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Название: Technology: A World History
Автор: Headrick D.
This is hardly a book, it's a list. Further, it looks and feels like the user's manual of some over-designed computer gadget, complete with naff cover and hideous font. Sadly it does not switch to german or japanese half way through.
The author boasts of writing a world history as if the world was currently short of such things. So we learn (though not on the same page) that clay tablets were invented in Mesopotomia, papyrus in Egypt, paper in China, the printing press in Germany, the world wide web in Switzerland. We also learn that bipedalism and opposable thumbs were inventions rather than random mutations.Eh? Apparently language is also an invention, though some might say it was the result of freeing the throat through an upright stance.
The relentlessly chronological approach leaves no room for discussion of themes. What was the influence of the Domesday Book (surely one of the greatest ever inventions), the land registry, the Ordnance Survey? Without them property rights would hardly exist, so neither would ownership of ideas. The Patent Office is just assumed to be a good thing, but this is arguable. 95% of patents don't get exploited, improvements have to wait for the expiry of the master patent, some inventions (military ones) never are published, and the patenting process is ludicrously expensive and obscurantist. Why not simply replace it with a royalty board, which might at least protect Amazonian tribes who see no benefit from the current craze of big pharma to harvest every obscure plant in the rain forest in case it contains a useful (and synthesisable, patentable) chemical? These and many other questions are never addressed. The big question: how much technology is to thank or blame for our current wealth or ill; is never asked.
This might not matter if the list was reliable, but before transforming this book into a frisbee I found a few howlers which makes me suspicious of the rest. Sheep were not domesticated for their wool. It took thousands of years to breed in. Watt's governor of the steam engine was unreliable, based on a misunderstanding, and didn't work. Stopping engines exploding, and making them turn at a certain speed irrespective of load, had to wait for Maxwell's intellectual breakthrough in 1868.
Who's this book for? It's neither use nor ornament, and you can get more from a google search or wikipedia. For a discussion of themes and issues, there are better books around which don't rely on the reader's knowledge that toilet paper was invented by the Chinese in the first millennium. (But thanks for that info all the same, Mr Headrick.)