book review

Book Review: Taming the Tiger

An interesting book Taming the Tiger: The Struggle to Control Technology by Witold Rybczynski, is not a programming or art book, but rather an interesting reflection of technology throughout history. The book brings up some intersting concepts, man as the prostetic god (able to extend his reach, life, travel and abilities far beyond natural levels all through technology) and the idea of houses as a comfortable living machine that we stay reside in.

The book also includes how technology is prevades all aspects of our society. People who barely remember their highschool physics are require to take sides in the nuclear power debate, “the fragmenation of modern society and reduction of shared experiences means people form opinions on most subjects on the basis of second hand experiences” (Rybczynski, 26).

Rybczynski delves into a number of historical backlashes against technology (Captain Swing and the Luddites, industrial revolution risings, Ford assembly worker overturn etc.) and the inability to “rollback” technology once it has been introduced (only delaying the inevitable). There is also a lot on the “Shock of the Machine” and how cultures try to adapt to new technologies.

Rybczynski has some great quotes about how technology is intertwined with our own society it is difficult to talk about (or tame).”Part of the difficulty of taming the tiger is we can’t see the animal clearly. It is easy to identify the boldly striped beast in a cage, but in the splotchy light of the jungle its colors become confused with background shadows. So too with technology. It is easy to discuss in isolation, but immersed in the opacity of human culture its outlines frequently become indistinguishable from its surroundings” (Rybczynski, 213).

“Just as we have discovered that we are a part of the natural environment, and not just surrounded by it, so also we will find that we are an intimate part of the environment of technology. The auxiliary “organs” that extend our sight, our hearing, and our thinking really are an extension of our physical bodies. When we are able to acept this, we shall discover that the struggle to control technology has all along been a struggle to control ourselves” (Rybczynski, 227).

Interesting stuff,
Michael Hubbard

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