Sex Bombs and Burgers. Peter Nowak. Reviewed. In the Argo catalog.
This is a book about technology and the ways it has entered our lives. It is the sort of book that on almost every page the average person will say to themselves “wow we can do that?” This is a rollicking romp through the technology that fills our world from the everyday to the incredible. The tidbits in it make it a lot of fun (did you know the Silly Putty and the Slinky are both brought to us by the U.S. military? Or that the microwave oven is a spin-off from the Manhattan project?). This is a good bathroom read because every page has a value but read in long sittings you are overwhelmed by the amount of information that you wish you could remember.
This book may give you a glimpse into the future by opening your mind to ideas and gadgets that are in development that you would not believe. How you picture that future is up to you. Nowak is an unabashed lover of technology and I often found his viewpoint decidedly too uncritical of the role of these technologies in our lives. Nowak asserts that the fact that we will longer proves that the abundance of new gadgets are improving our lives. I can not help but wonder if they are doing little more than making them longer. Do the gadgets amount to better means to an unimproved ends or do they actually make us happier? Nowak is undiscerning in his attempt to understand the impact of technology and so predictably falls on the side of those that assume technology is making things better.
When reading a book dealing with technology I always hope to have a less biased writer, one that will point out the impressiveness of some of our new tools but also question their role in our lives or their long-term impact. Nowak does not bother with this, he is like a child in a candy store giddy at the sights and unconcerned what the goods may do to his teeth or overall health. One of my brothers is just such a person. He recently told me he would like to have 4 friends with Ipads get together. They would need an extra one to place on the table between them and they could play a card game over them, each holding their tablet. Why not use cards? The cards are secondary to the meeting, the people together is what is important, the discussion, the keeping up with each others’ lives, not the cards. Besides when a 1$ deck of cards is ruined by cheese doodles and beer it is no problem, an Ipad is another thing altogether. The question I ask of such plans is what is value of the technology involved? I would think the ipads would be entertaining killer of conversation as each player at the table is constantly distracted. Is it really an improvement? Personally I like cards that do not require batteries.
The book offers a view of the future and is not particularly critical nor academic regarding the more interesting questions swirling around technology. It is a fun read and I recommend (with the caveat that you ought to read another more critical book regarding the role of technology in our lives).