Nonficionado Sale


American Scientist


What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly

Getting Better All the Time?

A review by David E. Nye

Whether it's intended to be so or not, the title of Kevin Kelly's What Technology Wants is a provocation to most historians of technology, who would reply almost unanimously that technology has no wants or desires. Each tool or machine has latent uses, but each is only an inert object until human beings decide whether and how to use it. In contrast, Kelly talks about technology as a composite whole that emerged before human beings existed and that facilitated their rapid domination of the planet. For him, technology has intentions, and it is radically accelerating evolution.

Kelly has been thinking about technology for most of his life, first as a backpacker wandering the Third World, later as one of the pioneers of what became the Internet, and finally as one of the founders and editors of Wired magazine. He overcame his early suspicion of Western technology largely as a result of his encounter with interactive computer technologies. He was one of several in the counterculture to...

Previously Reviewed by American Scientist
Sort: by date | by title | by author

Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul by Fredrik Hiebert

The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society by Frans de Waal

The Art and Politics of Science by Harold Varmus

Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture by Alan Sokal

Beyond Uncertainty: Heisenberg, Quantum Physics, and the Bomb by David C. Cassidy

The Culture of Flushing: A Social and Legal History of Sewage by Jamie Benidickson

The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future by Andrew Pickering

Darwin's Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin's Views on Human Evolution (09 Edition) by Adrian Desmond

Einstein for the 21st Century: His Legacy in Science, Art, and Modern Culture by Peter L. Galison and Gerald Holton and Silvan S. Schweber

Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott

The Future of the Internet And How to Stop It by Jonathan Zittrain

Global Catastrophes and Trends: The Next 50 Years by Vaclav Smil

A Grand and Bold Thing: An Extraordinary New Map of the Universe Ushering in a New Era of Discovery by Ann K. Finkbeiner

The Hadza: Hunter-Gatherers of Tanzania (Origins of Human Behavior and Culture) by Frank Marlowe

Image and Reality: Kekul, Kopp, and the Scientific Imagination (Synthesis) by Alan J. Rocke

The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America by Steven Johnson

The Link: Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor by Colin Tudge and Josh Young

Looking for a Few Good Males: Female Choice in Evolutionary Biology (Animals, History, Culture) by Erika Lorraine Milam

Loot: The Battle Over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World by Sharon Waxman

The Mirage of a Space Between Nature and Nurture by Evelyn Fox Keller

Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy

A Nuclear Family Vacation: Travels in the World of Atomic Weaponry by Nathan Hodge

Nurtureshock: New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Objectivity by Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison

On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction by Brian Boyd

A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir by Donald Worster

Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music by Greg Milner

The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us about Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life by Alison Gopnik

Plastic Fantastic: How the Biggest Fraud in Physics Shook the Scientific World (MacMillan Science) by Eugenie Samuel Reich

Predicting the Unpredictable: The Tumultuous Science of Earthquake Prediction by Susan Hough

Red Cloud at Dawn: Truman, Stalin, and the End of the Atomic Monopoly by Michael D. Gordin

The Scientific Life: A Moral History of a Late Modern Vocation by Steven Shapin

Sexual Coercion in Primates and Humans: An Evolutionary Perspective on Male Aggression Against Females by Martin N. Muller

Stephen Jay Gould: Reflections on His View of Life by Warren Allmon and Robert Ross and Patricia Kelley

Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius (UK Edition) by Graham Farmelo

Structure and Randomness: Pages from Year One of a Mathematical Blog by Terence Tao

A Tear at the Edge of Creation: A Radical New Vision for Life in an Imperfect Universe by Marcelo Gleiser

The Tragic Sense of Life: Ernst Haeckel and the Struggle Over Evolutionary Thought by Robert J. Richards

The Tropics of Empire: Why Columbus Sailed South to the Indies by Nicolas Wey-Gomez

A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming by Paul N. Edwards

What Darwin Got Wrong by Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini

What Is Intelligence?: Beyond the Flynn Effect by James R. Flynn

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly

When Experiments Travel: Clinical Trials and the Global Search for Human Subjects by Adriana Petryna

Click here to subscribe
Special American Scientist subscription price for Powell's shoppers — subscribe today for only $25.

Since 1913, award-winning American Scientist magazine has provided an exciting window on the fast-paced world of science and technology. Subscribe today and receive six issues plus full access to the online archive back to 1998!

To order at this special Powell's rate click here.

American Scientist Online offers the magazine's contents plus special online features: author interviews, four free e-newsletters — including Scientists' Bookshelf Monthly — and more. Full access to the magazine is restricted to subscribers and Sigma Xi members, but book reviews are freely available to everyone.

Click here to sign up for our free e-newsletters! spacer

  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at