of the progressive, improvement-obsessed twentieth century. In seeking out these revenge effects, he ranges far and wide in our cultural landscape to discover an insistent pattern of paradox that implicates everything from black lung to bluebirds, wooden tennis rackets to Windows 95. His insatiable curiosity embraces technology in all its guises: televised competitive skiing, which is much less exciting not that state-of-the-art cameras have eliminated the blur and lost motion of older broadcasts; low-tar cigarettes, which may encourage smokers to defer quitting altogether, justified margins, which became de rigueur just a psychologists and typographers were realizing that uneven right-hand edges are both more legible and more attractive; the meltdown at Chernobyl, which occurred during a test of enhanced safety procedures; and much, much more.While Tenner is fascinated by these phenomena in their own right, Why Things Bite Back is not merely a compendium of technological perversities. There is a historical and, indeed, ethical agenda behind his new look at the obvious. After all, Murphy?s Law as originally uttered by a frustrated military engineer was meant not as a fatalistic, defeatist principle but as a call for alerrtness and adaptation. Tenner heatrily concurs. Things do go wrong, with a vengeance, and assigning cause can be as trick as unscrambling an egg. Reducing revenge effects demands substituting brains for stuff-deintensifying our quest for more, better, faster, in favor of finesse. And in Tenner?s estimation, humanity is perfectly capable of this adjustment. BOOK JACKETIncludes information on agriculture, air pollution, bicycling, cancer, carp, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), chronic health problems, computer-related health problems, computer related productivity, cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs), disasters, disease, environmental disasters, fires, Florida, golf, health, helmets, herbicides, hydrilla, insects, computer keyboards, malevolent machinery, melaleuca trees, motorization, office related health problems, pesticides, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), rearranging effects, recomplicating effects, recongesting effects, repeating effects, reverse revenge effects, software, storms, tree pests, zebra mussels, etc.
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